The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century

The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century

by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, Arthur W. Schultz


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, December 18


We're living in the Age of Persuasion. Leaders and organizations of all kinds--public and private, large and small--fulfill their missions only by competing in the marketplace of images and messages. To win in that marketplace, they need advertising. This has been true since the advent of mass media, from mass-circulation magazines and radio through the age of television and the Internet.

Yet even as they use advertising to capture consumers' imaginations and build their brands, few people know of the ingenious and tormented man who built the modern advertising industry and shaped a new consumer sensibility as the twentieth century unfolded: Albert D. Lasker.

Drawing on a recently uncovered trove of Lasker's papers, Jeffrey Cruikshank and Arthur Schultz have written a fascinating biography of one of the past century's most influential, intriguing, troubled, and instructive figures. Lasker's creative and powerful use of "reason-why" advertising to inject ideas and arguments into ad campaigns had a profound impact on modern advertising, foreshadowing the consumer-centered "unique selling proposition" approach that dominates the industry today. His tactics helped launch or revitalize companies and brands that remain household names--including Palmolive, Goodyear, and Quaker Oats.

As Lasker rose in prominence, he went beyond consumer products to apply his brilliance to presidential politics, government service, and professional sports, changing the game wherever he went, and building a vast fortune along the way. But his intensity had a price--he was felled by mental breakdowns throughout his life. This book also tells the story of how he fought back with determination and with support from family and friends in an age when lack of effective treatment doomed most mentally ill people.

The Man Who Sold America is a riveting account of a man larger than life, who shaped not only an industry but also a century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781591393085
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Publication date: 08/12/2010
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About 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.

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 Lasker—a 43-year-old advertising executive from Chicago who had temporarily transformed himself into a Washington bureaucrat—this 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.

For example:
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 & Thomas—which 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 sufferer—one who was a little farther down the road to recovery—comforting.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Orator and the Entrepreneur
Chapter 2: The Galveston Hothouse
Chapter 3: Success in Chicago
Chapter 4: Salesmanship in Print
Chapter 5: Growing Up, Breaking Down
Chapter 6: The Greatest Copywriter
Chapter 7: Orange Juice and Raisin Bread
Chapter 8: Fighting for Leo Frank
Chapter 9: Into the Tomato Business
Chapter 10: Saving Baseball from Itself
Chapter 11: Venturing into Politics
Chapter 12: Electing a President
Chapter 13: The Damnedest Job in the World
Chapter 14: A Family Interlude
Chapter 15: A Defeat and Two Victories
Chapter 16: Selling the Unmentionable, and More
Chapter 17: Retrenching and Reshaping
Chapter 18: Selling and Unselling California
Chapter 19: The Downward Spiral
Chapter 20: Changing a Life
Chapter 21: Finding Peace
Chapter 22: The Lasker Legacy
A Note on Primary Sources
About the Author

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
NellieMc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating biography of a marketing guru who defined much of the window through which we looked at 20th century America. One wonders whether, given the rapidity of communications and information,, whether it will be possible in the future for one person to have such an influence. Well worth reading.
TheAgencyReview More than 1 year ago
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]