by Glenda Sharp, CAE

As we began preparing for CADM’s 60th anniversary earlier this year, 1972-73 CADM President Jim Kobs shared his files. Not only was this fascinating albeit dusty reading, but it lays the groundwork for re-igniting today’s passion for CADM and response marketing.

In August’s adMarks, CADM President Brad Schwab wrote that CADM exists because “[w]e believe in one-to-one marketing and Chicago is its leader.” CADM’s early leaders shared this belief, and spoke with pride about Chicago being the home of four of the five leading mail order firms. Do you remember the Montgomery Ward catalog? According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, “The world's first great mail-order retail company was founded in Chicago in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward. Ward, a New Jersey native, arrived in Chicago in 1866 and found a job with Field, Palmer & Leiter, the large dry-goods business that would become Marshall Field & Co. After selling Field's products in hard-to-reach rural areas for several years, Ward decided to create an easier means to market merchandise. In 1892, Ward and brother-in-law George R. Thorne invested $2,400 in a new mail-order business.”    

Schwab also spoke on the core mission of CADM: “to serve, support and promote the [response] marketing community in Chicago…. CADM provides a high-quality forum for the exchange of ideas; fosters member development through business, educational, and social opportunities; and acts as an industry advocate.”

That leads us to Direct Marketing Day. CADM and its predecessor, the Mail Advertising Club of Chicago [MAC], sponsored this annual daylong program from 1953-2007. This program consisted of plenary and breakout sessions, along with an exhibit hall. Celebrity keynote speakers included Bob Newhart, WGN’s Wally Phillips, Henny Youngman and Malcom Forbes.

Interestingly, the first Direct Marketing Day took place in 1953 – two years before MAC/CADM was founded. Percy Faith’s “Theme from Moulin Rouge” was the #1 Billboard hit.

Fast forward to the 8th Annual Direct Marketing Day in 1961, which took place at Sheraton Towers Chicago. Bobby Lewis’ “Tossing & Turnin’” was #1 on Billboard, and Patsy’s Cline’s classic “I Fall to Pieces” was #2. The brochure promoted: “Talks by America’s most successful Direct Mail Advertising leaders! Clinics – bring you ailing mailings! Panels – explore with the experts… a profit-idea a minute!  Food  ●  Drinks  ●  Socialability ● Ideas.”

1967’s Direct Marketing Day’s theme was “One-Grand Direct Mail Day,” with the goal of 1,000 participants. Indeed, the program brochure referenced “1001 People Contributing 1001 Ideas.” It was interesting to note another CADM innovation: two of the fifteen-member Direct Mail Day Committee members were women. Billboard’s #1 song was “To Sir with Love” by LuLu.

Moving to the 1970s, Governor Richard B. Ogilvie proclaimed May 25, 1972 as Direct Mail Day in Illinois, in part to recognize Montgomery Ward’s 100th anniversary. With 1,011 participants, Direct Marketing Day topics included Electronic Marketing and The Checkless Society as MAC looked toward the next decade of response marketing. Do these topics sound familiar today?

Again, Billboard’s chart surprised me – Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” beat “American Pie” as #1.

1973’s Direct Marketing Day’s registration fee was $40. There were 844 registrations and 31 exhibitors. CADM recognized Chicago’s Mailman of the Year. Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” was Billboard’s #1 song.

In 1975, CADM established an accredited program in the field of direct response marketing at Roosevelt University [see sidebar]. CADM committed to raising $34,000 over five years to develop and execute the program. A portion of the Direct Marketing Day proceeds was contributed toward this initiative. And the #1 Billboard song was “Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain and Tennille.

What will Chicago’s response marketers think of CADM in sixty years? By the way, today’s #1 song is “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd. I found it on Google, and watched the video on YouTube.  Please share your ideas with me at [email protected] … or mail a letter!

Glenda Sharp is principal of Sharper Associations, an association and nonprofit management firm. She has served as CADM’s executive director since February, 2012. A Certified Association Executive, Glenda received her B.A. from Purdue University, where she turned the radio up for “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

Glenda extends a special thank you to Jim Kobs for sharing his files. Besides serving as CADM President and on the Board, Jim was active with the Direct Marketing Day planning committee. She was inspired by his top song references from his 60th Annual Meeting remarks.