Cigarettes, tampons and orange juice: why Albert Lasker is the OG of modern advertising.

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Albert Lasker, the man many consider to be the greatest adman of all time (after maybe David Ogilvy), got his start sweeping floors at an advertising agency in Chicago called Lord & Thomas.

Those who walked the floors he swept soon discovered that Lasker was a broom boy with some serious sales chops.

Fourteen years after shooing away dust, he would climb his way up the ranks of Lord & Thomas and go on to own the agency.

“Started from the bottom now we’re here.”

During Lasker’s time in advertising, he stayed busy…

He changed American culture by selling Lucky Strike cigarettes to women (at the time smoking was considered unladylike).

He introduced sex education in public schools so young women could better understand puberty and menstruation (selling an absurd amount of Kotex tampons in the process).

And, finally, he invented orange juice (or at the very least popularized the beverage) after California Orange growers had such an oversupply of oranges that they started chopping down trees.

Let’s riff a bit on the latter.

I dedicated an entire article to Albert Lasker’s campaign with a company called Sunkist here.

But, in short…

In the 1900s, Lasker did some brainstorming with Sunkist oranges on increasing the number of oranges Americans ate each day.

He realized that the average glass of orange juice required 2–3 oranges (about triple the amount Americans were consuming at the time).

So, Lasker designed and manufactured an orange juice extractor and sold it for ten cents along with a great big bundle of oranges.

And, with it, he gave birth to the “Drink an Orange” campaign.

Salesmanship in print.

Not unlike most admen, Lasker had serious opinions on advertising. He believed that advertising was first and foremost “Salesmanship in print”.

A line that reminds me a ton of Ogilvy’s iconic quote… “ It’s not creative unless it sells.

While Lasker had a tremendous impact on pop-culture and modern advertising, he never lost sight of his responsibility as an adman… to move product.

Marketers and advertisers get hung up here.

(Myself included.)

Being that marketing and advertising lean heavily on both words and imagery, you find a lot of Picassos in the business but few who really, truly, know how to sell.

What I respect about Lasker is that while he was creative in his ideas, he realized they were a means to an end.

The sex education classes, the orange juicer, the popularization of smoking cigarettes… it was all to move more tampons and oranges and cigarettes.

Perhaps, this is a good way to measure creativity in marketing and advertising…

Make sure the prettiness moves product.

Otherwise, paint over it and try again.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.

P.S. I don’t necessarily agree with Lasker’s decision in advertising cigarettes. In this article, I more or less removed the grey area and took an objective look at the effectiveness of his advertising.

You gotta check this out — Sticky Notes is my email list reserved strictly for entrepreneurs and creatives looking to sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.

Originally published at on June 24, 2020.

Written by

I write pretty words and sometimes sell things.

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