- Historic Sites
The Personal Reminiscences Of Albert Lasker
December 1954 | Volume 6, Issue 1
Kennedy left us, for what reason I do not know, and I went on as best I could with the momentum of what I had learned from him and of what the others had learned. We were also learning lessons from the results we were getting.
A client, Frank Van Camp of the Van Camp Packing Company of Indianapolis, was the first man in the world to put soups into cans—the first man in the world to put spaghetti into cans. He was a large advertiser for those days. I think he spent $15,000 or $20,000 a year.
He became interested, instead of merely having us place his advertising, in having us do salesmanshipin-print advertising. However, he knew that Kennedy had left at just that time. He said, “I want you to get me a man who will be at least as good as Kennedy.”
I knew there was a man who was even better than Kennedy at writing copy—Claude C. Hopkins. In fact, I can say today in looking back that he was the greatest copy writer who ever lived. There was no one during his time who was comparable to him, and no one living today is comparable to him.
He had done free-lance work for Schlitz beer, and he had always done wonderful work for them. The thing which put Schlitz into first place was a campaign he ran for them—that every bottle was sterilized and you got only pure beer in Schlitz.
Schlitz had been a poor second to Anheuser-Busch, and for a while, under the impetus of that campaign which made them one of the largest if not the largest of advertisers, they went into first place. The advertising was very sharp advertising. It made an impression on everyone—that here was absolutely pure beer, as every bottle was sterilized in live, steam heat.
Hopkins told me this story. The Uhleins, who were the owners of the Schlitz brewery, wanted him to write their advertising, and they took him through their plant. They personally conducted him through the place. They showed him every operation in the plant, and he wasn’t impressed by anything until they brought him to a room full of steam where the bottles were being mechanically washed in steam.
They hurried through the room and said nothing. He asked them, “What is this process?”
They said, “This is the room where we sterilize the bottles in live steam to prevent germs.”
“Oh,” he said, “that’s most interesting.”
“There’s nothing to this. Every brewery does this. We’re not the only one. No brewery could exist without doing this to their bottles.”
He said nothing to them, but when he submitted the campaign, it was only around that. In no place did he say that every brewery did not do it. He merely stated specifically that Schlitz did it. That message, which was a salesmanship-in-print message, made such a terrific impression on the public that Schlitz beer grew by leaps and bounds, as if a magic wand had been put over the firm.
It was that campaign, among others, which made me know that Hopkins was the outstanding man of my time. I also knew that he was a man of great wealth, which he had made in a patent medicine business.
At the time Mr. Van Camp asked me to get someone. Mr. Hopkins had retired.
Mr. Hopkins and I had a mutual friend who was the head of a chain of drug stores in Chicago. I knew that Mr. Hopkins had an interest in that chain, so I went to my friend and told him my problem with Mr. Van Camp.
My friend said, “Look. From what you tell me, first, Hopkins knows much more about advertising than you do. Second, he can buy and sell you. But, yes, I think there is a basis on which you can get him. He’s a very, very tight man. He hates to part with money. He came from a family of poverty, and the mark never left him. His wife wants an electric automobile.”
If I remember rightly, electric automobiles cost around $2,000 or $2,500.
He said, “His wife has been begging him to get her an electric machine.” A big share of the cars sold at that time in the cities were electric, storage battery automobiles, which one could drive. They represented a handsome percentage of the business. “He won’t buy it for her. I’ll take you to lunch, and I’ll bring it around. Two things, I think, may play in such a way that you can induce him to write this campaign for you.
“One, he doesn’t want to feel that he’s working for money any more. Much as he cares for money, he’s become disgusted with business.
“Second, if you say that you wouldn’t pay him—because you know that no money could pay him—but that you would give his wife an electric automobile, I think you might induce him to do it.”
We met, and he accepted the proposal. He and I remained together for seventeen years! From that day on, he devoted his full time to me. I just enticed him into it. He was the greatest teacher of advertising and the greatest writer of advertising we ever had.
Kennedy had laboriously, through great intellectual processes, worked out his system. It was very difficult for him to apply it. He worked out the principle, but he lacked flair.
Hopkins was just born with it—inspiration.
I often had this experience with Hopkins. He would go to see a client. In 24 hours he would have the answer that could, and often did, quadruple their earnings—even increase them by eight times. Within 48 hours he would write a campaign which would run a year.
I’d always have to hold it back for perhaps six weeks before I’d show it to the clients, because they wouldn’t believe enough thought had been put into it if I gave it to them as soon as he finished it.