Congratulations to an idiot at the helm of an important business YOU are engaged in

You may not realise it, but this affects you – and it really upset a friend of mine

I don’t suppose you spend much time thinking about it, but everything that goes on in the world’s most pervasive and perhaps most powerful medium is based on direct marketing.

The medium is the internet.

Every communication on the internet is direct.

Either you write or talk to someone directly or they respond to you directly. 

That is how back in 1982 I defined what direct marketing is all about in Commonsense Direct Marketing– a book still selling today under a longer title with lots more pages and in lots of languages.

That is why what you’re about to read is important. It’s an email sent today by a very able copywriter called Andy Owen. Here’s what he wrote.

The Death of Direct Marketing

04 July 2016 09:36

In 1936 in the USA, Hank Hoke created a magazine that was to become the bible for the DM industry.

It was called Direct Marketing.

When I first got into this crazy business in the 80’s, I soon became aware of it and was an avid subscriber. 

It was a marvellous read and hugely educational, with most of the leading DM minds regularly writing for it.

A lot of them have become legends – Murray Raphel, Ray Jutkins, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jim Rosenfield, our own Drayton Bird – and many others

The Hoke family were trailblazers and led the way, in what was an incredibly fast-moving and inspirational industry.

I can still recall the buzz I got from it in those days. I still crave that feeling.

Well, as we all know, things have changed.

And quite dramatically in recent times.  Direct Marketing magazine officially closed its doors many years ago.

Now, I believe, the direct marketing industry has done the same.

I am in regular touch with Hank Hoke III, who is the grandson of Hank who started it all off.  He shared some information with me on Friday, that cut me in half.

As you would expect, The DMA USA had a huge library of DM material – a lot of it compiled from Hank’s Grandfather’s time, all the way through to some present-day material.  

It was priceless stuff.

Well, listen to this:

The past President of The DMA – Linda Woolley – decided it would be best to throw out all the history, before she left.  

So, she did.

Can you believe it?   Really?

Did that crazy woman lose her mind?  And why didn’t someone stop her?

I would have bought every item.  And I know a few others that would have been interested, too.

It’s a criminal act in my view.  All that wonderful history lost forever. 

But, it’s just another example of how no one cares anymore. Even a past head of The DMA USA – the biggest DMA in the world. 

What was a vibrant and inspirational industry, is now finished.  It’s dead in the water.

Of course, those of us old liggers that are still in it, know it died many years ago.

And the final irony is, that the work we all see these days, both traditional and digital, is the worst quality ever in our business.

It has never been worse.  Total tosh, most of it.

Today’s marketers, writers and creatives, could learn so much from the greats of our business. And a lot of that education was in those archives, that this crazy woman dumped.

The greats that are no longer with us, must be rolling in their graves.  Because, what they left to us, is as relevant now, as it was then.

And it will always be so.

How you communicate with customers and prospects to get a response, is an art.  And the same techniques that worked eight decades ago, still work today.

They will always work.  Because times change, but people don’t.

All of today’s marketers, writers and creatives, could learn so much from the greats of our business.

But, they have no interest at all. They’ll have even less, now that this valuable material has been trashed.

It is simply impossible for a simple boy like me, to understand.

For the handful of us left, that still have a passion for DM, it is very, very hard to take.

Another few years and all that will be left of this once-great industry, will be a Wikipedia page.

I feel sick…

Well of course, as I pointed out above, Direct Marketing lives on – and always will.

Truth is, the principles I apply every day online are identical to those I applied in direct mail and direct response advertising all those years ago.

But what crass, arrogant, stupidity of Linda Woolley – if this is true – to destroy such an important part of its history – that so many could learn from – but never will.

About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.


  1. Any Owen is right on the button. She was a crazy woman. The media might change, but the principles of marketing and human nature do not. Reminds me of a story here in New Zealand from the 1950s. The then acting Director of one of our major galleries single handedly decided that ‘old’ was out and modern was in and so a priceless collection of 16th & 17th century prints (including 1st state Rembrandt engravings) were quite literally consigned to a bonfire. My informant was witness to this vandalism.

    But all is not lost Drayton. I’ve collected the 6 Classic Ads Bumper books and out them on a dedicated site along with your excellent video. Probably at least 4,000 ads in over 3,300 pages covering 1900-1969. All at

    Look forward to catching up when back in the UK.

    1. Drayton

      How are you, Henry? How has NZ changed?

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