This week I recalled a post from a few months ago about how some of the most successful people in history suffered challenges that actually drove their later success. It triggered my memory of a story from Lester Wunderman, one of the living legends of the advertising agency world who started a multi-million-dollar business, coined the term "direct marketing" and remains a thought leader in our industry.
The story comes from a video used within our WPP network in which Lester Wunderman tells of his early days starting an agency. To summarize:
- Lester and his brother, Irving, started an advertising agency in New York City during the height of The Great Depression "because no one would hire us."
- Lester had no clients and used to walk around from office to office selling himself. At one point he saw a man about to jump out of a window and pulled him off the ledge. The man thanked Lester and asked how he could repay the favor. Lester asked for his advertising business, and thus won his first client.
- The pressure to win in this tough marketplace drove Lester Wunderman to "promise clients that their advertising would deliver results."
- According to Wunderman: "We couldn't sell on our experience or awards, and we didn't have an education in advertising. All we could really say was that we got results."
- "No matter how much firepower other agencies had they couldn't win if we had results."
Obviously, in this case the pressure to survive as a business led Wunderman to innovate in a way that drove improvement for both his clients and his business. The idea of results-based-marketing is seen today in marketers' focus on Return on Investment and, eventually, the idea of relationship and permission-based marketing.
Today, the evolution of Wunderman's new thinking helped drive my agency's belief in Marketing with Meaning - the idea that to win in a world of consumer control we must create marketing that people actually choose to engage with. Thus, the legacy of improvement doesn't stop with one man or one business, but can echo through the generations. Thanks, Lester.