Senior figures in the data and direct marketing industry have joined forces to pay tribute to former Direct Mail Information Service chief Jo Howard-Brown, who has passed away.
Jo worked at Royal Mail’s Direct Mail Sales Bureau and then launched a market research firm with Jeanette Hull, called the HBH Partnership. The company offered direct marketing consultancy and ran the Direct Mail Information Service, which provided official statistics on the UK direct mail market and undertook all Royal Mail’s consumer research.
However, Jo quit the industry nearly a decade ago to move into property investment.
Klive co-founder Chris Ward worked with Jo at the DMSB. He said: “Jo was nothing less than a titan of the industry. I had the absolute pleasure of working with her. When the direct marketing industry was making strides to be taken seriously by ad and media agencies Jo was a force to be reckoned with, and they loved her for it.
“No bullshit, straight talking, more knowledgeable and smarter than most in our industry, she carved a path that has helped many of us make a great living. And of course let’s not forget the fun we had along the way. Jo was a party girl way before the label was made. Jo, you were loved by many and leave a massive hole that just can’t be filled.”
Malcolm Whitmarsh, who established the International Direct Marketing Fair at Reed Exhibitions, added: “Jo was a very, very kind, lovable and generous person. From the moment she entered the industry her mission appeared to be befriending every person she met. She gathered friends around her and I never heard her say no to almost any request for help.
“While the bigger companies put on major social events, all glitz and glamour, the one event that so many of us used to look forward to was Jo’s Christmas office party. You kind of knew that you had made it in the industry, because when you attended, during the evening all of the ‘right sort’ of the industry would pass through. She simply had style.”
Opt-4 director Jenny Moseley said: “Jo was a one-off. I’ve never met anyone like her in all my life. She was vibrant, funny, generous and great company over a glass of wine or three. Her research company came up with some fascinating projects on the use of direct mail for commercial businesses which helped to frame Royal Mail’s policy at the time. She was an avid supporter of the channel and was a font of all knowledge relating to it. Her Christmas parties were legendary and her other office, downstairs at the Nellie Dean pub, was a place of convivial company to drop into for those of us using large volume direct mail which I did while at National Geographic. I will miss her warmth and eccentricity.”
Judith Donovan CBE also described Jo as a “one off”, adding “she was the life and soul of the party even if there wasn’t one! But she was a true friend, a passionate champion of the industry and my word she knew her way round lists and databases”.
Former Mardev director Zina Manda said: “Jo was a chaotic, vivacious and deeply funny woman. We never worked together but we attended numerous events and conferences together, meeting up in Brussels, Chicago, San Francisco and many more. At the end of long days, trading, learning and speaking, Jo was the go to person for respite and camaraderie. My sincere condolences to her family.”
Lawrence Pritchard owner Nigel Lawrence first met Jo when he worked at Royal Mail. He said: “One inevitable image of Jo is as the Queen of Soho’s Nellie Dean. The warm summer sunshine through its unwashed windows as Jo, laughing, ordered another round. That’s one side.
“But she also ran DMIS – even lived for it. Long before I joined Royal Mail and took on the role of liaising with Jo on the up and coming rounds of research, as an industry journalist I was aware of the vital role DMIS played as the only real source of information about the then inexorable rise of direct mail as an advertising medium.
“Without the work she did, it would have been impossible to give the lie to the ‘junk mail’ image peddled hard by several national newspapers (with a vested interest, of course) – while at the same time providing ample evidence to show that it should be taken seriously not just by mail order giants but by major brands.
“Without her professionalism and dedication, the job of promoting and defending the medium would have been almost impossible. So yes, I will raise a glass to her passing – and to many blissfully happy afternoons (and Christmas parties) but also to remember a colleague, a legend, and a true friend. And for Jo, being a colleague and a friend were always one and the same thing. Cheers m’dear.”
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