While I was growing up in this business, Lester was one of my idols. He’s the man who in a 1967 address at Massachussets Institute of Technology literally named and defined the practice of direct marketing. I was all of 13, but he paved the way for thousands of direct marketing practitioners, including me, to follow his vision.
Over the years, so many of us hung on every wordexpressed in his books, including Being Direct and Frontiers of Direct Marketing; his myriad press interviews and countless speeches to the marketing industry.
Lester has justifiably won every conceivable award in our business, from multiple lifetime achievement honors to sitting in several Halls of Fame, including the Direct Marketing Association’s and the American Advertising Federation’s.
I remember the first time I ever spoke to Lester. It was at a conference in Los Angeles. I’d been in the business about 10 years. Lester had just delivered a speech, and like a star-struck groupie I stopped him in the hallway and told him how much I wished I’d had the chance to work for him.
When we first got into direct response television more than 25 years ago, I closely studied the work that Lester was doing for the likes of Time-Life, Columbia House and American Express, which I think made the entire industry better at our jobs.
I’ve been fortunate to have lunch with Lester and his lovely wife Sue every summer for a number of years. I soak up every word over those very special meals, conscious of the fact I’m continuing to learn from one of the greatest minds our business has ever seen.
He is one of a kind. An accomplished businessman. A devoted family man. A visionary. An artist. A legend. That’s the Lester I’m proud to know — and the Wonder Man so many of us aspire to be.
Howard Draft is executive chairman of Draftfcb.