Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Air Raid

(continued from The Space Age, see 6/26 below)

Very near the time Lasker and Kennedy got together and revolutionized the advertising industry, two other men got together and created a revolution of their own. Wilbur and Orville Wright lifted their flying machine off the ground at Kitty Hawk in December of 1903 and launched the Aerial Age in America.

There was a long period of time between that first flight in 1903 and the commercialization of flying. Commercial aviation didn’t really grow until after Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight to Paris in 1927. The number of airline passengers in the United States grew from less than 6,000 in 1926 to approximately 173,000 in 1929.

Similarly, commercial radio had a long development period. The invention of the vacuum tube by Ambrose Fleming in 1904 and the invention of the triode vacuum tube amplifier by Lee DeForest in 1906 made radio as we know it possible. Coupled together, these inventions enabled the transmission of voice and music. But the technology wasn’t commercialized as an advertising vehicle until 1922 when AT&T, owner of station WEAF, one of the first few radio stations to come into existence, offered to sell 10 minutes of advertising time on its station to anyone willing to pay $100 for it. A Long Island real estate company bought the advertising time and sold apartments with it.

Thus was launched a period I call “The Air Raid”, from 1922 - 1975. This was a period that saw the introduction and dominance of new media which came to us over the airwaves. It added a whole new dimension, literally, to advertising and media planning; a dimension of Time.

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!!

(to be continued….)

Sources and Additional Reading:

U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, The Pioneering Years: Commercial Aviation 1920-1930,

Stephen Fox, The Mirror Makers, William Morrow and Co., New York, 1984

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Space Age

In case you’re just joining us, we’ve been discussing the history of the advertising business in order to gain a historical perspective that will help us better understand the significant changes that are taking place in advertising today. We’ve discussed the “Media Era”, a period from 1841-1903 which saw the birth of the advertising industry from its startup by an entrepreneur, Volney B. Palmer, who saw an opportunity to profit in an expanding market by selling advertising space in newspapers. The first 60 years of advertising, the Media Era, was a period when the advertising business was a media buying business.

Then, in 1904, Albert Lasker met John E. Kennedy who told him that advertising was “salesmanship in print”. Before Kennedy, the consensus viewpoint was that advertising was about “keeping your name before the public”. Lasker seized upon this new definition of advertising and hired Kennedy on the spot for an astronomical amount of money. The advertising industry changed rapidly from a focus on media buying to a focus on advertising creative. The “Creative Era” of advertising was launched.

I call the 80-year period from 1841 – 1921, which crosses from the Media Era into the Creative Era, the “Space Age” of advertising, referring to the fact that it was a period of exclusively space-based media (i.e. print: newspapers, magazines, and outdoor).

The Space Age encompassed the formative years of advertising. It began chaotic and uncontrolled, and ended with organized practices, policies, procedures, and institutions that formed the bedrock of the advertising business, including among them:

-- establishment of the 15% commission

-- first media research: Rowell’s American Newspaper Directory

-- 1913, founding of Audit Bureau of Circulation

-- 1915, founding of Association of National Advertisers

-- 1917, founding of Amer. Assoc. of Advertising Agencies

-- 1919, founding of Standard Rate & Data Service (SRDS)

Claude Hopkins

In 1908, Albert Lasker hired Claude C. Hopkins who became one of the great copywriters of his time.

Hopkins shared Lasker's views of what advertising should be. In 1923, he wrote his famous book, Scientific Advertising, a publication which outlined the “laws of advertising” and explained how they were derived from countless testing, mostly by direct response advertising.

Here are some of Hopkins’ views on advertising:

-- the only purpose of advertising is to make sales….it is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people.

-- Ads are not written to entertain. When they do, those entertainment seekers are little likely to be the people whom you want. That is one of the greatest advertising faults. Ad writers… forget they are salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause.

-- Any studied attempt to sell, if apparent, creates corresponding resistance.

Aren’t the views of Claude Hopkins as relevant today as they were then?

Hopkins wrote Scientific Advertising from the standpoint that advertising was conquered. “The time has come,” he said, “when advertising has reached the status of a science. It is based on fixed principles, and is reasonably exact. The causes and effects have been analyzed until they are well understood. The correct method of procedure have been proved and established. We know what is most effective, and we act on basic law.”

How ironic it is that Hopkins wrote his masterpiece on the science of advertising at the conclusion of the Space Age, just as the advertising business was about to enter into a new dimension.

(to be continued….)

Additional reading:

Claude C. Hopkins, Scientific Advertising

Send me an email if you would like to receive a free copy of this classic book, Scientific Advertising, in a pdf format.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What is Advertising?

(continued from The Father of Modern Advertising, see 6/5/06 below)

In his early years, Albert Lasker was driven to understand advertising better. He wanted to know, “What is advertising?” He asked his contemporaries of the period. They said it was “keeping your name before the public”. N.W. Ayer & Son had the motto, “Keeping Everlastingly at it Brings Success.” Lasker was troubled by this definition.

One afternoon in 1904, Lasker received a note. The note said, "I am in the saloon downstairs. I can tell you what advertising is. I know you don't know. It will mean much to me to have you know what it is and it will mean much to you. If you wish to know what advertising is, send the word 'yes' down by the bell boy." It was signed by a John E. Kennedy.

What followed was arguably the most important meeting in advertising history.

Now, at the time, Lord & Thomas, the third largest agency of the period, had only a part-time copywriter who was paid $15 per week. What Kennedy said to Lasker that day resulted in his being hired on the spot for the unheard-of salary of $28,000 a year. Within two years, he was making $75,000. What did he say to Lasker? Simply this: "Advertising is salesmanship in print.”

Kennedy insisted that an ad should say in print precisely what a good salesman would say face-to- face with a customer. Also, instead of general claims, pretty pictures, or jingles, he asserted that an ad should provide a concrete "reason why" the product was worth buying. In essence, advertising should explain why the product being advertised was a better buy than competing products or alternative uses of the consumer's limited budget.

Soon Lord & Thomas became the training center for the advertising world. Their copywriters were being paid $4000/year, a fantastic salary for the time. Yet, other agencies were hiring them away by offering salaries up to $15000/year-just to get the magic of “Reason Why” copy into their agencies. And many Lord & Thomas people left to form their own agencies. John Orr Young, co-founder of Young & Rubicam was one.

When John E. Kennedy met Albert Lasker on a Spring day in 1904, the Media era of advertising ended, and the Creative era began.

(to be continued…)

Sources and additional reading:

John O'Toole, The Trouble with Advertising, Times Books, div. of Random House, Toronto, Canada, 1985

David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising, Vintage Books, div. of Random House, New York, 1985

Albert D. Lasker, The Lasker Story. As He Told It, Advertising Publications, Chicago, 1963

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Father of Modern Advertising

(continued from The Media Era, see 5/24 below)

Media placement was so important in the early years of advertising probably, in part, because the advertising landscape was so untamed. It took many years for advertising business practices to become standardized. Once the business practices of advertising stabilized, Creative took over as a way for agencies to set themselves apart. The switch occurred rapidly.

(I wonder if perhaps the reason media gets so much attention these days is partly for the same reason. There has been a general breakdown of old, established practices in recent years, which has been replaced by the entrepreneurial fervor of the digital revolution. Creative seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Will stability ever return to media planning and buying? And if it does, will there then be a Creative renaissance?)

Albert Lasker, known as the “Father of Modern Advertising”, was the son of a wealthy Texas banker who got him a job at the Chicago agency of Lord & Thomas in 1898 when he was 18 years old. Lasker started out by sweeping floors and emptying spittoons as an office clerk.

After a year, Lasker asked for and was granted a chance to try his luck as a salesman. He was an immediate success. Before the next year was over, he asked Mr. Thomas to put him in charge of a few accounts that were not making any money so he could practice copy writing. Within a year, he achieved a dramatic success with a hearing aid company. Both Lord and Thomas were impressed with Lasker's ingenuity, which in turn caused a fond rapport to develop among the three men. In 1903, when Lord retired, Lasker purchased his share of the business and became a partner in Lord and Thomas. And in 1912, he purchased the remainder of the company and became its sole owner. Lasker retired in 1938, and in 1942 he sold the ownership of the Agency to his three leading regional managers, Emerson Foote in New York, Farifax Cone in Chicago, and Don Belding in California for a nominal amount of $100,000 with the condition that they retire the name of Lord & Thomas. Thus, the agency became known as Foote, Cone & Belding.

As you probably know, FCB – now a part of Interpublic - was just merged with direct-marketer Draft, and Howard Draft will head the new combined entity to be known as the Draft FCB Group.

But in 1904, Albert Lasker changed the course of the advertising industry.

(to be continued….)

Additional reading:
see American National Business Hall of Fame,