Lester Wunderman

Consultant, professor, author and photographer is chairman emeritus and founder of Wunderman

Lester Wunderman, consultant, professor, author and photographer is chairman emeritus and founder of Wunderman. After an apprenticeship at several agencies, Mr. Wunderman joined Maxwell Sackheim & Company in 1947, where he became executive vice president. In 1958 he founded Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline, now known as Wunderman.

Signature Achievements
In 1967, in an address at MIT, Mr. Wunderman identified, named and defined Direct Marketing, and for more than four decades he has led the theoretical and practical growth of the industry.

Among his achievements of which he was most proud, Mr. Wunderman was responsible for the research, business development plan and launching of the American Express Card. He helped to develop and market new products and services for many other large direct marketing companies such as the Columbia Record Club for CBS, Time-Life Books for Time Inc., Psychology Today Magazine, the Beginning Readers Program for Grolier Inc., and several “lifestyle” book clubs for Book-of-the-Month Club, including the Dolphin Book Club for sailors, the Cooking & Crafts Club and the Quality Paperback Book Club.

One of his greatest innovations, the Gold Box, evolved in the 1970s when Mr. Wunderman and his agency went head to head with McCann for the Columbia Record account. The story is recounted in detail in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (Little, Brown & Company, 2000). Ever the competitor, Mr. WUNDERMAN suggested both agency campaigns run (in separate local markets segments) and the one that had the greatest impact would get the contract. Wunderman won as his markets were up 80% compared to 19.5% for McCann. The reason is attributed to the “Gold Box.”

Publications and Speeches
His book, Being Direct, was first published by Random House in January 1997 and an updated and revised edition, which includes the first-ever consumer Bill of Rights and his views on the Internet was subsequently published and distributed by the Data & Marketing Association in 2004. It has been translated into many languages, including Mandarin and Japanese. It is available in e-Book format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple’s iBookstore. An earlier book, Frontiers of Direct Marketing, was published in 1981, and his speeches and articles have appeared in publications worldwide.

Mr. Wunderman has addressed industry and government groups in more than 25 countries. He has been the featured speaker at many important functions of the direct marketing industry, as well as Chairman of the first Direct Marketing Day in New York in 1971 and Chairman again in 1983. He was Visiting Professor Direct marketing at the School for Continuing and Professional Studies at New York University 1998-2000. He has also lectured on direct marketing at Columbia University, Fordham University, Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He attended Brooklyn College, The New York School for Social Research and Columbia University, where he did graduate work in cultural anthropology and art history. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the City University of New York in June of 1984.

Professional Affiliations
Mr. Wunderman was formerly a Director of the Advertising Council and he also served on the Board of Directors of the Data & Marketing Association. He was Secretary/Treasurer of the American Association of Advertising Agencies for two years and a member of its Operations Committee and Board of Directors.

He is former Chairman of the Executive Committee of The Center for Direct Marketing of New York University, and he was Founding Chairman of The DMA International Strategic Forum on Direct Marketing. He also served on the Editorial Review Board of the Journal of Direct Marketing of the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University, and he was formerly Chairman of the Communications Design Advisory Committee of the Parsons School of Design and a member of its Board of Overseers.

Mr. Wunderman served as Chairman of the Visiting Committee of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he served on UNESCO’s International Fund for the Promotion of Culture. He was also a long-time Trustee of the Sesame Workshop (formerly known as the Children’s Television Workshop). In 2007, He was honored as Communication Man of the Year by the Communications Division of the UJA. In 2011, his papers were collected by Duke University and the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

Awards and Tributes
He has received many awards and tributes from the direct marketing industry.

2010 winner of the John Caples’ Andi Emerson Award, which is presented each year to an individual for outstanding service to the direct marketing community.
2004 agency winner of the Marketing EDGE Corporate Leadership Award recognizing outstanding contributions to education.
1999 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Midwest “Direct Marketing Association. He was named as one of the “Top 100 People in Advertising” by Advertising Age.
1997 Lifetime Achievement Award from Direct Marketing Days in New York and the 1997 Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Direct Marketing Association.
1995 the award for leadership in direct marketing from the Associacion Espanola de Marketing Directo in Spain.
1994 Marketing EDGE Edward Mayer Award for educational leadership.
1992 the Ed Sisk Award for Direct Marketing Vision.
1988, he was elected to the Advertising Hall of Fame and was named as one of twenty “Advertising Legends and Leaders” by Adweek Magazine and one of “The Most Influential People in Sales and Marketing” by Sales & Marketing management Magazine.
1985, the Focus Award for contributions to international direct marketing given by the Montreux Symposium of Direct Marketing in Switzerland.
1983, named to both the Data & Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame as well as the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.
1982 Direct Marketer of the Year by Direct Mail Day in New York.
Mr. Wunderman is also a photographer. He studied with Dan Weiner at the Photo League in New York and with Berenice Abbott at the New School for Social Research. Because of Lester’s passion for Africa and African art, he amassed one of the largest private collections of Dogon sculpture. Through his generous gifts, many of the pieces are now housed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mr. Wunderman is married to the former Suzanne Oksman Cott, who, under the professional name of Sue Cott, was Director of Editorials for WCBS-TV for many years.