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Editorial: Advertising’s Main Men

My, how things have changed. Assouline Publishing’s new book “5 Giants of Advertising” details the careers of Albert Lasker, Leo Burnett, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach. Before these men came along, people didn’t drink orange juice and women couldn’t smoke in public. The book highlights some of their top campaigns and features artwork from advertising’s early days, back when doctors touted the benefits of smoking cigarettes. It’s interesting to note how so many companies introduced their products – including Kleenex, Kotex and Pepsodent – with free trial offers.

The majority of the book is devoted to Lasker (1880-1952), known as the father of modern advertising, who came up with the slogans “Keep that schoolgirl complexion” (Palmolive) and “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet” (Lucky Strike cigarettes). Burnett (1891-1971) used nothing but his clients’ products in his personal life, including smoking Marlboros and eating Kellogg’s Special K cereal for breakfast. Bleustein-Blanchet (1906-96), who founded Publicis, developed the concept of publicity mailing, sending a message written by the storeowner to a list of potential clients. Many people regarded Ogilvy (1911-99) as a better businessman than creative type, yet he managed to come up with his share of outstanding work, including the man in the Hathaway shirt and this one for Rolls-Royce: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.” Bernbach (1911-82) spearheaded the “creative revolution,” creating, among others, a campaign for Volkswagen that lasted 30 years.

Fast-forward to the present and a new book of a different sort: the DMA’s “Economic Impact: U.S. Direct & Interactive Marketing Today,” which has some engrossing facts of its own. Growth in DM sales is outpacing overall U.S. sales growth by 54 percent. U.S. sales revenue attributed to DM reached $1.73 trillion last year. Meanwhile, every dollar spent for direct response advertising generates $9.03 in sales, up from $8.05 in 1995 and $7.67 in 1990. All these years later, marketers still know how to do their jobs.

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