Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lester Wunderman Coined "Direct Marketing"

Lester Wunderman is the person who first coined the phrase "direct mail," using it publicly for the first time in a speech given on October 1, 1961 (Wunderman, 1996). He defined direct mail as a "system of interactive transactions that would restore a measure of dialogue and human scale to the way we made, sold, and bought things."

From Wunderman's point of view, he saw advertising moving away from the traditional means of filtering communications from advertiser to consumer. Instead, he saw the advertising environment as one in which the consumers were actually talking back, becoming part of the conversation. By approaching the advertiser with questions, consumers were forming the expectation that not only should a consumer's needs be addressed, but that advertisers should know who they are, as well.

There is no better way to phrase his revolutionary ideas, than to use his own words.

"We are living in an age of repersonalization and individuation. People, products and services are all seeking an individual entity. Taste, desire, ambition and lifestyle have made shopping once again a form of personal expression."

The ultimate participation in an advertisement comes when you can buy directly from the advertising medium. This further enhances the definition of direct marketing: It not only gets the order, but takes it as well.

Advertising can be a personalized service - if we realize that the bulk of our media today are addressed to a specific person or family. Direct mail must increasingly use its power to address specific individuals of known demography and characteristics, if it is to come to fruition. A television transmitter is blind, but a computer has a memory and selective vision. Data, harnessed to the new digital printers, can write tens of millions of personalized letters at low cost.

A respondent to such a computerized conversation recently wrote, "In this age of computers, it is refreshing to be treated once more as an individual."

We are just a short step away from completely individualized, volume direct mail, which I believe will soon create personalized advertising opportunities of which we never dreamed.


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