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


Blogger Tommymacs said...

I hear you about considering Media in the mix —always. As creatives, we very easily get caught up in the single masterpiece we have created. A bit of self-worship, don’t you think. The reality is that we need to always create within the context of all the media before, after, and around our “masterpiece.” What sort of crap might be right next to my masterpiece? What sort of noise might hide my genius from the masses? Or worse yet, what pure act of creative prowess might overshadow my mere demonstration of creativity? And remind me how mediocre my work can be? I have always thought long and hard —and studied— just what kind of media environment I am “renting space in.” So be nice to your Media Planner. And media excited by the great creative that comes your way...but never be too shy to critique creative as “yougottabekidding!

7:08 AM  

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