Insurance Ensures Rubin's Success in DMLittle did Adrea Rubin know when she answered a blind advertisement 32 years ago that her need for a job would yield a lifelong career.
That ad turned out to be for a position at the Direct Mail/Marketing Association. Then-president Bob DeLay must have seen something in Rubin when he hired her as his executive assistant, but by her own admission it wasn't her experience or skills.
"He took a chance on a 24-year-old that had a great gift of gab but no business experience or office skills," Rubin said of DeLay. "Within 24 hours, I was telling him how to run the association. Bob quickly realized I was not secretarial material and asked me to be the administrator for the Direct Marketing Insurance Council."
That position was the foundation upon which Rubin built her presence in the industry, culminating in the formation of Adrea Rubin Marketing Inc. 15 years ago this month in New York.
"As administrator of the DMIC, I met all of the largest insurance direct marketers in the country," she said. "Later on in my career, I became the list broker for many of these mailers."
That's not to say it was easy for her to break into the insurance niche.
"When I started, the insurance industry was a male-dominated field," she said. "I had to work harder to prove that I had the knowledge that they sought."
Rubin credits three DM professionals with helping her get where she is today, starting with DeLay. By 1975, Rubin worked at Names Unlimited, where she met another mentor in Al Young.
"Most importantly, [Young] saw a sales ability in me that I didn't even know existed," she said. "Throughout the years, we shared many accounts together, including AARP, Prudential Insurance and BMG."
Rubin spent the next 14 years at Direct Media Inc. under the wing of company founder and chairman Dave Florence. Rubin and her staff worked at DMI's newly created New York office as opposed to its Greenwich, CT, headquarters. She has the distinction of being the first woman on the company's board of directors and one of its original shareholders.
"Dave treated everyone at DMI like family and created an environment that allowed me to pursue areas of growth outside of the insurance arena," she said.
The '90s brought a turning point for Rubin when she joined the ranks of several other top list professionals who struck out on their own. Encouragement, insight and financial backing from Young helped make Adrea Rubin Marketing a reality.
"Together Al and I merged the concept of traditional list brokerage with the nontraditional use of compiled aggregate transactional data," Rubin said. "As a result, I applied this concept of utilizing psychographic and demographic data to counteract the effects of the shrinking direct mail-sold list universe. Our partnership created a list brokerage company and subsequent list management company, which has been on the forefront of utilizing nontraditional list sources for traditional direct marketers ever since."
Rubin's only regret is that Young is no longer alive to see the company today.
Though growing from three original employees to 25 is significant, it is no mistake that the company remains comparatively small, according to Rubin.
"By design I have kept the company small," she said. "As a boutique list firm, our clients have direct access to the firm's top management, who are involved in every aspect of their accounts. We are able to tailor our approach and services to the industries with which we have a strong affinity. As a result, we are able to be selective and concentrate on customized, unique marketing solutions."
An outgrowth of that approach has been a branching into the financial services market, continuity, catalog and senior citizen marketing.
And being a female-owned and -operated list company also has paid off.
"Fifteen years after I opened ARM, there remains only a small percentage of female-owned and -operated list companies," Rubin said. "While this was a disadvantage years ago, it now has its advantages. As a woman-owned entity, my company is now attractive to large corporations who have mandatory diversity vendor requirements."
Rubin has her share of memories and amusing stories from the '70s and '80s, when the industry was more carefree, she said.
"My life consisted of industry conventions in places such as Las Vegas and Hawaii; drinking, gambling and smoking -- which was not frowned upon in those days, but encouraged; and larger-than-life personalities," she said. "The '90s ushered in an era of a more serious list environment. It heralded the demise of the sweepstakes arena, the colorful cast of characters and exotic DMA locations."
Today, Rubin laments the legislative challenges and shrinking direct mail-sold list universes, though she said she remains optimistic and cited technology as a boon to productivity even as it complicates things.
Of course, life isn't all DM for Rubin, who lists her passions outside the industry as her dog, Oscar, trips to Europe and Las Vegas, antiquing, movies, reality TV shows and spending time at home on the eastern end of Long Island with her husband, Steve.
Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters