Memorial Service Planned for Ed Burnett

An ash scattering ceremony and remembrance of DM industry legend Ed Burnett is set for March 20 in Santa Cruz, CA. Burnett died of pneumonia at age 90 on Feb. 25 and was cremated in a service March 2.

The ash scattering will take place in Santa Cruz Harbor on a 70-foot sailboat that can accommodate 45 people. Burnett's wife, Elizabeth Milkov Burnett, requests confirmation from anyone planning to attend.

Born in Detroit, Burnett came to New York, where he attended business school and built his direct marketing career. As owner of Ed Burnett Consultants Inc., he trained and mentored many of the most prominent executives in the list business. He is widely recognized as the pioneer of many of the list marketing concepts and techniques used in the industry today.

“He did more individually to move the whole list area along, certainly in the business-to-business area, than anyone I've ever known or met,” said Ralph Stevens, senior vice president of MKTG Services. “Aside from that, he was one of the nicest human beings in the world.”

Burnett's first employee at Ed Burnett Consultants was introduced to lists and data by Burnett and went on to start his own list company.

“I learned an awful lot from him about direct marketing and the list business,” said Donn Rappaport, chairman of American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ. “He was a tough boss and a very demanding boss. There are a huge number of people who spent time working for Ed in the industry, and I think we would all agree that it may not have been the most pleasant thing to do, but you sure learned a lot.”

Burnett also was a pioneer in getting more mailers to put their lists on the market, according to Rappaport.

“When I worked for Ed, very few files were on the market,” he said. “He was one of the first list managers to convince data owners that their customer file could be worth a lot of money and that putting their files on the market would not cannibalize their sales.”

Burnett gave direct marketing seminars nationwide on the art of list selection and use. Among his clients were Fortune 500 companies such as Xerox, IBM and AT&T on direct response marketing and analysis. He even traded barbs and witticisms in defense of direct mail on “Late Night With David Letterman,” according to a biography of Burnett posted on the International Society for Strategic Marketing's Web site.

“I still laugh today when I think about him telling someone to 'Sit down, maybe you'll learn something,' because he truly wanted to share his wealth of information,” said Susan McNamara, vice president at SK&A Information Services, Tarrytown, NY. “Personally, I will always be grateful for my start in the industry with Ed and his mentoring, support and friendship.”

Though the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame award eluded Burnett, he received countless others over the years. In 1978, the Mail Advertising Services Association named Burnett “Man of the Year.” The DMA gave Burnett the first List Leader of the Year award in 1983. He received a Silver Apple from the Direct Marketing Club of New York in 1987. In 1993, the DMA honored Burnett with a Business-to-Business Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The industry lost a great man. There are just too few of them left,” said Dave Nussbaum, president of Direct Network Inc., North Brunswick, NJ. “I hope the DMA Hall of Fame committee recognizes his contributions and gives him the honor that he deserves this year … although posthumously. If he doesn't belong in it, who does?”

In addition to his third wife, Elizabeth, her son, Thomas, survives Burnett. Niece and nephew Julie and Mark Burnett, founders of Burnett Direct Inc., Farmington Hills, MI, also survive him.

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