Our world is saturated with advertisement and of course its counterpart, consumption. Whether we feel good or bad about this, surely we still want to know how it happened.
Arthur W. Shultz—former CEO of Foote, Cone, and Belding—and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, in their new book, The Man Who Sold America: Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century, explain the origins of advertisement in our country through the life and work of Lasker.
Recently , The Independent was invited to the first Nelson Howard Residents Series presentation and discussion featuring Shultz and his aforementioned book at Montecito’s Casa Dorinda.
At such events you get a first-hand glimpse at how things were for a generation that produced the baby-boomers. Among them are World War II vets—responsible for much of what we have today in the US—whose presence gives a room a feeling of pride for the past and promise for the future.
Shultz began telling Lasker’s story immediately. It is the story of an 18 year old kid from Galveston, Texas who moved to Chicago in 1898 and eventually founded one of the greatest advertisement agencies this world has ever seen.
In bringing oranges from California into Iowa and other Midwestern states, Lasker advertised with groundbreaking use of color and graphics, with flyers, and with special product prizes like “Orange Blossom Design” spoons. In 1908, Lasker, with his advertisement intuitiveness, transformed Sunkist from a $3,000 cooperative to a multibillion-dollar company.
Listening to this man talk brought home just how much everything has changed over the past century. He constantly started off his sentences with the phrase “I am sure many of you remember…” Of course, many of us do not. Most of us can’t imagine California not being the agricultural powerhouse that it is, but before the advent of advertising, the Californian lifestyle was like most other rural lifestyles. Agricultural advertising in California, among other things, produced large sums of profits, leading to better standards of living, better clothing, doctors, and schools.
Published by Harvard Business Review Press this book tells the real story of the 1950s admen—as depicted in the popular Mad Men series. Asked if he had seen the show, he just smiled and gave me a look that said, “Kid, I lived it.”