Albert Lasker can justifiably be called the founder
of the modern advertising industry. Albert, the son of a
wealthy Galveston, Texas banker, Morris Lasker, became
interested in journalism in his early youth. Upon
graduation from high school, his first job was with the
Galveston Morning News. Disapproving of his son's
journalism career, Morris Lasker managed to persuade his
son to try an advertising position with the Lord and
Thomas agency in Chicago, Illinois. Albert Lasker
reluctantly accepted the position with Lord and Thomas,
fully intending to only stay a few weeks to satisfy his
father. Surprisingly, Albert Lasker was with Lord and
Thomas for forty-four years.
|A. The Early Years|
Albert 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
|B. Search for Principles
of Advertising |
Through his early experiences at Lord
and Thomas, Lasker discovered the power of advertising
and became consumed with the quest to uncover the
underlying principles of advertising. He found his
answer in 1904 when John E. Kennedy, a former member of
the Canadian Mounted Police who was working as a copy
writer for Dr. Shoop's Restorative, offered this
explanation. -- "Advertising is Salesmanship in Print
('and on the air')".
Kennedy went on to explain that
advertising should give the potential reader the reasons
why. 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
Albert Lasker saw merit in Kennedy's
views and explanation of the principles of advertising.
He hired Kennedy to work with him at Lord and Thomas.
Kennedy stressed hat the way the ad copy was written was
crucial to advertising. Lasker began to perceive the
need for a copy writing department. He hired several
young newspapermen and trained them according to
Kennedy's advertising prescription. Thus Lasker created
the first systematically trained copy writing staff in
America. Kennedy soon left Lord and Thomas to establish
his own business but not before Lasker was able to
obtain the knowledge and understanding of advertising he
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
C. Hopkins, one of the most gifted copy writers of
all time. Hopkins shared Lasker's views of what
advertising should be. He was quick and effective.
Hopkins was able to develop an effective advertsing
campaign within 24 hours of visiting a client. With
Hopkins aboard, Lord and Thomas would soon become the
largest advertising agency in the world.
Some of the most
memorable accounts of these early years were: The
California Fruit Growers Exchange which later became the
Growers Inc., and Van
Camp's canned pork and beans.
|C. Ventures Outside of
Lord and Thomas |
active management of Lord and Thomas to Claude Hopkins,
Albert Lasker engaged in politics and briefly baseball
between 1918 and 1923. In 1918 Lasker went to New York
to direct the publicity program for the Republican National
Committee during the congressional campaign. 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 a good friend of
Albert Lasker's became a stockholder of the Chicago Cubs
Wrigley, a Chicago chewing gum manufacturer. 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 Wrigley
D. The Second
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
toothpaste, and American Tobacco Company's Lucky
|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 Pepsodent. 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
For a brief time in the 1930's, Lord and Thomas
regained its position as the biggest advertising agency
in the world.
E. Years of Discontent
|In the mid 1930's, Albert
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
distractions. 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 used. 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 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
F. The Last Decade
||Having retired from the business in
1938, Albert 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 York. 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.
||Albert 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.
Copyright © 1995 American National Business Hall of Fame. All Rights Reserved.