Famous Last Words: Axel Andersson’s Amazing Archive
As most readers know, in the late 1970s I went to a Direct Mail Writer’s Guild luncheon where the featured speaker was Dorothy Kerr, circulation director of U.S. News & World Report. Kerr said: “To be successful in this business you have to see who’s mailing what … look for those mailings that keep coming again and again, which means they are successful, and then steal smart.”
I immediately began collecting and cataloging direct mail samples, and my little archive expanded from one file drawer to 15 filing cabinets.
In 1984 my wife, Peggy (now group president and publishing director of the Target Marketing Group), and I started the newsletter, Who’s Mailing What!, from our basement in Stamford, Conn. The premise was to analyze successful direct mail packages and make copies available to writers and designers who wanted to see them.
The newsletter was successful and became well-known in the direct mail community. It’s still being published, but under the title Inside Direct Mail.
Enter Axel Andersson
I don’t know how Axel Andersson found me, but he called me up one day from Florida and asked if he could visit my archive. Direct marketers were always welcome, and he flew into Stamford and spent several days with us.
Following World War II, Andersson, a Swede, went to work for the largest home study company in Europe, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany. The products were language, writing and art courses. In the course of his work, Andersson made many trips to the United States, studied with the late, great guru Ed Mayer, and became the world’s foremost authority on direct mail, which he unabashedly loved. Andersson eventually bought the business, changed the name to the Axel Andersson Academy and turned it into the largest such organization in Europe, if not the world. He sold it in the 1970s and moved to Florida.