Norman J. Suslock - Direct Marketing Executive
NEW YORK (AP) _ The ″junk″ mail probably gets a closer read at the Norman J. Suslock household than at most others in his neighborhood.
The 56-year-old advertising executive has made direct marketing his business for 35 years. These days, that line of work is one of the growth industries on Madison Avenue.
It’s a business in which you can be successful by hitting only twice in every 100 trips to the plate. But the way the business is conducted makes it easy to measure precisely how well - or poorly - the campaign worked.
A direct marketer composes a letter or an ad and invites a specific response - mail in the enclosed card, clip out and complete the form at the bottom of the ad or dial the telephone number on the television screen. Success is defined by getting a response.
So what happens when unsolicted mail shows up in the Suslock mailbox in Stamford, Conn.?
Suslock conceded in a recent interview, ″I probably look at it differently than the average consumer.″
As a consumer, he said he tends to read things which interest him and to pass over those things which don’t. But as a professional marketer, he said he looks ″at almost everything because I am interested in how people are trying to sell their crafts.″
Suslock is chairman and president of The Direct Marketing Agency Inc., an agency he founded in 1972 in Stamford. Its $60 million in billings last year placed it among the nation’s 10 largest direct marketers.
His clients include Eastern Airlines, the banking giant Manufacturers Hanover Corp., The Travelers Insurance Co. and Volvo of America.
Suslock dislikes the broad application of the term ″junk″ mail. He said the term was probably coined by media companies who were fearful of losing advertising revenue to direct marketers.
While ″junk″ mail ″tends not to respect the reader’s intelligence,″ Suslock said, effective direct marketing informs the reader, holds his attention and conveys details which general advertising often omits - such as descriptions of payment plans.
Suslock got into direct marketing in 1950 when he went to work in a New York letter shop, an agency which manufactured ″personal communications″ for delivery in volume. He moved up from envelope-sorting to trouble-shooting and beyond. ″It enabled me to do some writing, to get outside and to start talking to advertisers,″ he said.
Direct marketing had a poor image in the advertising community in those days. The big advertising agencies didn’t bother with it. Suslock said his ad colleagues ″would look at you like you were wearing a polyester suit″ if you mentioned you were in that field.
But he said that started to change in 1978.
One reason was the rising cost of general advertising, and the proven ability of direct marketing to generate revenue far in excess of its costs, Suslock said. ″Where else can you spend $50,000 on a marketing program and generate $120,000 or $150,000?″ he asks.
Another reason, Suslock said, was that advertisers found it rewarding to keep in touch with their customers.
Appliance companies found they could ask people who bought washing machines, for instance, to send back a warranty card on which they also describe the size of their family and the age of other household appliances, such as refrigerators.
″For 50 cents, this company has found that there is a good probability that these people will be on the market shortly for replacement of other machines,″ he said. They could then aim marketing plans toward them.
The same theory is behind the airlines’ frequent flyer programs, Suslock said. ″It’s a very efficient marketing tool. It separates people who may travel from people who do travel,″ he said.
The consumer gets merchandise, better seating or free travel by participating in such programs, Suslock said, while the airlines get more business and eliminate wasted coverage from their marketing programs.
Advertisers spent $31 billion on direct marketing out of $75 billion in overall U.S. advertising in 1983, according to a trade group, the Direct Marketing Association.
Suslock said direct-marketing spending has been growing more rapidly than general advertising in recent years, and predicted it will soon comprise half of total ad spending. He estimated it reached $40 billion of the estimated $95 billion which will be spent on advertising this year.
The level of sophistication also has grown. Direct marketers follow up requests for additional information with telephone calls. Lists have been developed to help advertisers reach parts of communities that are most likely to be interested in what they are selling.
Madison Avenue has shown more sensitivity to the possibilities of direct marketing in recent months, Suslock said. Many of the larger ad agencies now have direct marketing units.
Suslock and five partners decided last fall that it would be increasingly difficult to compete as an independent against giant agencies with direct marketing units.
They submitted to a friendly takeover by Cunningham & Walsh Inc., the nation’s 27th-largest advertising firm. They now operate as a subsidiary. The price was $4 million.