DMA Hall of Famer Stan Rapp Is One of the Original Influencers

Direct Marketer Has No Shortage of Ideas

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Rance Crain
Rance Crain

Stan Rapp isn't waiting around for advertising to stimulate the economy -- he doesn't hold out much hope in that regard -- but he thinks that a National Employment Day, backed by both big and small business, might get things going.

"What if, instead of wringing our hands over the ineffectiveness of government's response to 9.8% unemployment," he asked, business leaders focused on what they could do about it?

Pro-bono resources of the advertising and marketing community, Stan says, would proclaim the mission of National Employment Day: for companies in every category to commit part of their existing cash surpluses to the hiring of one, two, 10 or 500 full-time employees within 30 days.

"The goal would be to add a million jobs on a single day and to get commitments to continue hiring as the economy shows signs of improvement."

Another idea Stan is championing is how Lealta Media (the customer-rewards media company for which he serves on the board) "is doing its bit in response to America's spend-and-save dilemma. We know that Americans must spend more or the recovery lags." With Lealta's BondRewards program, Stan told me, "spending and adding to savings happily coexist. It's a simple yet powerful, new idea: Reward spending with free U.S. savings bonds." Lealta and Acxiom, the publicly listed marketing company, are partnering to encourage retailers, manufacturers and service companies to band together in a spend-and-save "Good News Alliance."

As Stan described the program, "by incentivizing sales with BondRewards, Good News Alliance members send a socially responsible message that both spending and saving for the future are important if we want to create sustainable growth in our economy."

It doesn't come as a surprise that Stan Rapp has no shortage of ideas. He met his longtime business partner four days before they started Rapp & Collins, a direct-marketing agency that grew over 23 years into one of the top five U.S. ad agencies. And he's not done yet. Stan is currently chairman of Engauge, a total engagement agency. Back in 1986 Stan and Tom Collins co-authored a visionary book, "Maxi Marketing," which made, as Stan said, an "outlandish prophecy." The authors contended that the day was coming when all marketing would be a more effective and efficient one-to-one marketing (a term that hadn't been used before). And 10 years after the book was published they were back with the "New Maxi Marketing," among the first books to identify the worldwide web as the ultimate marketing change agent.

Among their prophesies in their first book, they proclaimed that "we are living through the shift from get a sale now at any cost to building and managing customer databases that track the lifetime value of each customer."

So much for the visionary part, Stan says. "Back in '86 we expected these and other fundamental changes in marketing to take place by the roaring '90s. We are still waiting for much that we predicted back then to happen. For example, the part about 'advertising linked to measurable sales.' But we were right about the one-to-one marketing replacing mass marketing in dominance. That's enough to be proud of for now."

Stan also couldn't resist commenting on a column of mine where I criticized many of today's advertisers for "churning out ads whose selling idea is obfuscated by obtuseness and complexity."

Stan wrote me that "there is no doubt, as you pointed out, that the current procurement mindset is part of the problem. However, I see the current state of the art as part of a longer term bias against accountability." He sent me a copy of an article he wrote three years ago for Admap, the British marketing publication, in which he railed against the forces of "nonvertising" on both sides of the Atlantic.

His article began: "The one thing that remains the same in a constantly shifting marketing scene is the continued waste of good money poured into bad advertising." And it ends: "It's time to do away with Madison Avenue's 20th century mindset. Creativity in pursuit of justifying its own cleverness can no longer be tolerated. Creativity in search of accountable, responsive advertising is the mantra of the new Digital Age."

What is "truly astonishing," said the Direct Marketing Hall of Famer, is how little has changed since then.

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