Direct Marketer of the Year Grolier's Dante Cirilli (3,801 wor
Was it fact or rumor, I asked Dan Cirilli, inquiring as to the truth of tales I had heard that he started out in the mail room at Grolier. Cirilli's response: "I grew up in the Bronx and attended the New York School of Printing, a special high school teaching the graphic arts. I then went on to City College at night. It was Robert B. Clarke, an important figure in the history of direct marketing who was executive vice president of Grolier at the time, who hired me, and yes, it was to work in the mail room!"
On his first day, Clarke promised the young Dante Cirilli: "In six months if you work out, I'll take you out of the mail room."
Cirilli remembers that it was, "six months to the day" when he was brought out of the mail room. It was an exciting time at the organization, Cirilli recalls, noting, "What had happened at that time was that Elsworth Howell, president of what was then Grolier Enterprises, had gone out and gotten the rights to Dr. Seuss. When I was brought up from the mail room, I was put on that project—the new Dr. Seuss Beginning Reader Program."
As Cirilli recounts it, "This was the first time a good children's book club was launched in the mail. There were a lot of small book clubs at the time, but none had achieved critical mass. We were getting 10- to 15-percent responses in those days."
Four Decades Later ...
That was almost 40 years ago. Today, Cirilli is president of the largest direct marketer of children's book programs. Somewhat surprisingly, he says, not much has changed in terms of how book clubs are marketed. "We used standard offers like three for the price of one, shipping one book a month. Now we may do eight for one. But it's still essentially the same business."