Stone & Adler began December 1, 1966 as “an advertising agency providing mail order and direct mail programs.” I joined four months later and spent 11 wonderful years working closely with Bob Stone.
At a staff meeting in 1967, Bob suggested the agency should be positioned more broadly to appeal to big-name advertisers. He felt marketing was the wave of the future, and would add some sophistication to the direct field. So Stone & Adler adopted “the direct marketing agency” as its slogan and started publishing a house organ called The Direct Marketing Report.
Unlike today, there was only one trade publication covering the direct field back then. Bob felt Advertising Age was the key to getting big-name advertisers interested in direct marketing. To convince the publisher, he wrote his first article and outlined about 50 other subjects. His column ran for years.
Bob worked at home every Tuesday to tackle that and other writing projects, and the staff learned not to interrupt him. The column's popularity led him to co-author a book, Successful Direct Marketing Methods. It was a business bestseller. For many years he donated all the royalties to the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation. Later they funded the Robert Stone Center at Chicago's Guild for the Blind.
I couldn't have asked for a better mentor. Bob let me handle important clients, work with him on his book and speeches, and later run the creative department. Best of all, we took a lot of business trips together. And when the business part was over, we got to chat about all sorts of things, from families to baseball.
We shared our baseball passion after I left the agency, and did a yearly outing to Wrigley Field. Bob was already well up in years when he got the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs' game. Not wanting to embarrass himself in front of 40,000 fans, he practiced for weeks with a physical therapist. It paid off — he threw a perfect strike. That was one of his traits — always striving for perfection.
I learned a lot from him. Bob Stone will always be Mr. Direct Marketing in my book.
Jim Kobs is principal of Kobs Strategic Consulting.