Silver Apples at 29 – Looking Better Than Ever, a Fitting Tribute to DM Leadership

Silver Apples at 29 – Looking Better Than Ever, a Fitting Tribute to DM Leadership


2013, November

As Club president Cyndi Lee of SMS Marketing Services opened the 2013 Silver Apples Award Gala on November 7 at the Edison Ballroom off Times Square, she invoked the first Silver Apples in 1985, with a video showing past honoree and then president Mal Dunn relating how the award program got its start.  “Here we are in the greatest city in the world, the greatest center of direct marketing,” he said.  “And all we had to do was call on our most important talent, the people.”  Dunn also credited Tom Knowlton and Jim Prendergast for coming up with the concept. 

How compelling to recall the origin of this annual celebration of direct and data-driven marketing leaders, as the Gala marked its 29th anniversary, with 370 in attendance, the largest turnout ever.  There are now 220 Silver Apples honorees, 5 Golden Apples honorees and 18 Corporate Award recipients. This is our heritage, and also our future.

Co-emcees Pam Haas of The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks—and our next (2014) Club president—and Scott Fenwick of ValueClick, took the stage to bring the entire room to song, to the melody of Neal Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” with a new set of lyrics: “So it begins / It is our annual gala / Honoring those who give their all / DM leaders all / Tonight they get their Apples / And they are glad you came along. …“ 

Tom Turner of Turner Direct presented Arthur Blumenfield with the Golden Apple, recalling Arthur’s tenure at the then Standard Oil of New Jersey where he launched their first data processing center with 42K of memory.  Arthur also worked with past honorees Lee Epstein, Ed Mayer and Pete Hoke to launch the Direct Marketing Days in New York conference.  Arthur and recounted the many men—and , he stressed, women—who helped to make his career and volunteer work so rewarding. “When you give back, you get back, over and over again,” he said. As is Arthur’s nature, he also shared a joke from a devout reader of The New York Times obituaries: “I find it amazing that people die in alphabetical order.”

Honoree Liberta Abbondate of Hearst Magazines was introduced by past Silver Apple recipient Joe Furgiuele: “She is the 1% of the 1% in our field,” Joe remarked, “whose running of the numbers matches up with the best of computers.” Liberta shared five key rules from her years in marketing and publishing: (1) Learn as much as you can; (2) Commit to the job; (3) Challenge conventional wisdom, and be a catalyst for change; (4) Do good by being good; and (5) Surround yourself with great people.  We now know firsthand of the success she has brought to Hearst, Dow Jones, Forbes, and Smithsonian, among other publishers and dozens of titles.

When the late Direct Marketing Hall of Fame member Rose Harper of The Kleid Company is your aunt, you have a running start in our business. That’s who honoree Richard Vergara of MeritDirect credits for his lifelong career, having led the DMA List and Database Council and the launch of DMA List Day, and, today, his current leadership of the Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association. “[Rose] was a force of nature—and a teacher of business and life lessons.” Richard offered plenty of tribute to his family, his longtime clients (such as American Media, Bonnier, Playboy and Time), his colleagues at MeritDirect, and past honoree Ralph Stevens.

Honoree and professor Richard Hochhauser, teaches both at Baruch College and NYU, launched the direct marketing division of Harte-Hanks in 1975, and later led the company as president & CEO. Richard told us how he co-taught a class with another professor, who would focus on the textbook content. When it was Richard’s turn, he said to the class, “That’s the theory. Now I’ll tell you what happens in the real world.” It’s that passion of passing on knowledge to others that’s earned Richard his reputation—as former chairman of the DMA and the DMEF (now Marketing EDGE), and on the board of Texas A&M’s Center for Retailing Studies. Richard on what helps build a career: “Choosing the right industry, and choosing the right company.” On teaching, his great motivator is: “Seeing a student’s light bulb go off.” Shine on, Richard.

The West Coast was in the house that night. Irvine CA-based honoree Pete Carney of Carney Direct Marketing said his wife told him once, “There are no jobs in California, and you are unemployable.” So Carney Direct Marketing came to be, harnessing Pete’s experience as national sales manager at Equifax, and previous stints at Mal Dunn Associates and Mail Marketing. “All my life, I’ve been working with friends.  The people I work with are my assets,” he said, speaking of business partners, clients and colleagues. And then there was that story about Gary Laben and himself, getting a pair of pantyhose on a cow somewhere in Texas…

And speaking of Gary Laben, does he ever age?   Gary, of KBM Group and Wunderman Data & Insights, also received a Silver Apple during the evening.  Gary got plenty of laughs, as he lamented no longer being a “Young Direct Marketer of the Year.”   Tireless in his commitment to marketing education, working with Marketing EDGE and the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing on their respective boards, Gary also serves as a business leader in analytics and customer engagement at KBM. “I am humbled, being in the presence of such Silver Apple honorees as Lester Wunderman,” who in his 90s, still comes to work every day.

“You may already be a winner,” but Publishers Clearing House’s Debbie Holland is now a Silver Apples honoree. “When I first started in this industry back in 1978, a four-page sales letter was the standard,” she observed. “In this day of flash mobs, speed dating, and Twitter, I should be able to get a message across in 140 characters, right?” So in just 3 tweets, @DeborahJHolland shared her philosophy: “#Respect all the links in your chain, big or small. Be a bright, shining link to #Inspire others & light the way for new directions. | Don't be the #WeakLink when someone pulls your chain. #silverapples13 advice | We're all connected in the #ChainOfLife & stronger together than 1 link alone. Thanks for being part of my chain & for supporting me! @DMCNY.”

DMCNY also named a corporate Silver Apples honoree, the Target Marketing Group, publisher of Target Marketing, FundRaising Success, Retail Online Integration, eMarketing + Commerce magazines, the Who’s Mailing What! archive and Direct Marketing IQ. On innovation and reinvention, publisher Peggy Hatch—who, with past honoree Denny Hatch, joined the company 21 years ago—spoke of the transformation the company has undertaken as marketers’ needs for information and knowledge have changed. Today, the company offers case studies, blogs, webinars, virtual conferences, and video along with its magazines, to help make marketing smarter for a global audience. “Take risks and swing for the fences,” she urged.

Altogether 40 past honorees were present, among them: Ken Altman, Stu Boysen, Reggie Brady, Jerry Cerasale, William Denhard, Phillip Dresden, JoAnne Monfradi Dunn (newly named DMA chairman), Scott Fenwick, Jim Fosina, Joseph Furgiuele, Richard Goldsmith, Joseph Gomez, Dennison Hatch, Peggy Hatch, Leon Henry, Don Hinman, Henry Hoke III, Marjorie Kalter, Brian Kurtz, Ray Longden, Harvey Markovitz, Neil Mason, Susan McNamara, Pegg Nadler, Edward Nash, John Pahmer, John Papalia, Christopher Paradysz, Jim Prendergast, Jerry Reitman, Adrea Rubin, Robert Sawyer, Ronald Sichler, Christine Slusarek, Brian Snider, Ralph Stevens, Ruth Stevens, Tom Turner, Penny Vane and Tom Zukas.


There were no hurricanes to fiddle with the festivities—but there was plenty of momentum and cheer for the year ahead:  the Silver Apples will never be 29 again. A thank you to all honorees, attendees, sponsors, and the event committee – led by Sharron Mahoney of SMS Marketing Services and Dianne Petruzzelli of Fosina Marketing. We made quite a song, “Awarded to our Shining Stars.”


Chet Dalzell
Chet Dalzell's picture

This annual celebration of direct and data-driven marketing leaders, marked its 29th anniversary, with 370 in attendance, the largest turnout ever.  There are now 220 Silver Apples honorees, 5 Golden Apples honorees and 18 Corporate Award recipients. This is our heritage, and also our future.