Albert Lasker (1880-1952), with the help of marketing legends
Kennedy and Claude
Hopkins, established modern advertising as itís known today.
He started out as a newspaper reporter when still in his teens. But he
soon got interested in advertising.
At age 18, Lasker began his job at Lord and Thomas as an office clerk.
After a year, Lasker asked for and was granted a chance to try his luck
as a salesman, soliciting accounts in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. He was
an immediate success.
Before the next year was over, Lasker made another daring move. 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 Mr. Lord and Mr. Thomas were impressed with Lasker's ingenuity,
which in turn caused a fond rapport to develop among the three men. In
1903, when Mr. Lord retired, Lasker purchased his share of the business,
thus becoming a partner in Lord and Thomas.
Early on, Lasker became obsessed with one simple question: "What
exactly is advertising?" But he never could get a satisfactory answer.
One popular view of advertising at that time was "keeping you name
before the people. " Laskerís response to that was, "Well, suppose I canít
live that long. Suppose I go broke and I canít keep my name before the
But Lasker eventually found his answer in 1904 when
Kennedy, a former member of the Canadian Mounted Police who was
working as a copywriter for Dr. Shoop's Restorative, offered this simple
explanation: "Advertising is Salesmanship in Print."
Kennedy went on to explain that advertising should give prospects
reasons why they should buy the product being advertised. And why it was a
better buy than competing products or alternatives.
Lasker hired Kennedy to work with him at Lord and Thomas. Kennedy also
stressed that the way the ad copy was written and tested was crucial to
Lasker began to perceive the need for a copywriting department. Kennedy
compiled all of his breakthrough lessons into a training book called "The
Book of Advertising Tests". And Lasker hired several young newspaper
writers and taught them according to these advertising methods.
Thus Lasker created the first systematically trained copywriting staff
in America. And soon, Lord and Thomas became the training center of the
advertising world. Their copywriters were so good that other agencies
began luring them away with high salaries.
Thus, the principles of Salesmanship-In-Print spread throughout the
advertising world. And many started their own agencies, like John Orr
Young who co-founded Young & Rubicam.
Kennedy soon left Lord and Thomas in 1907 to establish his own
business. But with the new emphasis on copy writing, Lasker started Lord
and Thomas on the road to becoming the industry leader.
In 1908, Lasker hired Claude
Hopkins, one of the most gifted copywriters of all time. Hopkins
shared the "Salesmanship-In-Print" philosophy. With Hopkins aboard, Lord
and Thomas soon became the largest advertising agency in the world.
Some of the most memorable accounts of these early years included The
California Fruit Growers Exchange (which later became the Sunkist Growers
Inc.), and Van Camp's pork and beans.
Leaving the active management of Lord and Thomas to Hopkins, Lasker
engaged in politics and briefly baseball between 1918 and 1923.
In 1918 Lasker went to direct the publicity for the Republican National
Committee during the congressional campaigns. In 1920 he led the
unsuccessful drive to make Hiram Johnson the Republican presidential
candidate. He then took charge of the publicity for Harding's successful
1920 presidential race. In the process he introduced modern advertising
techniques to politics. Upon Harding's inauguration, Harding appointed
Lasker chairman of the U.S. Shipping Board, where he served for two years.
In 1916, Lasker purchased a large block of stock in the Chicago Cubs
baseball organization. He soon became the controlling stockholder. In 1919
amidst claims that gamblers had bribed ball players to throw the World
Series, Lasker took it upon himself to do something to restore the game to
it's former, honorable place. He fought long and hard for an outside,
unbiased authority to run the game. And so it was that Judge Kenesaw
Mountain Landis became the first baseball commissioner.
During this time, William Wrigley, a Chicago chewing gum manufacturer,
became a stockholder of the Chicago Cubs organization. In 1925, Lasker
sold his interest in the Cubs to Wrigley. Lasker is largely responsible
for the decision to change the name of the playing field from Cubs Park to
While Lasker was away, Lord and Thomas slipped from its position as the
largest firm in the advertising business. Returning in September of 1923,
Lasker set out to regain the industry leadership position. Some of the
important accounts of this time were Kimberly Clark, Pepsodent toothpaste,
and American Tobacco Company's Lucky Strike Cigarettes.
In 1926, Lasker entered a new advertising medium - radio. He introduced
his "Salesmanship in print" formula to radio and the radio commercial as
it is known today was born.
Lasker had the ability to capitalize on emerging opportunities. The
Amos and Andy show was created by Lord and Thomas as a medium to advertise
Later a struggling young comedian named Bob Hope was given a chance to
make a success of a radio show for Pepsodent.
Lord and Thomas were the first to broadcast the Metropolitan Opera,
"authentic" police and FBI dramas and to chain sponsor Football games. For
a brief time in the 1930's, Lord and Thomas regained its position as the
biggest advertising agency in the world.
In the mid 1930's, Lasker began to lose interest in business affairs.
One reason was undoubtedly the successful achievement of his goal of
industry leadership. More importantly was the death of his wife, Flora, in
December of 1936. After 33 years of marriage, her death left him
discontented and caused him to seek new friends, activities, and
Lasker became disenchanted with the advertising business stating the
pioneering had disappeared. As the use of advertising grew, major clients
began to question and evaluate the advertising campaigns developed by Lord
and Thomas. This angered Lasker, causing him to voluntarily give up major
accounts with Quaker Oats, RCA and General Electric.
Lasker retired as president in 1938 from Lord and Thomas after his son,
Edward, failed to embark on an advertising career. He retained ownership,
but Don Francisco became the active manager of Lord and Thomas.
In 1942, Albert Lasker decided to leave Lord and Thomas. He decided to
liquidate the firm so that the name Lord and Thomas would cease to be
At this same time he was instrumental in creating a new firm to carry
on the work of the existing clients. The new firm was named "Foote, Cone
and Belding" and its new owner-managers were Lasker's three senior
executives at the time: Emerson Foote in New York, Fairfax Cone in Chicago
and Don Belding in California.
Lasker solicited all of his clients to continue with the new company.
All but one client stayed with Foote, Cone and Belding.
Having retired from the business in 1938, Lasker entered into a new
life of public affairs and philanthropy. He met Mary Woodard Reinhardt, a
New York industrial designer in 1939. They were married in 1940 in New
His financial contributions and active promotional activities were
responsible for major expansions in the nation's medical research
activities. He and Mary established
The Albert and Mary Lasker
Foundation to support medical research.
In 1944, he spearheaded a fund raising drive that nearly doubled the
amount of money spent on cancer research in the United States. He pursued
the idea of getting the federal government more involved in medical
research. Through Lasker's efforts the National Institutes of Health was
established over the period of 1946- 1950. During this period he became
ill and on May 30, 1952 he died at the age of 73.
Lasker's ingenuity and unique ability to explain the product being
advertised using the philosophy of "Advertising is Salesmanship in Print"
have earned him the title of Founder of Modern Advertising by his peers.
His focus on the ad copy and establishment of the copy write department
were crucial to the advertising industry's evolution. Lasker's creative
use of coupons, radio, and potential to see alternative uses for products
were keys to his success and the success of Lord and Thomas.
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