Field Reports1 Apr, 2013 By: Doug McPherson, Thomas Haire Response
Wechsler Reflects on 20 Years of L&W Direct
By Thomas Haire ([email protected])
As Irvington, N.Y.-based Lockard & Wechsler Direct (L&W) reaches its 20th anniversary this year, the company continues to reach new heights. Under the leadership of CEO Richard Wechsler, the company has grown to encompass more than 100 employees and account for more than $450 million in annual billings.
Recently, Response caught up with Wechsler to chat about those past 20 years — and ask about what’s on the docket for the next 20.
Q: What’s the most memorable moment in your 20 years in business?
A: I came into the business with no experience whatsoever. Arthur Lockard had a small direct marketing agency that specialized in products and services for individual investors. We did creative — mostly print, direct mail and, with the introduction of the Financial News Network and then CNBC, TV commercials.
Anyway, Quick & Reilly put us on notice and we knew we had to quickly reinvent ourselves. We were really good direct marketers, but we needed more clients and broader experience. So, I created a little ad. The headline read, “PER INQUIRY DEALS ON TV.” It was one-column wide and 38 agates deep. We placed it on the marketing page of the Wall Street Journal eastern edition. By noon that day, we’d received 138 leads. That morning was like a crash course in the DRTV business — and the rest is history.
Q: What have been the biggest surprises during L&W Direct’s 20 years in business?
A: I never envisioned an organization as substantial in size and capabilities as Lockard & Wechsler now is. Twenty years ago, it was Arthur, me and Riki Feurman, our office manager and bookkeeper. It never dawned on me that we would grow to 100 people and over $450 million in billings.
The biggest surprises during the past 20 years have been witnessing the amazing things that truly talented and committed people can accomplish if you let them. Carolyn Sura, who runs our buying group, joined the company 15 years ago and totally changed the way we planned, bought and managed media. Asieya Pine — formerly Asieya Khan — joined us at the age of 21 as an assistant. Asieya grew into an exemplary strategist, client service manager and staff development and operations manager. We never would have achieved our rate of growth without her. Rene Munoz was the final piece of the puzzle. Rene was trained at Draft, where he had worked with Carolyn. He not only elevated the way we planned campaigns and managed client relationships, but he took over the management and ongoing development of MediaPro, our media management system. And our technology remains a huge differentiator to us. These three people and all that they bring to the table everyday are, without question, my greatest pride and surprises.
Q: What do you consider the most successful campaign you ever worked on and why?
A: That’s a tough one. We handle more than 100 campaigns at any one time. But if I had to pick one, it would be Vonage.
Here’s why: first, the growth was explosive. They went from 200,000 customers to more than 2.4 million in less than 20 months.
Second was the sheer size of the assignment. The media spend grew from a modest test to $100 million a year, all purchased on true remnant DRTV basis. That challenged us to rethink and reshape the DRTV media landscape.
Third was the crash course Vonage gave us on integrated marketing and tracking and analyzing the impact of TV of the online world. Our team did an amazing job for Vonage and the experience we gained there took our organization to an incredibly high standard.
Q: What are the two biggest accomplishments for L&W Direct during its 20-year history?
A: A competitor of mine told me many years ago that quality control and staff retention become big challenges when you hit 60 employees. They were correct. So, I have to say our two biggest accomplishments during the past 20 years are these: First, achieving our scale while continuing to improve our level of service; and second, having both a client and staff retention rate well in excess of 95 percent. I can’t think of greater accomplishments for any service organization.
Q: What are the latest developments for L&W that affect the company’s outlook for the next 20 years?
A: People, experience and technology define our business. Developments in those areas will guide us over the next two decades and beyond. This may sound trivial, but our organization is guided by nine founding principles that touch on integrity, the power of the individual, the importance of making decisions, learning from your mistakes, and the value of family. As we have grown, we’ve taken significant steps to communicate these principles to new employees so they understand what we aspire to be.
We’ve also made significant commitments to grow with our client base to better serve their needs. Two specific developments are in the area of retail support and understanding the impact of TV on the integrated marketing mix.
In the area of retail support, we’ve developed specific media planning models that enable us to support a DRTV product’s entire lifecycle — from launch to retail distribution. This has proven to be a very powerful marketing tool that we implement not only for clients like IdeaVillage, TELEBrands, Tristar and AllStar, but for Sears and Wal-Mart as well.
In today’s media environment, it’s also critical to be able to measure the impact of TV on the digital media world and to provide accurate integrated marketing reporting and analysis. We’ve developed an extremely effective process called SmartMatch. It’s integrated into our technology and accurately allocates and attributes online activity back to originating media. We now use this for Web-based clients like Carbonite, Moo.com and Usell.com, as well as more traditional clients like Nautilus, Assurance Wireless, Avanar Pharmaceuticals and others.
Q: Where would you like to see the company in 2033?
A: From afar! I’ll be 80 years old!
However, my hope is that the company remains an independent, privately-held company that focuses on the quality and integrity of its work, employees and clients, rather than the balance sheet of a holding company. I certainly hope that we continue to be a leader in the direct marketing industry. It’s such an exciting business.
And I hope that we continue to adhere to our founding principles. Here are three that I’d like to share:
- Credibility is Everything: Be accountable for what you do and what you say. Honesty, integrity and respect all matter. Nurture your credibility. It’s easy to keep, but very hard to get back.
- Challenge Yourselves to Improve: Don’t allow anything you do to become “standard.” There’s always a better way. Find it.
- Treat Others With Respect and as Equals: Always be appreciative of your colleagues’ contributions, respectful of their ideas, accepting of their differences and mindful of their sensitivities.
Q: What is your personal plan for the next five years, whether for the company or in other areas of your life?
A: I expect to continue to lead Lockard & Wechsler during the next five years. I am incredibly fortunate to have the privilege of working with Asieya, Carolyn and Rene, as well as the rest of my staff and my amazing clients.
I would also like to take more time to enjoy my good fortune. Hopefully there will be grandchildren — but maybe not in the next five years. I’ve been thinking a lot about writing a book on direct marketing. And, I’m becoming increasingly involved in industry associations, community organizations and charities. I believe it is very important to give back.
Ramirez Tapped as New FTC Chair
By Doug McPherson
WASHINGTON — It’s a new name with the same game. That’s what some are saying about President Obama’s choice of Edith Ramirez to replace the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) outgoing leader, Jon Leibowitz.
Ramirez, who joined the FTC as a commissioner in 2010, is considered a privacy advocate. She has supported the idea that consumers should be able to easily and permanently opt out of all online behavioral advertising. Two years ago, in written testimony for Congress, she said, “Most
consumers have no idea that so much information about them can be accumulated and shared among so many companies — including, employers, retailers, advertisers, data brokers, lenders and insurance companies.”
While at the agency, she’s sided with fellow Democrats on a number of issues. For example, she joined in FTC efforts calling for do-not-track technology, and she backed the majority conclusion of a two-year antitrust probe of Google — though she did raise questions about the form in which the FTC obtained some of its concessions.
A White House official told Politico, the all-things-political news site, that Ramirez has been “instrumental in ensuring there is robust competition and innovation in the high-tech marketplace, and has worked hard to protect the most vulnerable communities.”
Top tech industry groups and consumer advocates praised Ramirez shortly after the announcement. Peter Koeppel, head of Koeppel Direct Inc., a direct response ad agency in Dallas and member of the Response Advisory Board, says he hopes the new FTC chair takes “a balanced approach that protects consumers, but at the same time does not adversely restrict the ability of marketers to target and track consumers online.”
The promotion comes amid much regulatory scrutiny on privacy issues. Recent FTC recommendations include: offering consumers a do-not-track mechanism to opt out of online behavioral marketing; tightening rules regarding data collection from children; and launching a probe of data brokers.
Politico reports some FTC watchers are surprised that Ramirez’s fellow commissioner, Julie Brill, failed to get the president’s nod. Sources have told Politico they felt Brill worked hardest behind the scenes to seek the agency’s top post. Brill’s reputation is outspoken with a dogged approach to consumer protection.
Nielsen’s Ratings to Include Internet TV
By Doug McPherson
CHICAGO — Nielsen’s ratings will start including Internet-only TV households in its sample, and it will start measuring viewing on Internet-connected TVs in its existing sample households. The changes are slated for September in conjunction with the new 2013-14 television season.
Nielsen will spend the next several weeks contacting customers and trade groups to explain the impact and implications of the changes. Executives say that impact will be small (about six-tenths of a percentage point) but that the change is needed now because Internet-connected TV is likely to grow and become more of a factor in the future.
Brian Fuhrer, a senior vice president at Nielsen, told MediaPost, “We don’t think it’s [the impact] going to be dramatic.” Fuhrer added the change will not impact the official trading currency used by advertisers and agencies — such as the so-called C3 ratings in national TV negotiations — because Nielsen will be storing the data from the Internet-connected households and TVs in a “separate bucket.”
C3 ratings represent the TV audience for the average of all commercial minutes, and that much of the viewing done via Internet-connected TVs is to alternatives sources such as online video or Internet-based platforms like Hulu and Netflix that make TV programming available without their original commercial loads, according to MediaPost.
One exception, Fuhrer says, is alternative TV delivery systems such as Comcast’s Xfinity service, which provide conventional TV programming and advertising via the Web.
Nielsen will include homes that don’t get any traditional TV signals via terrestrial, satellite or cable TV. While they represent a small percentage of total viewing (usually younger college or post-college folks or poorer households), their demographics and behaviors will be new to TV audience measurement, and could represent valuable insights for the future as more homes become Internet-only connected.
Fuhrer says no date has been set on including ratings and measurements of viewing on wireless connected devices including smartphones, tablets and even TVs connected to wireless gadgets.