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National Mail Order Association (NMOA)
Direct Marketing
and Mail Order

Five Wise Men
by Alan Rosenspan
In the past few years, I've had the good fortune to interview some of the leading thinkers in direct marketing.

These interviews have been published in direct marketing magazines in Australia and New Zealand, but never in the U.S.

You probably know some of these people; others may be new to you. In this article, I'd like to introduce you to five of them, and share some of their remarkable thoughts and ideas.

The Copywriter

Arthur Bell is Scotland's most famous copywriter, and virtually unknown here in the U.S. (How many copywriters do you know who've been knighted?)

He ran his agency, Scotland Direct for over 30 years, and helped build many profitable mail order businesses. He once gave an inspiring talk on creativity, where confessed some of his secrets:

"I cook, swear, drink and read lots. Give me a good political thriller, a glass of 18 year old Islay malt, a CD of Bach or Montiverdi, and I'm in seventh heaven."

Here are a few others:


Alan: What are the latest trends in direct marketing?

Arthur: I've had the privilege of judging (5 times) the British DM Awards, and once the European, and once the American Echo Awards. Thus I've studied thousands of campaigns closely.

Frankly, I don't see the quality of copy that I'd like to see, and that is because no one is systematically training writers.

Alan: So you feel that copy is the most important part of a direct mail package?

Arthur: Copy is key. Only by structuring an interesting offer, in the correct language (that of the reader) can you elicit responses. A badly written piece can still work if you've got the right list, but it won't success nearly as well as it should. The copywriter should be king, not the designer, or even worse, some nurk in brand management!

Alan: You're famous for your letters. What's the single most effective opening line you've ever written?

Arthur: For the Whisky Connoisseur Club, I wrote the following:

"Dear Name, There are some things so rare and so precious that we dare not tell all the folks about it. For fear of being swamped with orders we cannot fulfil. Such a commodity sits before me now."

Alan: Do you have any advice to those just starting out in the field?

Arthur: Reading is the best thing you can do. Study lots of other people's work, and try and spot the flaws as well as the good points. Don't be put off by failures. I always believe there's another great offer just around the corner!

The Thinker

He has the world's perfect job -- he's paid to think.

John Groman helped found Epsilon, one of the world's largest and most sophisticated direct marketing agencies in 1969, and has long been regarded as the guru of fund raising.

I interviewed John in his kitchen, and while we were talking, the Vatican called.... they want to consult with him on a fund-raising project.

Your interviewer was properly humbled.


Alan: John, the Republican Party was one of your early accounts. What did you do for them?

John: Back when Ronald Reagan was president, I had just married and had met my father-in-law, who was a Republican, and I realized that there was no procedure in the US to enfranchise voters.

You basically went to the polls to declare the party for which you wanted to vote. You could change at any time.

So nobody owned the customer or what I call -- credentialized the relationship.

Alan: What does that mean?

John: It means two things, basically.First, you have to anthropomorphize the relationship -- and make it real.

Second, you have to make the customer know that they're in a relationship. Like American Express does, where they use the "Member since..." on the card. You not only know you have a relationship with them, you know how long it's been.

Alan: So how did that apply to politics?

John: The political parties had never really given their members the proper credentials, such as membership cards, bumper stickers, etc.

So we created the Ronald Reagan Presidential Task Force, which was really a fan club for Ronald Reagan. We mailed 30 million packages, which was unheard of in prospecting. These were very expensive, closed-face stamped packages, including a 7-page letter inviting people to pledge $120 to the task force.

We enrolled over 200,0000 people, who paid every month for memorabilia, like an American flag, a lapel pin, a medallion, the first time that premiums of that nature -- we called them "collectibles" -- were used in politics.

Alan: In your opinion, what makes a superior direct marketer?

John: The extraordinary people I've met over the year have a fascination, almost an addiction to the results.

Seeing what they did, and what worked. It's sort of like betting at a casino, with an important extra: you can learn from your previous bets.

Learning allows us to jump right out of the probability curve into the sureness curve.

At this point, the telephone rang again.

It could have been the Pope. It could have been George Bush. It could have been my wife -- who I was supposed to meet 15 minutes ago. The interview was over.

The Builder

Jerry Reitman has helped build giant agencies, vast international networks, and the charities to which he so generously gives his time.

He was selected as one of the 200 Most Influential People in Marketing. He's edited a top-selling book. And he's lectured on marketing, creativity and advertising in 42 countries around the world -- including his keynote address at the first Third World Advertising Congress is Beijing.

Why would such an extraordinary, accomplished, and busy man want to talk to me? Did I mention that he gave me my first job in direct marketing?


Alan: Jerry, you were the person responsible for taking Ogilvy & Mather international...

Jerry: Thanks. We went from 2 offices to 28 in a five-year period.

Alan: ...but it was your success at Leo Burnett that I'd like to focus on. Burnett is one of the largest advertising agencies in the United States, yet they didn't have a direct marketing capability.

Jerry: Burnett was the last of the top twenty agencies on the list to embrace direct marketing.

The reason was that they didn't want to do it like everyone else. Their view was that direct marketing had to be something which is part of and not apart from the rest of the agency. At the time, that was a unique point of view.

Alan: Isn't it ironic that we, as an industry, preach integrated marketing but we really don't practice it ourselves.

Jerry: Yes, but our concept was, let's forget about where the credit goes. Let's think in terms of building the client's bottom line. I describe it as "media brutality." Our job is to decide how best to achieve the client's goals, independent of any one media or disciple.

Alan: What drove this concept?

Jerry: We now live in a world of growing recognition of customer segmentation, no matter how big your brand. No product is for everyone. In fact, something thatĘs for everyone is for no one.

We have gone from a strategy of aggregation to segmentation. I grew up in a time where 3 or 4 media forms dominated 80% of the client's budget. Today, there are over 500 different forms of media.

You can't afford to be in them all, so the important thing is to identify the people who are truly targets for your product or service; analyze their economic value; and then determine the best way to reach them.

Alan: Jerry, you edited Direct Marketing 2000, which is now in it's fifth printing. How did that begin?

Jerry: Back in 1993, I was approached by a publisher who said wouldn't it be terrific if someone took a cut at what was going to happen beyond the year 2000 in direct marketing?

I literally sat down and tried to write this and I suddenly realized the obvious, that direct marketing has become so broad that, despite what I knew, I didn't know enough. No one person could comment critically on all of the issues concerning direct marketing.

So I assembled 28 of experts, including you Alan, to write in their particular area of expertise, from creative to lists to databases to software to broadcast. All 28 people said yes, so I got a100% response.

Alan: And you've made a fortune from this, right?

Jerry: Nice set-up, Alan. As you know, every one of the authors agreed with me that without exception the proceeds of the book would go to the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation.

I've always believed that people in direct marketing should use their special knowledge and skills to help worth causes.

About seven years ago, I got involved with the Children's Miracle Network and since then, we've raised over a half a billion dollars, which goes to 168 children's hospitals.

Thank you, Jerry

The Brander

He is the Chivas Regal of Direct Marketers.

That's because, as Executive Vice President of Marketing for Seagrams, Richard Shaw is responsible for Chivas Regal, and several other premier brands. Today, he also leads the strategic development of Seagram's direct marketing worldwide.

But Shaw is as much a premium product as any of the brands he represents. He also serves as the Chairman of the Direct Marketing Department of the United Jewish Appeal in New York, and is very involved on behalf of Juvenile Diabetes.


Alan: How do you use direct marketing to promote your brands?

Richard: We don't use direct marketing to promote our plans, we use direct marketing to build our plans.

Alan: Can you elaborate on that?

Richard: We've found that the marketing of premium distilled spirits is a long-term brand entity building proposition. Therefore, the notion of promotion is not really the key driver for us in direct marketing.

We use direct mail to build on what our brand proposition is, and to extend our brand personality. The real value of direct marketing is that it allows us superior targeting of high value and high potential value consumers.

Alan: Superior targeting?

Richard: Absolutely. We were probably the first company that really took the targeting capabilities of technology of the direct marketing industry and applied it to the print magazine industry. It's called selective binding.

Selective binding means we selectively insert our advertisements into a portion of the circulation of a magazine.

So we are actually able to go in and segment a magazines subscriber file and advertise our brand only to the people we want to, and not advertise the brand to the people who are not relevant targets.

For example, we might place a Chivas Regal ad only in those issues of the magazine that go to known scotch customers or prospects.

Alan: What are some of the advantages of direct marketing over more traditional media?

Richard: Direct marketing gives us a unique and innovative way of communicating, promoting, building a relationship with a targeted group of individuals based on what we know about them and what we infer, and it really allows us to differentiate between high value and low value potential people.

There are advantages in what direct marketing offers -- in the interactivity, in the uniqueness, the impact capability, and the targeting capability.

Alan: How do you feel about putting your premium brands in the mail next to other things that may be considered "junk mail"?

Richard: First of all, I think the readers of your magazine understand the origination of the word junk mail.

And I think that we've been fairly effective in our organization in helping people understand and accept the fact that if something is relevant to a recipient in a household it is not really considered junk.

Alan: So one person's junk is another person's...

Richard: ...Chivas Regal. Let me explain -- if you're about to go out and buy an imported car, and all of the sudden you get a gorgeous brochure detailing all of the benefits and specifications of Mercedes or Jaguar, you're going to be looking at that pretty closely.

Alan: Is there anything that marketers are not doing right when it comes to building brands?

Richard: In many industries, there is a tendency not to be consistent long enough in order to make something happen.

I think there's obviously a very short-term orientation to business in today's environment. And when you look back at brands that have been very successful, they were mostly built in a business environment that wasn't so short-term focused.

Take Coca-Cola, Tide, or Dove, some of the real solid brand names like Marlboro. They may have had 20 different directors of marketing or 40 different brand managers or 80 different assistant brand managers over a period of twenty or thirty years, but the core proposition didn't change.

The Legend

He has been called the most original thinker and practitioner in the direct marketing business.

He invented segmenting, bound-in reply cards, and even the "Judy wrap." He founded the world's first virtual store. Heck, he even invented the term "direct marketing" in a speech to MIT 30 years ago.

No wonder Lester Wunderman is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of direct marketing.


Alan: You invented a number of techniques in direct marketing that are now used by everyone.

Lester Wunderman: I didn't consciously set out to invent anything. I just tried to solve problems. For example, let's take the "Judy wrap" for Time magazine.

One of the countries leading "creative" agencies had produced a TV spot called "Wilderness." It showed a man in an igloo, isolated during an Arctic blizzard. All at once, a Saint Bernard dog bounded in with a copy of Time magazine, followed by other Saint Bernard's each delivering another issue. The isolated hero was once again back in touch with civilization.

Our friends at Time, Inc. like the spot -- but it didn't produce results. I asked our creative department to do a new commercial using the 60-second "Wilderness" footage as a centrepiece to which we would add a more persuasive offer. And so we created the "Judy wrap."

"Judy" was supposed to be a Time magazine telephone operator. Wearing her headphones, she introduced the commercial by asking viewers to watch for a special offer. Then followed the 60 seconds of Saint Bernards. After that, Judy came back for 20 seconds, gave the toll-free number, repeating the offer of the premium, and the introductory subscription price. The results were unbelievable.

Alan: What's the best offer you've ever been associated with?

Lester Wunderman: I can tell you the most courageous one. Jackson & Perkins were the world's largest rose growers, and one of my first big clients.

One year, we faced a potential disaster. The company had an enormous backlog of unsold roses -- which could have to be burned at the end of the season.

I suggested to Charlie Perkins that he take a risk, that he made the most daring offer in the history of rose growing. We would send out a mailing to the hundreds of thousands of unconverted inquiries from recent years, offering them an opportunity to try our roses at no risk.

The mailing read, "Send no money now. Nor pay a penny when the plants arrive. By June 10th, the roses will be thriving in your garden. If you are completely satisfied at that time, pay the bill. If the roses do not thrive as promised -- if they are not satisfactory in every way -- tear them out of the ground and pay nothing.

Alan: Wasn't that a risk?

Lester Wunderman: I'll never forget the pained look on Charlie's face when I gave him the copy to read. Did they really have to tear the roses out of the ground, he asked. No gardener would do that.

That, I told him, was the crux of the idea. By the end of June we had collected almost 75% of the outstanding bills and checks were still coming in. We not only sold the roses, we had created an extraordinary new sales technique.

For more information on Lester Wunderman, please read his wonderful book, "Being Direct"

These are just the highlights of these interviews. If you'd like to read the entire text of any one of them, please e-mail me at

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