If anyone ever asks, “How did direct response climb from a marketing byway to a position of dominance?” you can answer in two words: Stan Rapp.
Direct response veterans remember watching with awe as Stan, with his then-partner Tom Collins, built Rapp Collins into a giant direct marketing agency. Many of today's “prime” names in direct marketing are alumni of Rapp Collins.
After adding to his already awesome reputation with milestone books such as MaxiMarketing (which he co-authored with Tom Collins and achieved a record of more than a quarter of a million copies sold) plus other best-selling books, you'd think he would relax and enjoy his many awards, speaking engagements, and permanent recognition as a member of the Direct Marketing Association's Hall of Fame.
Not Stan Rapp. He has too much wisdom to share, and he continues to share it graciously.
From Rapp Collins, his next major stop was the agency McCann Erickson, where he built the fledgling direct marketing division into a powerhouse operating in 35 countries, with clients such as General Motors, MasterCard, Microsoft, Dell, Nestlé and UPS.
As the direct response television commercials say, “But wait, there's more.”
Stan now is chairman of Engauge, a brilliant model of the aggressive and dynamic twenty-first century direct response agency. As has been true of every venture of which Stan is a principal, Engauge has attracted to its staff some of the brightest lights in contemporary marketing.
Enough? Of course not, for the forever-young Stan Rapp. At the Direct Marketing Association's 2009 Annual Conference, Stan was a keynote speaker. Did Stan's speech reprise earlier speeches and writings? We all know better than that: He brought the digital age into congruence with traditional direct when he roped a social media element into the talk.
That's who Stan Rapp is — the bridge linking the traditional (for which he was a principal architect) with the beyond-contemporary (for which he is uniquely qualified).
Any list of the most significant leaders in direct marketing, whether published today or a hundred years from now, would absolutely include one indispensable name: Stan Rapp.
Stan, we're grateful to you — not just for your leadership in building our direct universe into the giant it has become, but also for being you: good-natured, helpful to every one of us and an icon worthy of admiration not only from us but from generations to come.
Thanks, Stan. You're one of a kind, and it's a pleasure to know you.
Herschell Gordon Lewis is principal of Lewis Enterprises.