Being Direct: Making Advertising Pay

Lester Wunderman


If you are looking for a book that will give you the top 10 list of how to make your advertising pay, then this is not the book for you. Mr. Wunderman’s memoir is a look back on a life-time spent coming up with creative direct marketing solutions to business problems.

My key takeaways from this book are to understand that the way to achieve truly impressive breakthroughs is not to resort to tried and true formulas. The formulas will get you incremental improvement at best.

For example Wunderman discusses how he sponsored a Chicago radio show of a prominent minister to target those in need of hearing aids. In another section he is challenged to develop a million leads for a rose grower who typically received 150,000 new prospects a year.

In both cases, Wunderman hits it out of the park.

The key insight to enjoying the book is to listen to Wunderman’s repsonse to legendary copywriter Maxwell Sackheim’s question, “What is it that you do?” Wunderman’s answer, “I get clients and help them with their marketing problems.”

Wunderman is a troubleshooter, and his toolset is direct marketing.


Lester Wunderman created the business known as direct marketing. He conceived and refined its basic strategies, and he gave it a name. Today, he is Chairman of Wunderman, Cato, Johnson, the largest direct marketing organization in the world, with billings in excess of $1.5 billion and 65 offices in 36 countries. This is his own story, in his own words, of how he did it — how he sold everything from roses to Ford cars, from credit cards to coffee, using the direct marketing techniques he and his agency created; how he showed Time, Inc., how to market its magazines and Columbia Records how to become one of the largest and most sophisticated direct marketers in the world.

25 years before the Internet was conceived, in a now-famous speech delivered at MIT, Wunderman described the sales relationship of the future as “interactive.” In tomorrow’s electronic marketplace, the “interactive” techniques that Wunderman developed will account for the great majority of sales worldwide. Wunderman’s intimate first-person account provides a business road map to the future.

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