Letter: Don’t Discount Ben Franklin’s Contributions to Direct Marketing

One of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, has been ill-treated by DM News of late. It seems that Tad Clarke, normally not given to dyspepsia, feels that Ben does not deserve induction into the DMA’s Hall of Fame (“The Best of 2004,” Dec. 27). Adding insult to historical injury, Ben’s contribution to DM has been discounted as no more relevant than that of Johann Gutenberg. Of course, Gutenberg was no slouch when it comes to developments that benefited DMers, though truly his contributions were less specifically relevant than Ben’s.

If we could catch up with Mr. Franklin in his French period, he might have said of all this, “Au contraire!” After all, Franklin was the inventor of the mail-order catalog in 1744 with his, “A Catalog of Choice and Valuable Books.” This was no mean DM feat. Note that even the tome’s title is sales-oriented. Franklin was the first to sell books or any commodity in this way. Thus, he also served as the first postmaster general of the united colonies in 1775.

By way of historical comparison with another industry, we might look to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That organization has had no trouble in giving awards to early, distinguished practitioners of the film craft such as D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin.

Our Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association annually gives the Benjamin Franklin Awards for Direct Marketing Excellence. This year, we’re even updating the bust. We’re proud of Ben, and of his Philly, U.S. and international contributions. It’s in all of our interests to make younger generations aware of earlier contributions. The connection to history makes us feel part of a rich tapestry, with each of us hoping to add a colorful thread.

Albert Fried-Cassorla, President, Philadelphia DMA

[email protected]

I think Mr. Fried-Cassorla missed other editorials and letters to the editor last year about Ben Franklin’s induction into the Hall of Fame. In no way was I belittling him. My point was that there are plenty of current-day direct marketers whom the DMA should be honoring before it has to page through the history books.-TC

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