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Lester Wunderman, father of direct marketing, dies at 98

Lester Wunderman, widely considered the father of direct marketing, has passed away at the age of 98 according to officials from Wunderman, the agency he founded in 1958.

Often credited with the creation of the direct marketing industry, Wunderman held the role of chairman emeritus at his eponymous agency in his later years. He passed away in New York of natural causes on 9 January.

Mel Edwards, chief executive of Wunderman, said: “As the head of Wunderman, he served as an inspiration and visionary, providing thoughtful counsel and valuable insight.

“Lester possessed the curiosity of a scientist, an artist’s eye, the soul of an author and the heart of an entrepreneur.”

In 2001, Time magazine branded Wunderman one of the “great pitchmen over the years”.

He retired from the helm of Wunderman in 1998, late into his seventies, but maintained his involvement in the agency as he moved into the chairmanship. Staff recall him coming into the office every day, mixing with everyone from interns to clients.

Last year the agency was merged with JWT to create Wunderman Thompson, a simplified offering merging two iconic advertising agencies.

WPP boss Mark Read, who previously spent over three years as chief executive at Wunderman, said: “Lester was a true visionary with a lifelong commitment to innovation and creativity. He will be remembered and respected for his achievements and revered as a friend and colleague.”

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