The Silver Apple Awards: Present at the Creation
With the Silver Apple awards coming up in November, Postings asked Jim Prendergast to recount how the event came into being 28 years ago.
It was the mid-eighties, and DMCNY was hitting a plateau in its growth and position in the direct marketing world. Many of the old Hundred Million crowd — the original club that later evolved into
DMCNY — were starting to stray. The club was experiencing stiff competition in New York for direct marketers’ time and attention, what with about six other groups running meetings in the city, along with
the local presence of DMA and DM Days in NY. We were spread thin. We needed a boost, a charge, a spark.
Mal Dunn was club president at the time, and he could always get volunteers, or at least generate the best thinking from people around him. He invited Tom Knowlton of Reader’s Digest and me to meet with him one day, to discuss ideas, people and the future of the club. In those days, with these three characters, there was never a better venue than a good lunch at a nice bar to get the discussion going. None of us had any preconceived ideas or plans when we met. The setting was the corner booth at the Bull and Bear, a well-known watering hole on the Lexington Avenue side of the Waldorf Astoria hotel. Nothing was too good for this trio. After a nice healthy lunch and a few well-iced drinks, we got down to a serious discussion.
Considering the make-up of this group, Mal probably selected right. Tom was a strategist, Mal was an organizer, and I was the promotional idea guy. After an hour or so, the idea just popped out: How about giving out awards based on service, achievement and contribution to the club? Simple. Let’s make it 25 years. Let’s call it the Silver Stars Awards. These are our Stars. Then, with the city itself picking up on the Big Apple concept, the name evolved into the Silver Apples, thanks to the bright idea of Jerry Reitman. The concept was solid.
But now, the work had to be done: Pick the prospective honorees, check the resumes, convince the members and the market, and do all the promotion. The idea was an immediate hit, and was enthusiastically received by the club. Everyone jumped in to help. We had full-page ads in The New York Times and the trade pubs. A big splash. And just what the club needed to re-energize.
Those first recipients were truly honored. It was our own Hall of Fame. Just read over the names of those selected in that first year, in 1985: Dick Benson, Annette Brodsky, John Caples, Larry Chait, Tom Collins, Henry Cowen, Bob Dale, Robert F. DeLay, Andi Emerson, Bob Fisler, Rose Harper, Lou Kleid, Ed Mayer, Harold Mertz, Walter Prescott, Stan Rapp, Frank Vos, Walter Weintz, Lester Wunderman. They are the people who helped build this industry. More than that, they were the teachers, the leaders and the donors for those who followed. The 28 years, with 228 recipients, getting recognition for themselves and the club, and honoring the essential service and devotion to excellence of direct marketers everywhere. The DMCNY has really created something great.