Lester Wunderman, the chairman emeritus and founder of Wunderman, died of natural causes at the age of 98 in New York on January 9.
A trailblazer in the advertising industry, Wunderman launched a new kind of advertising agency in 1958—one that focused on delivering sales for its clients. That agency concept led to the creation of today’s trillion-dollar direct marketing industry. The visionary marketing techniques he conceived and perfected over his long and brilliant career transformed the advertising industry and continue to shape the interactive marketplace.
"Lester was a true visionary with a lifelong commitment to innovation and creativity," said Mark Read, CEO, WPP. "He will be remembered and respected for his achievements and revered as a friend and colleague."
Wunderman is fondly remembered by Sue, whom he married in 1975, his son Marc and daughter Karen and three stepchildren, Patrick, James and Thomas. He is also remembered and revered by the thousands of people who work for the agency that bears his name.
While he left the helm of Wunderman in 1998, he reported to work every day at the agency’s offices, where he often visited with clients, executives and interns alike.
Wunderman was born in 1920 in the Bronx. After an apprenticeship served at several agencies, he joined Maxwell Sackheim & Company in 1947, where he became executive vice president. In 1958, he founded Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline, now known as Wunderman.
In 1967, in an address at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wunderman identified, named and defined direct marketing which led the theoretical and practical growth of the industry ever since. As a result of that speech, he was named "The Father of Direct Marketing."