Review: The Man Who Sold America
The Book: 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, Harvard Business School Press, Hardcover, August 2010.
The provocative and fiercely competitive ad world portrayed in the Emmy-winning television series Mad Men has captivated critics and viewers alike. Mad Men offers viewers a nostalgic (but not idyllic) look back at a time when advertising and business was unchartered territory. Jeffrey L. Cruikshank and Arthur W. Schultz have written an equally engrossing book about a real-life Don Draper, The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (But True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century. Without hyperbole, it can be said Lasker near-single-handedly built the advertising industry.
From Lasker's early days of working in newspapers and his nervous breakdowns to his outspoken personality, alcohol abuse, political work, and reimagination of advertising (and making millions in the process), The Man Who Sold America has everything you'd expect in a sexy, glamorous TV show, but offers even more.
Through the book, we learn, alongside Lasker, what advertising is. An early meeting with John E. Kennedy revealed to Lasker that advertising is "Salesmanship in print." Lasker put this philosophy to use, creating "reason-why" advertising, pursuing untouched industries like women's sanitary products and revolutionizing cigarette sales which put him at the very top of the advertising game for many years—but not without a price. Along the way, he faced many challenges and intense failures, but Lasker persevered in the face of all adversity.
The Man Who Sold America is an interesting look at business through the brutally honest and turmoil-filled story of a man who had no interest of getting involved in the very industry he made millions in. Part biography and part inspiration (maybe success does indeed exist in the places we least expect it), The Man Who Sold America is about a man who relied on the power of ideas. Regardless of what industry you're in, reading this book makes you realize how ideas can change everything.
Reviewer Jack Covert is the founder of 800-CEO-READ, a leading bookseller to corporations and large organizations, based in Milwaukee.