Lester Wunderman

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

Over the past few years, relations between ad agencies and clients have been in an even greater state of flux than usual. The nature of just what a marketing agency is and what it does has many definitions. But the key issue is whether the agency, internal or external, is a strategic partner or just another supplier.

Lester Wunderman, who passed away at 98 last week, was a quiet giant among visionary innovators. And if the marketing universe looks almost totally different today than it did in the “Mad Men” age of the 1960s, Lester deserves the lion’s share of the credit.

“Wonder Who?” was not an unusual “Mad Men” reaction in 1960s when direct marketing agency Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline, already at the top of the direct mail and mail order agency league table, might be mentioned in a social or business conversation. “What do they do?” was the usual semi-curious follow-up, if there was one.

Lester Wunderman is called “the Father of Direct Marketing” — not because he was the first one to put marketing offers in the mail, but because he is the one who started measuring results of direct channel efforts in more methodical ways. His marketing metrics are the predecessors of today’s measurements.

After years of being the poor relative to brand advertising, our direct discipline has finally been discovered by the big brand purveyors — all of those Mad Men who traditionally looked down their noses at any marketing efforts that demanded some form of response and were driven more by results than ego-polishing.

Stephen Yu’s recent and extremely thought-provoking piece on AI started me wondering once again about the dangers of data overload and whether we’ll ever really, really understand the purchasing decisions people make, how they make them and be able to track them accurately.

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