He's authored 70 books and influenced an entire generation of direct marketers (including this one). And he's known for speaking his mind. Bob Bly is one of the most important -- and controversial -- figures in direct marketing.
Robert Rosenthal: In a 2004 issue of DM News you wrote, "(blogs are) a complete waste of time -- a pure vanity publication that won't pay you back even one thin dime for your effort." Today you have an extremely popular direct marketing blog. Do you regret that statement?
Bob Bly: I no longer think they are a complete waste of time. Blogs clearly have some value, for some marketers, in some situations.
What I objected to in my 2004 column was the pretentious B.S. of blogging evangelists and consultants proclaiming that e-mail and other proven online marketing methods are dead -- and that blogging is some kind of profound communications revolution. It is not.
Many of these blogging gurus dupe their clients into thinking blogs are much more important in the marketing mix than they really are.
RR: You commented on a Freaking Marketing post called Bullshitters of Brand Building. Why do you think so many marketers are susceptible to all that brand-related bullshit?
BB: Because it's fun to be creative, and it's safe to come up with advertising and marketing that is not measurable or accountable. Far fewer people venture into direct marketing, where the precise measurement of results would reveal their inability to sell.
RR: I think of Bob Bly as one of the high priests of the direct marketing orthodoxy. Is that an accurate characterization?
BB: If by that you mean I believe in a relatively orthodox approach to direct marketing -- strong selling concepts, powerful offers, and positive ROI -- and that I advocate it in my books and articles, then yes, it's accurate.
RR: I've been reading your blog for over a year but I'm not sure if you think interesting ideas in the so-called creative realm really matter.
BB: I think we may have different definitions of "creativity." If by creativity you mean clever and flashy, then I don't think that matters. If by creativity you mean doing whatever works to make the sale as long as it's honest and ethical, that interests me.
RR: You wrote an average of nearly three books a year for a quarter century and recently decided to call it quits. What the hell are you going to do now?
BB: I have an online publishing business, CTC Publishing, generating net revenues of thousands of dollars a week in passive income, and that's where I will concentrate my energies going forward.
RR: What does it take for a young person to become a rich and famous direct marketing copywriter like Bob Bly?
BB: If I were starting out as a copywriter today, I would find a niche -- an industry, a marketing technique, a medium -- and establish myself as the expert in that specialty.