A Tribute to Bob Stone

Ron Jacobs Remembers the Direct-Marketing Guru and Former Ad Age Columnist

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Direct-marketing expert and former Ad Age columnist Bob Stone passed away on Feb. 26, 2007. He was 88 years old. Ron Jacobs, president of Jacobs & Clevenger, who was co-author with Mr. Stone on "Successful Direct Marketing Methods" and a good friend, wrote the following tribute, excerpted here, which he delivered at Mr. Stone's funeral.
Bob Stone
Bob Stone

By the time I met Bob, he was already chairman of Stone & Adler. He had published two books: "Profitable Direct Mail Methods" in 1947 and two editions of "Successful Direct Marketing Methods," the first in 1975. In 1992, Bob co-authored "Successful Telemarketing" with John Wyman, a former VP at AT&T. In 1995, Bob published "Direct Marketing Success Stories," a book of case studies from organizations such as Helzberg Diamonds, Spiegel and Quill Corp.

Prolific columnist
An accomplished writer, Bob Stone was a byline columnist for Ad Age, the best-read trade journal in the traditional advertising marketplace. In 12 years, he wrote more than 200 articles for Ad Age. Some of those articles became the foundation for the first edition of "Successful Direct Marketing Methods," which was published by Crain Books.

Accolades and honors? Bob earned more than a few. He was past president and founding director of the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing; a recipient of CADM's Downes Award for direct-marketing contributions; former president of Associated Third Class Mail Users; director of the Direct Marketing Association; founding trustee of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation; charter senior fellow of the International Society for Strategic Marketing; winner of the Direct Marketing Association's Best of Industry award; recipient of the Edward N. Mayer Award for contributions to direct-marketing education; recipient of two Gold Echo Awards, one for an eight-page fundraising letter for the DMEF; and winner of a John Caples Award for copy excellence.

Bob Stone's words made it clear that direct marketing was more than direct mail, mail order, late-night TV commercials and selling from a kitchen table. Direct marketing was a sophisticated discipline with a structured set of tools, techniques and best practices. In a little more than 300 pages, Bob Stone legitimized direct marketing as a field of study, research, and a career choice for the best and brightest students.

Made time to mentor
Of course, I first learned about Bob Stone the same way. He was an author, teacher, ad-agency leader—the consummate busy professional. Yet, he freely gave his time to mentor generations of direct marketers, sharing his knowledge and his passion for direct marketing.

Bob Stone earned the respect that was accorded by all: students, neophyte marketers and business giants alike. While I had known Bob Stone since the 1980s, it was wasn't until we began working on the sixth edition of "Successful Direct Marketing Methods" in 1994 that I started calling him "Bob" and not Mr. Stone.

Bob was always ready to speak, whenever asked. Over the last 10 years, Bob greatly reduced his schedule as his body started to slow down. However, I convinced him to speak with me at the 2000 DMA Conference to coincide with the release of seventh edition of "Successful Direct Marketing Methods." Bob was reluctant but agreed. When Bob and I got to the room, we found it to be a double room with more than 100 seats, many already filled. When we started our presentation, every seat was full, and there were people standing through the doors and into the hall. They were there to see Bob Stone. He was still a pretty good draw. And they weren't disappointed. Despite his trepidation, he was terrific. He may have spoken slowly, but his mind was razor sharp. And his wit? That was still pretty sharp too.

Continuing influence
Bob Stone made his mark in business, academia and on the whole of the direct marketing community. He was a leader, teacher, mentor and writer. While his name and picture hang proudly in the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, his influence is felt by everyone who uses the tools and techniques of direct marketing. And that influence will continue to be felt for years to come.
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