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BEING DIRECT by Lester Wunderman


How I Learned to Make Advertising Pay

by Lester Wunderman

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-394-54063-8
Publisher: Random House

 A thoroughly engaging and informative memoir from the man who did the most to create direct marketing, an ad-industry arm that now generates annual volume exceeding $1 trillion in the US alone. Looking back on his long, eventful, and productive life, the Bronx-born Wunderman (who turned 76 this year) ruefully notes he did not get off to a particularly promising start. Indeed, the ad agency the would-be wunderkind (whose precarious finances had obliged him to quit college) and his brother launched toward the end of the Depression quickly failed. Learning from his mistakes, he quickly apprenticed himself to some of the savviest practitioners in the direct-mail field; with nary a mention of the J (for ``junk'') word, the author recalls successfully promoting such varied goods and services as the Acousticon hearing aid, Jackson & Perkins flora (notably roses), Columbia's LP Record Club, and a decidedly dubious book entitled I Was Hitler's Doctor. Setting up shop with two partners in 1958, Wunderman kept most of his old clients and attracted a host of new ones (Time-Life Books, Ford, American Express, et al.). With the help of computer technology, he continued to refine direct-marketing doctrine, thereby taking the catalog/mail-order business to the next level. His prospering Manhattan firm joined forces with Young & Rubicam during the early 1970s, affording the author access to the resources needed to test innovative advertising campaigns on a global basis, most recently in cyberspace via the Internet. Never a slave to work, Wunderman has always made time for cultural interests, including a world-class collection of primitive art, primarily from the Dogon, a tribe in Mali with whom he sojourned on several occasions. A consummate pitchman's commercial manifesto, complete with an ingratiating rags-to-riches narrative and a host of case studies illuminating the tricks of his catalytic trade. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)