The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century

Jeffrey L. Cruikshank

Language: English

Pages: 480

ISBN: 1591393086

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


We're living in the Age of Persuasion. Leaders and organizations of all kinds--public and private, large and small--fulfill their missions only by competing in the marketplace of images and messages. To win in that marketplace, they need advertising. This has been true since the advent of mass media, from mass-circulation magazines and radio through the age of television and the Internet.

Yet even as they use advertising to capture consumers' imaginations and build their brands, few people know of the ingenious and tormented man who built the modern advertising industry and shaped a new consumer sensibility as the twentieth century unfolded: Albert D. Lasker.

Drawing on a recently uncovered trove of Lasker's papers, Jeffrey Cruikshank and Arthur Schultz have written a fascinating biography of one of the past century's most influential, intriguing, troubled, and instructive figures. 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.

As Lasker rose in prominence, he went beyond consumer products to apply his brilliance to presidential politics, government service, and professional sports, changing the game wherever he went, and building a vast fortune along the way. But his intensity had a price--he was felled by mental breakdowns throughout his life. This book also tells the story of how he fought back with determination and with support from family and friends in an age when lack of effective treatment doomed most mentally ill people.

The Man Who Sold America is a riveting account of a man larger than life, who shaped not only an industry but also a century.

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Albert joined the Republican Party, of which he would remain a member until late in his life. When Hawley won the election, he offered Albert a job in Washington. Morris refused to let him go, feeling that his son was too young to accept a position so far from home. Albert had to return to his dreary life in his father’s office. For Albert, it was like going back to jail. He wrote letters, did office chores, and ran errands, all of which he considered “degrading.” If it were up to him, of

& Thomas) he gave $10,000 to support the so-called “Negro Project,” which focused on providing family-planning advice to black families in South Carolina, one of the first states in the nation to incorporate contraception in its formal public health program. Although the project was criticized in some quarters as racist—one of its aims being a reduction in the number of babies born to black families on relief—Albert saw it as a high-minded pilot program with important implications for the larger

such great understanding of themselves and others, didn’t always seem to me to have been thoroughly analyzed.”15 Disillusioned but not discouraged, Mary readily agreed when longtime mental-health activist Blanche Ittleson asked her in 1942 to become a member of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (NCMH). At the time, this was the only nationwide voluntary mental-health organization, and—like its counterpart in the field of cancer—its members lacked basic organizational and fundraising

63. 25. Given the fuzziness of the dates involved, it is possible that Hopkins and Kennedy met in Racine, or even overlapped. Alternatively, Kennedy may have been hired to replace Hopkins when Hopkins left Racine in 1902. 26. Hopkins, My Life in Advertising, 76. 27. Ibid., 95. 28. Lasker remembered Stack as “the biggest man” at Lord & Thomas when Lasker arrived in Chicago—presumably excepting Ambrose Thomas and Daniel Lord. 29. Hopkins, My Life in Advertising, 84. 30. Ibid., 100. The “milk”

He gathered the articles together and published them in a pamphlet titled The Book of Advertising Tests. He then persuaded a number of friendly magazines and newspapers to donate space, which he used to advertise the availability of the pamphlet to anyone who was interested. The response, according to Lasker, was overwhelming: “In response to these advertisements, it was nothing for us to receive hundreds of letters a week from leading manufacturers all over the United States. I doubt if there

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