Looking Back at Industry Legends

NEW YORK An industry constantly in search of the latest trend, hottest new medium and the next big campaign paused to look back this afternoon at Advertising Week. Four former chief executives on a “Legends of Madison Avenue” panel reminisced about their onetime bosses who helped make advertising great: Albert Lasker, Leo Burnett, David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach.

Hal “Cap” Adams, former chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett, spoke of his former boss’ LPI, the Lip Protrusion Index, a device by which staffers measured how much Burnett liked or disliked their work. “The more he disliked the stuff, out came the lower lip. And if you had an LPI of 10, boy you were in trouble,” Adams said.

The LPI was symbolic of Burnett’s dedication to producing quality work, Adams said. Burnett demanded, “Everyone in that joint turn out the very best product they could.”

For Ogilvy & Mather’s David Ogilvy, that product was meant to sell, sell, sell, said Ken Roman, former chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather. Ogilvy, a champion of research, learned the importance of sales as a door-to-door oven salesman in Scotland, said Roman. “No sale, no commission. No commission, no eat. That stuck with me,” Roman quoted Ogilvy as saying.

Ogilvy believed creative awards were corrupting agency product, and he created the David Ogilvy Award for the biggest sales increase to come out of a campaign in order to refocus his staffers on sales. The cape wearing, Rolls Royce-driving Ogilvy was “unimpressed with the creative revolution of the 1970s,” and was heard to have said, ‘There is a disease called entertainment that’s afflicting our industry,’ ” Roman said.

Bill Bernbach would have respectfully disagreed, said Bob Kuperman, former president and CEO of DDB New York. “His point of view on research was that everyone could figure out what you said. The point of difference was how you said it. The genius was really in the how,” Kuperman said.

Albert Lasker, who began his career in advertising as a trainee in the mailroom of Lord & Thomas and eight years later owned the company, believed the genius of advertising was making money, said Arthur Shultz. Shultz, former chairman and CEO of Foote Cone & Belding, is at work on a biography of Lasker, a multi-millionaire known to have thrown lavish three-day parties during the depth of the depression. Lasker’s greatest ambition was to make money and he did, for Colgate, Goodyear and Palmolive, among others.

Lasker drove his employees hard. One remarked that he had given Lasker 20 years of his life in 10 years. “He told his employees, ‘Don’t worry about making money for Lord & Thomas. I’ll take care of that. Make money for Lord & Thomas’ clients … and our volume will take care of itself,’ ” Schultz said.