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
Lasker'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 When 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
Commercials 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 Creative? Today, 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.
“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