The Genius of Ed McLean
I remember the first time I met Ed McLean. We were at the launch of Denny Hatch's Direct Mail Package Days, a two-day seminar devoted to nothing but direct mail and the incomparable people who breathe life into their clients' products and services. Being only 23 at the time, I was greatly intimidated by these direct mail starsMarty Davidson, Barbara Harrison, Ted Kikoler, Herschell Gordon Lewis and, of course, McLeanand yet still didn't fully realize that I was in the presence of greatness.
I would love to say that McLean put me at ease right away, but that wasn't his nature. No, he and the equally devilish Paul Goldberg took turns razzing this youngster for being wet behind the ears until I shot a zinger back at them for being old and jaded. And then, like true gentlemen, they acknowledged my parry and posed for the photo I had been trying to get of them for the editorial coverage of the event. That's my fondest memory of McLean; fun-loving, quick with his dry humor and mischievous laugh, and underneath it all, just a really nice guy.
Like many others, I was saddened to hear of McLean's death in August this year. His genius as a copywriter and direct response strategist was matched by only a few others, and as the years pass, this group gets smaller and smaller. Luckily, these stars found time in their lives to write books on the basics of direct marketing so that we can learn from their experience. For example, I'd like to share with you McLean's dictums on the three tests you should never conduct, taken from "The Basics of Testing," a monograph he wrote in the 1970s as part of a series of lessons on direct mail:
1. Something so expensive your own good sense tells you you could not possibly pull well enough to meet the cost per order you must achieve.
2. Gimmicks ... that cannot be economically produced or even be
produced at all for a larger mailing.
3. Small differences in price, copy and offer.
Amazingly logical advice that gets overlooked in our fast-paced world. This monograph was sent to me by Grant Johnson, president of Johnson Direct, and the newest member of Inside Direct Mail's editorial advisory board. Johnson's Wisconsin agency works with clients such as Microsoft Business Solutions, Service Master and Humana to produce campaigns that are results-driven. If you know him even a little, you're well aware of Johnson's passion for all things direct, so we're quite excited to have that enthusiasm helping us shape our editorial direction.
Johnson and I are part of the Ed McLean Admiration Society, along with countless others, I'm sure. If you're not aware of McLean and his career, I hope my note this month will inspire you to take a closer look. You will learn at least one thing that will improve your direct mail efforts, I promise.