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The Naked Truth about Publishers Clearing House Paperback – April 10, 2015
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From the Author
The Naked Truth is not just a fascinating and engaging business story. It is an insider's view of amazing success, shameful failure, and battle for survival --- along with wild executive antics.
Anyone who has ever heard of the legendary Publishers Clearing House or the Prize Patrol will love this never-before-told chronicle which has been called "one of the great marketing stories of the 20th century."
Top Customer Reviews
I worked at PCH as a Senior Copywriter for two years. I thought I knew a lot about PCH. But I had no idea about much of the information in Darrell Lester's book.
Lester tells a fascinating tale of a workplace culture that demanded long hours and hard work, but was full of fun as well, with practical jokes abounding, like the time a retiring executive hid his alarm watch in the ceiling of a conference room, set to go off during a critical meeting.
There are colorful characters, like the Ferrari-driving company president, who would drive his car right into the warehouse, and tinker with the engine while smoking a stogie and wearing a pinstripe suit.
And then there are the incredible tales of sex and skinny dipping. I won't give that one away, see pages 55, 166, and 167-168 for yourself!
For sweepstakes devotees, Lester's book answers -- for once and for all -- that perennial question: does PCH really give away those prizes? They do, and the book is loaded with stories about the winners.
Like the time the time the PCH Prize Patrol delivered the winning check by dogsled in Alaska (page 155). Or the prize check that was delivered to a winner at 36,000 feet in the air, on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles (page 160). Or the time a PCH $1 million prize check saved the winner's house from foreclosure.
Many people have wondered if you really have to order something to win a PCH prize. Lester reveals that 76% of big prize winners didn't order a thing (page 117.)
He also reveals how PCH got free publicity from Ed McMahon -- while their competitor paid the bills for it (page 15-16).
And he points out some very strange customer behavior, of especial interest to marketers. PCH found that their customers would buy cookbooks with calorie-packed chocolate recipes -- and then, a few weeks later, the same customers would order diet cookbooks.
Lester also highlights a little-known side of PCH: It has given about $780 million to charities from its founding in the early 1960s through 2011. About half of the company profits now go to charity.
For marketing professionals, there are some real gold nuggets in this book. PCH established, that for their marketplace, complex direct mail packages with lots of inserts brought in more orders. Every time they tried to simplify their packages, the order rate dropped (page 75).
Ever since PCH heard that stamp sheets were working very well for Doubleday Book Clubs in the 1960s, and tested them, they've been a winner. PCH has done dozens of tests to try to eliminate these expensive print jobs, but stamp sheets have always won (pages 74-75).
PCH, which is legendary for testing everything, even tested the testing process! They found that if they mailed two exactly identical control packages at the same time, they got different results for each. That meant rollouts of a successful test could vary so much, some of them could actually be unprofitable. This is one of the two most important items for marketing professionals in Lester's book (pages 75-76).
The other critical lesson is how a sudden change in the regulatory environment can almost sink a highly successful company. Lester chronicles how a scandal at a competitor set off a regulatory witch hunt that, at one point, cut the company's sales in half, year-to-year. It's a cautionary tale for direct marketers, who must work together as an industry to respond to regulatory and legislative threats.
The episode surrounding the photo is an example of the free thinking that flourished in the firm. That free thinking atmosphere was a major component of the firm's long time business success.
Daniel P. Doyle, Former Treasurer, Publishers Clearing House.
Full disclosure, I was a PCH employee during its darkest hour, from 1999 to 2002. I'd heard that I missed the "salad days" at PCH, but I had no context for the stories, and I certainly knew nothing of what was happening behind closed doors. After setting the stage with the company's explosive growth, and establishing its media darling status, Mr. Lester's account of those grim times provides a sobering view of the woes we all faced as PCH employees, whether we knew it or not.
There's plenty of levity, and of course there are stories of sweepstakes winners, but the true value in this book - particularly for those of us who are fortunate enough to list PCH on our resumes - is Lester's gritty honesty.
Current and former PCHers will find the book wildly insightful and will be offered a peek behind the curtain at the reality they all face or faced. Everyone else who's ever wished the Prize Patrol would visit them, or who looked forward to receiving the best, most interactive and exciting direct mail ever created, will be compelled by all the behind-the-scenes activity that goes into one of the world's most innovative marketing companies.