March 7, 2020

Being stuck in the Cleveland airport for five hours sounds like a place no one would ever want to be.

And a very snowy and cold Cleveland to boot.  (As if being stuck in Cleveland alone wasn’t enough!)

That was me six years ago this week.

I could have been melancholy with only a smorgasbord of unlimited gluten and sugar at my disposal.

But in fact I was elated.

I was about to embark on my second 34 year career…and I was anything but stuck or melancholy.

I was still at Boardroom at the time…and I had recently created a plan to author an event under the company’s umbrella to honor my mentor and the founder of Boardroom, Marty Edelston (who had passed away the previous October).

My partner for the event happens to live near Cleveland, only travels on a private jet, and if you want to meet with him in the most efficient (and economical) way, flying  to Cleveland is the ticket.

“If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.”

I played Muhammad for this trip…and I also had to stay at a LaQuinta Inn somewhere outside of Cleveland waiting for the “mountain” to pick me up in his 1960 (something) Country Squire station wagon to take me to his house.

Dan Kennedy is the guy who was my partner in case the hints were too obscure…

And that day in late February 2014 we laid out the tentative agenda for the Titans of Direct Response which, in Dan’s words, ended up being “the event of the decade.”

Important: I not only want to talk about the event a little more here but in the P.S. I have an incredible story of a strategic by-product created by the event (in addition to the birth of Titans Marketing) which will be of great interest to everyone in my online family, especially the females. Please read on.

Dan and I masterminded the Titans event that day (indoors!). We went over who we would ask to be guest speakers, how much we would charge and all of the details we would then have to (over) deliver on with gifts and bonuses.

What was most interesting when we made our wish list of speakers–including Jay Abraham, Joe Sugarman, Perry Marshall, Greg Renker, Ken McCarthy—a list that seemed daunting —was that in the end, we got all of them to say “yes” without any coaxing.

First and foremost, that everyone said yes without compensation, was a tribute to Marty given all that he had contributed to the direct marketing community over 50 years himself…and secondly, there was a small assist to the accumulated relationship capital Dan and I had built up over 80 years of doing this marketing thing and contributing as well. It was all both surprising and very rewarding.

We even got America’s greatest living copywriter, Gary Bencivenga to come out of retirement “one more time” despite saying he would never speak again after his landmark event The Benicvenga 100.

He couldn’t resist and I didn’t even have to ask him. He volunteered to speak. That was a thrill too.

When we began promoting the event shortly after that snowy day in the boonies of Ohio, we sold out the VIP tickets within a few weeks–and then the entire event (350 of the best-of-the-best direct marketers) months before we held the event in September.

Fast forward to September 11th, 2014…I took the stage for my opening session…and I began with a slide that read:

Four things about this event that you think I dont knowbut believe meI know!

1. I know it is 9/11

We acknowledged the solemn day before we began and I quoted Marty on the subject of 9/11:

Screw those bastards! We can never let them stop us!

Moving forward on 9/11 was totally on point for a tribute to Marty.

2. I know most of you think our speakers are “Old Timers”

After all, if you accumulated the years of marketing excellence that took the stage over those two days, my rough estimate is that it added up to close to 500 years.

(And that’s 500 years of cumulative experience not one day’s experience for 500 years)

One way to look at it could be “500 years of old news”; another way to look at it could be 500 years of absolute, essential wisdom.

It comes as no surprise to any regular readers of this blog that I choose the latter…and not for nostalgic reasons.

What these Titans shared was applicable to what was happening in marketing today as well as yesterday (and that’s today in 2014 and today in 2020).

I guess looking back, the Titans event even inspired chapters 2 and 3 of Overdeliver on “Original Source” and “How Paying Postage Made Me A Better Marketer.”

Note: On the bonus page for Overdeliver at I give away five sessions of those old timers (plus me) from the Titans event with their keynote presentations available for free viewing (with the purchase of my book):

The Copywriting panel (Eric Betuel, David Deutsch, Arthur Johnson, Parris Lampropoulos); an original of product marketing and copywriting, Joe Sugarman; infomercial giant Greg Renker; the late (and great) Fred Catona on direct response radio;  and internet pioneer Ken McCarthy.

3. I know (but I don’t really care) that many of you thought the sales letter for this event was “too long”

My answer was easy on this one:

“It was long. Yay for us. And I’m proud of it. It got all of you here at $3,000 to $5,000 a seat which proves that a sales letter can never be too long or too short…just too boring.”

4. I know (and I really care a lot) that none of our speakers are women

This one wasn’t so easy and it needed some additional explanation–and to this day I lament that there were no female speakers at Titans.

And while my justification for having what seemed like an old boy’s network seemed to fall flat while explaining it, I did what I could do to compensate for it…at the event…and in the years following (again, see the P.S.).

In the acknowledgments section of Overdeliver, I explained it and I will excerpt and update from there:

Before I go on to talk about all of the other copywriters I have learned so much from—as well as marketers and result leaders of all kinds who influenced me the most—I have to call out a “moose on the table:”

I am well aware that to this point, I have not listed many women in my professional acknowledgments … yet.

The same was true of the speakers at Titans of Direct Response.

My explanation for both of these facts:

During the early part of my career, there were far fewer women teaching and mentoring—and thank goodness there are so many more today.

I received a lot of flak at the Titans of Direct Response event in 2014 for not having any female speakers and I sporadically receive emails in response to my blog posts when I talk about my key mentors from my past  (who are mostly male), asking, “why no women?”

My explanation is legitimate although it doesn’t make me happy.

Dan Kennedy and I discussed it when we were planning the event and couldn’t do anything about it.

The event was a tribute to Boardroom and Marty Edelston, the history and origins of the company and the man, and the sad truth is that when Boardroom was founded in 1972 (and in the years that followed) the builders, consultants, and copywriters from the outside were mostly men.

Regardless of that explanation, some women still boycotted the event…which hurt.

There were many women who came anyway but some of them organized their own dinner to talk about it (and hopefully about other things as well)—once again, see the P.S. for that story.

I did my best to explain and I have had to live with this sad fact despite the event being a huge success.

I can tell you, however, that many of the key folks internally at Boardroom during my 34 years were women and most of the senior staff while I was there were female as well.

Two extraordinary women, Joan Throckmorton and Rose Harper, helped build and shape Boardroom from the outside even in the early years, Joan as a copywriter and Rose as a mailing list broker.

Since neither one was alive in 2014, they were not invited to speak (to my chagrin).

I did the next best thing: I distributed copies of their out-of-print classic books to the most prolific and dynamic women in direct response marketing who were in the audience at Titans.

I called them out individually and they each came to the stage to receive their book with a heartfelt note from me.

(Those books are included in my reading list despite being out of print and I’ve got my copies in a prominent spot on my bookshelf.)

I acknowledged over 20 amazing women in the audience at the Titans event for their achievements, smarts and friendship… and of course they are acknowledged here in Overdeliver along with many others.

I am committed to paying it forward—then and now–to the women (and men) who have shaped my world and the world of so many other direct response marketers . . . and you will see many phenomenal women in the rest of these acknowledgments.

The change has done us good.

Please read the P.S. now (if you didn’t skip to it already). I know how that works…

You will read a story about that “dinner” at Titans for the women who were at least a little pissed off. 🙂

It spawned something special that I am especially proud of…and I consider it a direct result of having “no female speakers at Titans.”

Sometimes you have to screw a situation up—knowingly or unknowingly—to improve it.



P.S.  This week is another important anniversary based on this being the week that Titans was born.

It’s kind of an anniversary of the founding of the Titanides, an organization dedicated to mentoring and elevating of female copywriters, marketers and entrepreneurs.

As stated above, when Marty Edelston first founded Boardroom in 1972, there were very few women in the direct response business.  And even fewer who worked with Boardroom (with Joan Throckmorton and Rose Harper being two legends who did).

Most of the marketers, consultants and copywriters I worked with were men.

This fact became glaringly obvious at the first Titans event.  And as I also mentioned above, I took a lot of flak for it.

Instead of boycotting the event as some did, my friend Marcella Allison, reached out to me.  I had worked with Marcella for years, she was one of a handful of female copywriters to get controls for Boardroom, and if you know her, you know that she shares my passion for overdelivering (still not a word but still a way of life). 🙂

At the event, it was Marcella who put together that private dinner for the “Female Titans of Direct Response.”  She called it the Titanides after the female warriors, leaders, creators, and patrons of ancient Greece.

Today the group includes the leading women in the direct response and online marketing industry.

Marcella and her fellow Titanides are building a new arena where dynamic, creative women co-mentor, elevate, and support each other on the journey to success.

The Titanides is for women-only because the research shows that women need a separate female-only network to succeed at the highest levels in business. 

You can read all about the critical differences between male and female entrepreneurs in “Marcella’s Manifesto,” The Sexist Secret to Succeeding as a Woman in Business Today

Go here to download your copy and discover

  • The single biggest obstacle women face when building their business. And no, it’s not access to capital or discrimination. The answer will surprise you.
  • How to close the pay gap. According to a recent survey, female freelancers charge 28% LESS than their male colleagues. 28%! Here’s what you must do now, BEFORE you book another job!
  • The ONE household task that working women are THREE TIMES as likely to do. Forget about washing the dishes or vacuuming, this one will exhaust you before you realize it.
  • Clever trick helps women overcome their fear of failure. It’s like a risk vaccine for entrepreneurs.
  • One simple thing any woman can do to TRIPLE her chance of earning 10% MORE money next year. Hint: it has nothing to do with marketing!

If you’re a woman, I encourage you to download and read this manifesto…click here.

And if you’re a man who mentors or works with women, I hope you’ll join me by paying it forward and sharing this manifesto with them.  (And you should read it as well!).

P.P.S. If you think Titanides is a “Man Haters Club,” think again.

And to prove that it’s not, I was asked to be the first outside guest of the The Titanides Literary Salon…a reading group/idea exchange of Marcella’s making.

Being the first guest made it clear that I was also the first male guest too—and I won’t be the last.

It was a live call, totally interactive, and it was awesome. I learned so much.

I read an excerpt on the call from Overdeliver on the concept of 100-0 (i.e. contributing to others with no expectation of a return) and I was blown away by the writing talent, the insights and the myriad of interests and abilities of the women on the call (and in the group).

I even asked if I could be a member (but it was clear that I could only do that with a sex change operation). 🙂

Coming from where I was 6 years ago—with many up-and-coming and established women in our industry mumbling under their breath what a horrible person I was for not having any female speakers at such a groundbreaking event—I am here today to tell a very different story.

I am so grateful to Marcella and her tribe for creating this group (and hopefully I get at least a little credit for it)—and more importantly, I hope Titanides grows to be the one place in copywriting and marketing for women to congregate, educate themselves and others…and of course, multiply.

And please read Marcella’s manifesto. It’s really good.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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