Direct-Mail Wizard Malcolm B. Decker Passes Away

Exec Reinvented Wall Street Journal's Subscription Campaign

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Malcolm B. Decker
Malcolm B. Decker Credit: George Weir

Noted direct-mail copywriter Malcolm B. Decker passed away on Feb. 16 at age of 87. Mr. Decker brought new life to the Wall Street Journal's direct mail creative in 2003 by replacing the old campaign that reigned for 30 years.

After working for McCann Erickson and Walt Disney Productions, a New Jersey native and Navy veteran started his own company, Malcolm Decker & Associates, in 1972. Mr. Decker worked on numerous direct-mail campaigns that utilized conversational tones, including an ad for the National Trust of History Preservation. The 1975 campaign offered limited-edition porcelain boxes with gold hinges that raised $1.5 million, more than twice the goal of the National.

But his biggest achievement came much later in his career in 2003 when Mr. Decker took a challenge of updating "Two Young Men," The Wall Street Journal's direct mail campaign that had run since 1974.

Mr. Decker, who often highlighted the importance of letter, beat the original, by changing the color and doubling the length of letters to four pages, while maintaining the original two paragraph.

"This [main letter] is the paper-and-ink embodiment of a salesperson who is speaking personally and directly to the prospect on a one-to-one basis," wrote Mr. Decker for The Direct Marketing Club of New York. "It's long, but never long-winded, or it's pithy. However it 'comes on,' it's loaded with customer benefits."

Aside from the professional career, Mr. Decker was an outdoorsman and conservationist who attempted to climb Mr. Kilimanjaro in his 70's, making it to about 17,000 feet.

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