The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Centuryby Jeffrey L. Cruikshank
Yet there have been very few true geniuses at the
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We live in an age of persuasion. Leaders and institutions of every kind--public and private, large and small--must compete in the marketplace of images and messages. This has been true since the advent of mass media, from broad circulation magazines and radio through the age of television and the internet.
Yet there have been very few true geniuses at the art of mass persuasion in the last century. In public relations, Edward Bernays comes to mind. In advertising, most Hall-of-Famers--J. Walter Thomson, David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Bruce Barton, Ray Rubicam, and others--point to one individual as the "father" of modern advertising: Albert D. Lasker.
And yet Lasker--unlike Bernays, Thomson, Ogilvy, and the others--remains an enigma. Now, Jeffrey Cruikshank and Arthur Schultz, having uncovered a treasure trove of Lasker's papers, have written a fascinating and revealing biography of one of the 20th century's most powerful, intriguing, and instructive figures. It is no exaggeration to say that Lasker created modern advertising. He was the first influential proponent of "reason why" advertising, a consumer-centered approach that skillfully melded form and content and a precursor to the "unique selling proposition" approach that today dominates the industry. More than that, he was a prominent political figure, champion of civil rights, man of extreme wealth and hobnobber with kings and maharajahs, as well as with the likes of Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. He was also a deeply troubled man, who suffered mental collapses throughout his adult life, though was able fight through and continue his amazing creative and productive activities into later life.
This is the story of a man who shaped an industry, and in many ways, shaped a century.
“a must-read for anyone in advertising” - Advertising Age
“excellent biography” - Advertising Age
“rich and compelling” Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“The Man Who Sold America pulls back the curtain and shows us a remarkable life spent shaping much of the world we know today.” - The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2010
"Writer Cruikshank and former advertising agency head Schultz help ensure, through copious research and easy-to-read prose, that Lasker will remain a critical linchpin in the U.S. that advertising helped build." - Booklist, August 16, 2010
“The Man Who Sold America is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of one of the most colorful, influential, and enigmatic Americans of the last hundred years: a human dynamo who left signature marks on the worlds of advertising, political campaigning, professional sports, and philanthropy. This book is indispensable to understanding how the world we live in came to be.” - Thomas K. McCraw, Pulitzer Prizewinning historian and author, Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction
“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
“How did one man boost the success of orange juice, toothpaste, Bob Hope, the American Cancer Society, Warren G. Harding, Kotex, Kleenex, and Planned Parenthood? How did he do it in the face of anti-Semitism and a lifelong struggle with mental illness? Read this remarkable book about the astounding Albert Lasker and find out." - William H. Draper III, venture capitalist and philanthropist
“A man ‘driven by a thousand devils,’ the hyperactive Albert Lasker achieved both exceptional success and enduring significancesuccess in redefining the field of advertising and significance in his innovative and leveraged philanthropy. This engaging book brilliantly captures his dramatic story in a manner that simultaneously entertains and educates.” - Thomas J. Tierney, Chairman, The Bridgespan Group
“Imagine a man who combines the advertising gifts of a David Ogilvy, the political instincts of a Rahm Emanuel, and the lifestyle of a Jay Gatsby. Albert Lasker was just such a figure, though you’ve probably never heard of him. Cruikshank and Schultz bring to life this unduly neglected character and show how he helped shape the media-besotted world we live in today.” - Walter Kiechel, author, The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World
“A brilliant businessman and brand builder, political gadfly, art enthusiast, Chicago Cubs co-owner, generous philanthropist, and friend and confidante to some of the early twentieth century’s sharpest and most creative minds, Albert Lasker was a charismatic, complex, sometimes tortured soul. Cruikshank and Schultz have skillfully chronicled his life with color and energy. A fascinating read.” - Howard Draft, executive chairman, Draftfcb
“ goes a long way to reintroducing Lasker as an industry trailblazer.” - HBS Bulletin
they have pulled back the drapes to reveal a rich life that profoundly shaped the American way of life in the 20th century.” - HBS Bulletin
- Harvard Business Review Press
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Read an Excerpt
The Collier’s reporter who interviewed Albert Lasker in Washington in February 1923 was struck by his subject’s rapid-fire delivery and his elusive logic.
Lasker’s brain was a “furious express train,” which seemed to run along six or seven tracks simultaneously. The train raced ahead at a breakneck pace, “with every chance that when it reaches the terminal station it will go straight through the back wall.”
For Laskera 43-year-old advertising executive from Chicago who had temporarily transformed himself into a Washington bureaucratthis was nothing new; he had always lived his complicated life at a breakneck pace. But the second month of 1923 was proving unusually challenging even for the hyperactive Lasker. Now, as the back wall of the terminal station approached, he wondered how he might get off some of the tracks he found himself on.
He was engaged in a bitter and bruising battle on behalf of the President of the United States, trying to implement a coherent national maritime policy. Two years of hard work were on the line. He was losing.
Meanwhile, his advertising agency, Lord & Thomaswhich over the previous quarter-century Lasker had built into one of the largest and most influential agencies in the U.S.was in financial peril.
At the same time, Lasker was suffering from a nasty case of the flu, which was causing him much discomfort. His only trips outside his Washington townhouse in the first week of February were to the White House, where he spent three successive evenings with President Harding and his wife Florence. The First Couple, too, had been felled by the flu. They seemed to find the presence of a friend and fellow flu suffererone who was a little farther down the road to recoverycomforting.
Meet the Author
Jeffrey L. Cruikshank is an author or coauthor of many books, including Shaping the Waves: A History of Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. Arthur W. Schultz is a veteran ad agency executive who once headed Foote Cone&Belding, the successor agency to Albert Lasker's Lord&Thomas.
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At first, one wonders how Cruickshank and Schultz ever managed to write “Albert Lasker – the Man Who sold America” when the man himself was a cypher during his own lifetime and is largely unknown today. But then you wonder how to write a review of this admirable and well-written biography without discussing the man himself? So let’s start by recapping the highlights: He discovered [to read the rest of this review, please visit http://the-agency-review.com/man-who-sold-america]