The Men Behind the Revolution

If it is true, as it is so often and tiresomely repeated that “behind every good man is a good woman” and assuming the reverse is also true, then I, as a good woman, confess to having had not one, but four, good men behind me – my own secret John, Paul, George and Ringo.  That I didn’t know them all personally is beside the point.  As a mercenary for good, one must get past such nuance.  
Looking back, I can’t tell you which man I met first, but my memory lands on Jerry Huntsinger.  He wrote his letters so personally, I felt like I had known him all my life.  He told me he had Tourette’s Syndrome and that’s why he started writing letters. By receiving a letter, people would get an impression of him before they met him, he said, and therefore might take the chance to get to know him.  Jerry could be as funny as hell.  One story I used to tell about him was that he wanted to write a book and so sent off a letter to a publisher outlining the contents.  “Yes, yes, we’re very interested,” replied the publisher. But when Jerry sent in a draft manuscript, the publisher refused to believe the same person wrote the book as wrote the letter, the book being so awful.  Valerie March, who then worked for Family Services Association, loved this story and asked me to tell it when we were at parties together. 
Jerry was more like Casanova than Gloria Steinam in the way he got the whole women and direct mail thing.  He trumpeted the fact that direct mail donors were women and argued with fundraising executives and Board members about copy that would appeal to them.  And in 1989, he insisted on a quite radical idea for the time: “When I am referring to the people who receive fundraising letters,” he wrote, “I will use ‘her’ and ‘woman’ . . .  I will use ‘man’ or ‘male’ only when specifically referring to a man.”  He wrote that under the chapter heading Learn to Love a Woman.
Mal Warwick was the second of my Fab Four. I pumped my fist in a silent salute when I received my copy of Revolution in the Mailbox.  Mal had just finished work on Jesse Jackson’s 1988 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, raising about $6 million through DM.  His book was full of great mailing samples and I read for the first time what was to become mantra to a generation of fundraisers:  Renewal 1.  Renewal 2.  Renewal 3 . . . all the way to “most recalcitrant donor”; a phrased I loved as soon as I read it, adopted it as my own and have been using it ever since. 
Mal also had a newsletter at the time called Successful Direct Mail.  In every issue, he’d feature a special mailing picked from packages readers sent in.  I sent an acquisition mailing, an inexpensive roll, fold, slit that I had developed for the St. Stephen’s Community House Corner Drop-In Program.  It cost next to nothing to produce and had been quite successful.  Perhaps it would be featured in the newsletter!  Sad to say it wasn’t, but I received a lovely letter from Mal, saying it was a great piece, but that he wasn’t sure of the angle. 
Con Squires was another one of the great DM guys in my posse. I read every issue of Copy Clinic and critiqued every letter I wrote according to his Copy Rater Chart™.  My friend, Harvey McKinnon actually knew Con Squires and hired him to write copy occasionally.  Sensing an in, I asked Harvey to make the introduction.  He did and the next time I was in Boston I met Con Squires for lunch. He gave me great advice about an acquisition mailing for FoodShare, a control package they’ve been using ever since.  (I paid for lunch.)
But casting a shadow over everyone was a man I knew I would never meet.  He had retired to the south of France by the time I even knew what direct mail was.  But everyone knew who he was.  We all read and re-read the chapter on direct mail in a book he wrote in 1985.
David Ogilvy was best known as a Madison Avenue kind of ad guy, but he always advocated for what many ad guys turned their nose up at: direct marketing. 
And in his book Ogilvy on Advertising, he wrote, “direct response was my first love and later became my secret weapon.”
“Nobody should be allowed to create advertising for press or broadcast until he has served his apprenticeship in direct response. The experience will keep his feet on the ground for the rest of his life.”
Jerry. Mal. Con. David.   And me. 

NEXT:  Rattle those pots and pans

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  1. Good choices Gail – and I've had the pleasure of working with both Con Squires and Mal Warwick – amazing fundraisers and true gentlemen!David Ogilvy was an amazing ad man – his book is required reading. I always remember something he said about selling a product with advertising – "What is the benefit?" to the potential buyer.That's so often forgotten in ads and direct mail.

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