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Direct Response Hall of Fame: Worthy Winners

1 Apr, 2016 By: Doug McPherson Response

Winners — it’s the perfect word to describe the esteemed list of business leaders who will be inducted into the Direct Response of Hall of Fame.

True to form, the Response Advisory Board, previous Hall of Fame inductees, and Response’s executive leadership have chosen a revered group of proven leaders to be inducted into the Direct Response Hall of Fame during Response Expo in San Diego on April 28.

“This group of inductees is as powerful an octet as one could imagine,” says Thomas Haire, editor-in-chief of Response. “It’s a group of leaders that measures up to the high standards of our three previous classes, and we are thrilled to welcome them.”

John Cabrinha Dan Danielson Leeza Gibbons Linda Goldstein

The inductees are:

  • John Cabrinha, co-chairman of Los Angeles-based Mercury Media, has amassed a prolific 35-year career in direct marketing starting as a telemarketing operator and rising to respected CEO.
  • Dan Danielson, co-chairman of Los Angeles-based Mercury Media, is a three-decade media-buying veteran with long path of successful TV campaigns and marketing strategies.
  • Leeza Gibbons, pop culture icon, Emmy-winning TV host, best-selling author, and creative businesswoman, has now become an influential advocate for healthcare, wellness, and caregiving.
  • Linda Goldstein, partner in the law firm Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP, is widely recognized as one of the leading advertising law advisory and regulatory defense lawyers in the country.
  • Jack Kirby, president of the creative, marketing, and TV production units of Havas Edge, is considered to be one of the world’s most successful direct-to-consumer marketers.
  • Toni Knight, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based WorldLink, is a true industry pioneer who created a leading media sales representation firm.
  • Jeffrey Knowles, a partner with law firm Venable LLP, is one of the nation’s foremost advertising attorneys and a pioneer in the legal arena of direct-to-consumer marketing and e-commerce.
  • Bob Marsh, co-founder of American Telecast Corp., the company behind such smash hit products as Total Gym, Victoria Jackson Cosmetics, and more. Marsh passed away in 2008.
Jack Kirby Toni Knight Jeffrey Knowles Bob Marsh

We caught up with each living inductee and posed a few questions to help you get to know them better — and perhaps learn a few useful secrets of success.

What does it mean to you to be inducted into the DR Hall of Fame?

John Cabrinha: It is an honor I do not take lightly. There is nothing more appreciated in any industry than the honored recognition of one’s peers.

Dan Danielson: It’s an interesting phenomenon to now feel that I am old enough to be considered. I am way too young to be in a Hall of Fame. It seems like just the other day we were placing our first media buys.

Leeza Gibbons: I’ve been blessed to have a good, long run in an industry that still excites, inspires, and challenges me after 25 years. I’m proud to be in the company of some of my favorites.

Linda Goldstein: I am both honored and humbled. It is truly an honor to be recognized by my peers.

Jack Kirby: If life is about the company you keep, I just hit the jackpot. I’ve worked with most, and admired all of them. To say I’m honored is an understatement.

Toni Knight: It is such a tremendous honor, especially at a time when our industry has never been stronger.

Jeffrey Knowles: It is an honor to join this stellar group that has shaped direct response marketing into what it is today.

Why do you believe the Response Advisory Board and past inductees nominated you for induction into this exclusive group?

Cabrinha: I would sure like to say that it’s my dedication and perseverance. Perhaps, it’s our staying power in a high-stakes industry.

Danielson: Our success has been entirely dependent on our relationships, and we feel that has been the greatest reward of the work.

Gibbons: I hope because of my sincere connection to customers — and my respect for the field and the success I’ve had.

Goldstein: For the years of dedication and volunteer service I’ve given to this industry to help it grow and adapt to the changing legal and regulatory environment.

Kirby: There must be some mistake. I couldn’t possibly be old enough. I mean, I listen to The Weeknd. I own an Xbox One. Seriously, dude, me?

Knight: Our being able to always take a very strategic, innovative, and forward-looking approach to the business.

Knowles: I have defended the industry and almost every leading DRTV marketer in every fight, as well as founding and organizing the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA).

Why do you think you were able to maintain success in business through all the ups and downs this marketing method has seen over the years?

Cabrinha: By staying focused on our core business, we’ve avoided the distractions. And the collective efforts and valuable contributions of our dedicated employees deserve plenty of credit.

Danielson: Being nimble, staying ahead of some trends, and the maintaining the ability to analyze and figure out why something worked — or didn’t.

Gibbons: I believe it always comes down to trust. I’ve been extremely careful about the products I’ve presented and having Guthy-Renker as my partner put me on a winning path.

Goldstein: My ability to anticipate new legal challenges and provide creative solutions.

Kirby: Don’t get stuck. Look ahead. See around corners. Adapt or face the consequences. Read. Be curious. Meet new people. Challenge yourself. Try new things. Make yourself uncomfortable.

Knight: We are not afraid to take a hard look at our strengths and weaknesses, and constantly strive to improve. With the trust we have built, we have been able to maintain many long-term relationships and achieve success.

Knowles: More often than not, I have been the voice advocating for the industry and its leading marketers. I think I’ve worn a groove in the sidewalk running from my office to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to Capitol Hill and back.

What does it say about the DR marketing industry when major brand players are utilizing its tenets extensively — not only to create sales but also to build brand?

Cabrinha: If you knew me in the 1990s, I could say I told you so. The industry has consistently proven that a DR campaign is an effective branding tool and the byproduct is return on investment.

Danielson: In the early days, I would talk to people about products I was placing and they wouldn’t know them. Today, I could rattle off the top 25 long-form or short-form products and they are all household names. I can see why the major brands are playing in our sandbox.

Gibbons: DR is based on relationship and trust. In the beginning of my career, there were plenty of naysayers out there who felt I would derail my credibility and destroy my reputation by jumping in the way I did — but the opposite happened.

Goldstein: Brands are increasingly embracing many of the strategies that are at the core of DR marketing. These brand activation techniques fall squarely within the expertise of DR marketers, and it is therefore no surprise that major brands are recognizing the power of DR — not only to drive sales but also to build brand loyalty.

Kirby: While little Bobby may have grown up selling miracle car wax and ab belts on TV, today he’s a sophisticated performance marketer harnessing powerful data and great creative to help grow some of the biggest, most respected brands in the world. The pioneers of DR should be proud.

Knight: We are seeing lots of major brands adopt DR because it is translating into profitability. With the advent of online marketing, looking at impressions and analytics has become cool — even though it is something DR has done all along.

Knowles: Technology’s rapid advance is transforming marketing. Today, every marketer has to be omnichannel to survive as the layers between marketer and consumer disappear. We’ve shown large brands that DRTV is a powerful tool to introduce products, connect with consumers, and create demand.

In your professional career or personal life, can you name two defining moments?

Cabrinha: One: leaving SyberVision and partnering with Dan Danielson to start DirectVentures. And two, merging DirectVentures with Mercury Media and moving to Los Angeles.

Danielson: When my wife told me that John Cabrinha and I should start a business together. And then, when we created the Mercury brand.

Gibbons: I think of big moments like getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, getting an Emmy, or hitting the New York Times bestseller list, but the more defining moments tend to be on a more intimate scale — like when I used to make cold calls to our Sheer Cover customers. I loved being on the phone with someone telling me about being emancipated from a debilitating lack of self-confidence. I never see products as things but rather as portals through which a promise can be kept.

Goldstein: It’s when I decided to leave the traditional practice of law and focus specifically on advertising and marketing law. On a personal level, I have been truly blessed with two children who have been the absolute joy of my life.

Kirby: In the 1990s, as president of what at the time was the largest TV direct marketing company, I was told my passion for Internet commerce was misplaced and that the Web was not going to prove an efficient way to market direct to the consumer. I left the company — and I’m still here. They’re not. In the summer of 2006, Steve Netzley, founder and CEO of Havas Edge, called and convinced me that my shake-it-all-up approach could work on the other side of the marketing fence. I agreed to try it for a year. That was nearly a decade ago. Today, our agency is the largest of its kind. In the end, relationships matter most. When you find a good one, hold it close. It’ll change your life.

Knight: Professionally, it was starting WorldLink and building it into the successful business it has become today. Personally, it has been all about creating a beautiful family, which has given me a phenomenal work-life balance. 

Knowles: Founding what would become the ERA and expanding its focus internationally.

What do you believe is the most significant accomplishment in your Hall of Fame career?

Cabrinha: That my partner and I were able to take our company from a one-room office to where we find ourselves today.

Danielson: To pull 32 companies together for a gratis campaign to promote wheelchairs and support The American Wheelchair Mission. The DRMA has been very involved, and in March we delivered our 14th container (almost 4,000 units to date) of wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and crutches to Chile.

Gibbons: Making a difference in tens of thousands of lives — that was my goal going in, and it is still the thing that rocks my world.

Goldstein: Creating the industry’s self-regulation program during my term as chair of the ERA. If there is one legacy I can leave behind, I hope it is that — as I continue to believe that meaningful self-regulation is a key to this industry’s survival and a testament to its maturity.

Kirby: I’m still here. I’m alive. I’m well. I get to do the things I love to do every day, with people I love just as much.

Knight: Taking that first leap and founding WorldLink. It was daunting but also an incredibly exciting time, and fortunately, it worked out pretty well.

Knowles: Helping found the ERA, an organization that advocated for the industry, established meaningful self-regulatory principles that staved off government regulation, and eliminated many of the bad actors who were tarnishing the direct response industry’s reputation.

Can you share with us two or three more memorable accomplishments?

Cabrinha: Getting married and having kids, and finding the right balance between work and family, has been very rewarding. It’s amazing how family life has re-energized my sense of purpose in this industry.

Danielson: I am most proud of the relationships that have been developed and of the people who have worked at Mercury Media. It has been, and will continue to be, about the people.

Gibbons: Working with Tony Robbins’s “Get The Edge” program changed the course of my life. Because I had created financial security within the industry, I was able to take a hiatus from my broadcast career for a few years to create my nonprofit organization to help families like mine who struggle with a diagnosis like Alzheimer’s disease. I owe DR a lot.

Goldstein: The roles I have played as an advocate for the industry in connection with various FTC rule-making initiatives. I would like to believe that my efforts helped result in some favorable compromises.

Kirby: I helped drive industry self-regulation reform initiatives and formation of the self-regulatory program, while serving as a 10-year member of the board, executive committee chair, and chairman of the ERA.

Knight: I am very proud that we have been able to significantly build three complementary, yet uniquely different, businesses aimed at the English, Hispanic, and international DR markets.

Knowles: I am immensely proud of the Advertising, Marketing and New Media practice group at Venable. I’m also proud of the work I did with Linda Goldstein, the ERA board, the Council of Better Business Bureaus, and government regulators to form the industry’s self-regulation program. ■

About the Author: Doug McPherson

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