Direct Marketer’s David Ogilvy
For a new entrepreneur, it was a dream termination. In 1992, Chairman Brian Smith of Newsletter Holdings, the 70 million dollar Alexandria, Va. – based publisher, released his Senior Vice-President and marketing whiz Jeff Greenberg. Five minutes later Smith made a half-million dollar investment in Greenberg’s future. Five minutes after that, the two signed the partnership papers for Newsletter Holdings and J.G. Communications, Inc., with J.G. the General partner and controlling stockholder. Newsletter Holdings the large benevolent backer.
How do you get a deal like Greenberg’s? By making so much money for your boss that he wants a piece of you even though you’re graduating from his payroll. “The guy is the David Ogilvy of newsletter publishing”, Smith says, “But his entrepreneurial urge was so strong I knew I couldn’t control him much longer”.
Greenberg had made tens of millions for Newsletter Holdings. He directed the marketing for Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street, a jointly produced product that Smith arranged with the TV star. Greenberg carried out all the usual expert functions associated with a direct mail launch: hiring and leading a superior staff, selecting list brokers, letter shops, printers and the like. But his unique contribution was in the creation of profitable direct mail materials and TV commercials.
He chose from among the nation’s leading copywriters and direct mail artists to create direct mail campaigns that was not only first rate–not surprisingly, in light of Greenberg’s eighteen years in the publishing/membership business–but a perfect match for the image Rukeyser had built over the last 25 years on the PBS show “Wall Street Week With Lou Rukeyser”. Greenberg directed copywriters to mirror Rukeyser’s image to perfection and to add all the bells and whistles to the package, creating credible and responding results that generated over 500,000 paid memberships the first year, amounting to over $35 million dollars. He then transferred his expertise to TV and brought in a few million more.
“That’s where Jeff excels above others, in his creativity and leadership”, says Jo-Ann Wasserman, a John Wiley & Sons editorial director who has been closely associated with Greenberg since their mutual Bottom Line Newsletter beginnings. “Essentially he is not a linear thinker. His thinking is more of an artist, more inferential. He circles in from whom knows-where and then strategically positions the brand in a very unique recognizable way. His loyal staff transforms his vision into theirs”.
“Rukeyser”, as the product is known at Newsletter Holdings, has historically exceeded all other financial memberships. Greenberg then signed a joint venture deal with Charles J. Givens, the best selling financial advisor a few years ago. It was this contract that Greenberg presented to Smith. There was room for only one financial guru. It led to the release cum new company with Newsletter Holdings as backer. The new venture launched the Charles J. Givens Wealth Without Risk newsletter. In just six months, it has brought J. G. Communications $5 million in subscription revenues, and it was accelerating at a rate that promised to qualify it as ” Son of Rukeyser”.
Now his lodge brothers are scrambling to sign up celebrities a la Greenberg. “But I do have advantages over these competitors” Greenberg says, “Rukeyser and Givens made me credible. But it was the addition of the highly profiled Richard Simmons and Dr. Joy Browne to his publishing company who helped open the electric door to 200,000 subscribers via TV, radio, telephone and internet. Even after selling my ventures, I still desire to create award winning and wildly profitable direct response programs”. The Internet has become this marketer’s dream. Whether it’s extending an existing brand to the internet or developing new paid membership or subscription web sites, the focus is still to build profitable relationships with millions of potential customers.
Greenberg has a high profile on his own in his field. For one thing, he was President of the New York Newsletter Association. Launched the very successful newsletter division for Forbes, created and developed publications for Bottom/Line, Wyatt Investment Reseach and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and recently pushed The Leeb Group and John Mauldin’s Mauldin’s Economics to become two of America’s fastest growing personal finance newsletter companies in the country. Developed numerous properties for a multitude of other non-celebrity based newsletters and money managers.
It would make a better story if Greenberg became successful right out of the box, without having to get his MBA in the mid-seventies and at the same time serving a long apprenticeship as assistant marketing manger of Ziff Publishing. But it takes any “artist” time to break free in his own style. After all, even the young David Ogilvy spent several years as a sous-chef in the kitchens of Europe.