Sex, Lies, Advertising

They didn’t get a comedian or a well-known personality to make a special appearance at a recent J. Walter Thompson worldwide management conference in Germany. Instead, JWT got Markus Wolf, the retired head of international intelligence gathering for Stasi, the former East Germany’s Ministry for State Security. After all, who better to provide “a taste of Berlin,” as one attendee pointed out.

David Lamb, the agency’s worldwide planning director, didn’t ask Wolf, 79, to reveal state secrets. He simply wanted the former spy’s methods on identifying liars. The Stasi used lie-detector tests and “other things,” Wolf replied, without elaborating. Hmm. North American president Bob Jeffrey asked how close we came to nuclear war when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961. Not very close, said Wolf, who cited the Cuban missile crisis as a greater threat. Another executive, possibly interested in learning what his competitors are up to, wanted to know how spies are recruited. Primarily through sex, said Wolf. But not with Americans, he added, for whom money “worked best.”

Ah, something ad execs could relate to. As one deadpanned, “Some things never change—in espionage and advertising.”