Meet the Masters: Joan Oppenheimer
Along with such familiar names in the direct marketing community as Brian Kurtz, Reggie Brady and Donn Rappaport, production guru Joan Oppenheimer was awarded a Silver Apple Award by the Direct Marketing Club of New York last November for her valued contributions to the industry. Silver Apples are conferred to direct marketing professionals in recognition of 25 years of distinguished service to the New York direct marketing community. Long before she started "spreading the news" in the Big Apple, Oppenheimer sold envelopes to mailers in Twinsburg, OHmarking the dawn of a bright career in direct marketing. Since then, she has built a reputation as an authority on fulfillment and lettershops. Currently she is a sales manager at Design Distributors, Inc. Oppenheimer now takes a moment to sound off on younger, bottom-line marketers, project deadlines, and the unthinkable task of coating polybags with the scent of leather.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first job in direct marketing was selling poly envelopes and equipment to mailers and lettershops. I worked for Automated Packaging Systems of Twinsburg, Ohio.
Q: What made you begin a career in the advertising/marketing industry?
A: I wanted to use my 14 years of graphics arts experience in the book publishing and book manufacturing industry to make a career change. I was interested in related fields and found that packaging might be a way to make that change. The leap into packaging came in the form of polybags in direct mail.
Q: What advertising/marketing icon, dead or alive, do you admire most?
A: Really creative and bright advertising people have my respect. I am not one to elevate one individual to icon status. I think most direct marketing is a collaborative effort anyway.
Q: What companies do you find market best one-to-one?
A: Being in sales for 25 years makes me less qualified to answer this question. I receive a lot of mail from a lot of companies and one thing I notice is that almost none of them utilize their database to successfully market one-to-one.
Q: Tell me one thing that's different today in the fulfillment sector of the direct marketing industry than 25 years ago.
A: Mailers expect to pay 10-year-old prices for fulfillment and lettershopping. Even though cost of living goes up, their salaries go up, postage goes up, mailers do not want to pay increases in fulfillment.
Probably the most important part of the job is getting it out right and on time, but those of us who are in this business find that companies will pay more for lists, printing, design and copy, and try to get away with paying the least to the fulfillment house.
Twenty-five years ago the services we provided had a greater perceived value than today, yet we are asked to do more and more of what "should" be the customers' responsibility. So the prices are driven down and the responsibility of the customer to the mail house is reduced along with the prices. I think this is a very sad situation and do not see it getting better. Also, 25 years ago it was relationships that were important. The younger, bottom-line marketers care less for relationships and more for money only, so loyalty has become a thing of the past.
Q: What are the hallmarks of a strong marketer-lettershop relationship?
A: Loyalty and trust between marketer and lettershop are the hallmarks. They should work together to produce [jobs] correctly, economically and on time. It should be treated as a partnership, thereby benefiting both marketer and vendor.
Q: Any funny snafus with client jobs over the course of your direct marketing career?
A: I once did a mailing for Time-Life Books for the old west and they wanted a polybag that was scented like leather. We did come up with what was a leather-scented poly, but they thought it smelled more like a used saddle.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) was not thrilled by the concept. They were, however, in favor of one that smelled like chocolate chip cookies.
Another one was when a USPS driver was hauling a full truckload of mail en route to a BMC and had some sort of mental breakdown. He left the truck on the side of the road and checked himself into a hospital. It was days later that the truck was found, and some time even later that the driver was found. I guess it was better than shooting someone.