11 October 2010

The Man Who Sold America

Excellent bio:

Man Who Sold America: The Amazing  Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century
by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, Arthur W. Schultz
alaskerLasker's creative and powerful use of "reason-why" advertising to inject ideas and arguments into ad campaigns had a profound impact on modern advertising, foreshadowing the consumer-centered "unique selling proposition" approach that dominates the industry today. His tactics helped launch or revitalize companies and brands that remain household names--including Palmolive, Goodyear, and Quaker Oats.

Instead of a review, I’ll defer to Kenneth Roman’s take in the WSJ (Mr. Roman penned a superb bio of another fellow you may have heard of):

Present at the Birth of Modern Advertising imageWhen Lasker moved to Chicago in 1898, advertising agencies were still mainly brokers of space in newspapers and magazines. Lord & Thomas employed just one graphic artist and a part-time copywriter. All that was about to change. America's population was swelling, and manufactured goods were flooding into the market; the emergence of large-circulation newspapers and national magazines like The Saturday Evening Post meant companies had new and inviting places for promotion.

All through the book, the great and the ugly, I kept thinking “These stories are not only relevant today – they’re what’s been missing for years. Reason-Why Creative. Public Relations based on the principles and practices within the company. Time to get back to the roots…” 

Then, somewhere I stumble upon a reader review: 

If you are looking for advertising insights this is not the book. As a student of the game I expected to get more insights into how his agency made such an impact … But what he did has no more application to the business as it is today any more than Mad Men does.

Odd stuff.  This person thinks Mad Men is real – or thinks a biography is really a soap opera.  

Instead of learning from the innovators – their successes and failures – what we get today is this:

Three-Quarters of Americans Have Found a TV Commercial Confusing
imageCommercials are supposed to be somewhat clear. Yes, they can be artsy. Yes, they can be clever. Hopefully they are both entertaining and informative as well. But, a commercial's main focus needs to be selling a product or service. If consumers watching these commercials are unsure of that main focus, the marketers are doing something wrong.

Reason-Why CreativeToday, viewers are not even sure of the reason why they’re watching commercials.

Also – for all you PR folks … I sent an email recommending the read to a Flack friend:

Just finished this…
Fascinating character, great stories. First half mostly about advertising, with healthy chunks on PR. The second half is almost exclusively about PR.

One blurb:

sk“Cruikshank and Schultz provide vivid details of Albert Lasker’s revolutionary advertising and public relations career, launching and revitalizing beloved American brands. The Man Who Sold America tells a fascinating story, and reveals valuable lessons and insights for anyone interested in communications and the media.” - Carol Cone, Founder, Cone Inc., and Managing Director, Edelman

Read the book.

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