1998 Direct Marketer of the Year - Jay Walker
by Denny Hatch
Never heard of Jay Walker? He has crammed several lifetimes of direct marketing successes and bombs into his 43 years. Among his successes:
• The first use of videocassettes in a direct mail offer.
• Marrying overnight Federal Express delivery to the catalog industry, thus creating a hugely profitable new selling season (last minute holiday gifts).
• Revolutionizing magazine subscription sales with mega-success, NewSub Services.
• In just six months, making his priceline.com the second most recognized Internet brand among American adults.
I first met Jay Walker in 1986 when he was a storm off the coast of American Business—a tropical depression that was developing and bore watching. When I interviewed him two years later for a story in my newsletter, Who's Mailing What!, I described him as
... the peripatetic proprietor of Catalog Media Corporation in Ridgefield, CT, whose main business is selling advertising pages in catalogs. Walker is wiry-thin and rumpled, with a mop of dark hair; he burns with intensity. When he talks, he seems to loom up from behind his big desk and fill the room.
Since that 1988 interview, Walker reaped the whirlwind with two gargantuan failures that completely wiped him out, only to rise Phoenix-like from the ashes to become a full-fledged Category 4 hurricane; unlike his predecessors, Andrew, Georges and Hugo, Hurricane Jay is likely to intensify as it moves further inland across the continent of American Business. He is a revolutionary whose vision and execution of that vision may put a stamp on commerce, communications and business well into the 22nd century.
Jay Walker was born in Queens, NY, and grew up in Yonkers where he attended the public schools. It's likely that he got his intensity and hustle from his successful real estate developer father and his math and analytic skills from his mother, who was a bridge champion and teaching life master.