The Arty Semite

An Advertising Pioneer Who Predicted Israel's Publicity Woes

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

Today, the name of pioneering advertising executive Albert Lasker is mostly associated with the Lasker Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports medical research. But as a forthcoming biography by Jeffrey Cruikshank and Arthur Schultz points out, Lasker himself was more likely to self-identify as a “propagandist” than as a philanthropist.

“The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Century” (Harvard Business Publishing) relates how Lasker engineered marketing campaigns for products ranging from Kleenex to Kotex and from Puffed Wheat to Puffed Rice. But as Cruickshank and Schultz remind us, Lasker was as much concerned about social issues as he was about profits, making his chosen description somewhat self-deprecatory.

Lasker’s many causes included a successful effort to block a presidential bid by the anti-Semitic car tycoon Henry Ford, and a tragically unsuccessful attempt to save the Atlanta pencil factory employee Leo Frank, a Texas-born Jew who was convicted of murder and lynched in 1915.

The ad man’s social activism increased with public service consultancies which he undertook following his Chicago advertising career. Among his recommendations was to change the name of the Birth Control Movement to Planned Parenthood, which “sounded more constructive and would meet with less public opposition.” As one friend observed: “From this Jewish thing that is in him, the deep thing with him is that he ought to do good in this world…A man has to justify his existence, and after all business didn’t really justify [Lasker’s] existence.”

His Jewish pride bloomed even more following the establishment of the State of Israel, and in 1950 he presciently noted that Israel “faced unique marketing challenges.” On a more upbeat note, he commented on Israel’s great generation of founding fathers (and mothers), noting that when a revolution occurs, it “gives opportunity for men who would have remained hidden, to rise. It’s because the times call, that these men of ability get chosen for leadership.”

For ability and leadership, Lasker, who died in 1952, was someone to remember.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Propaganda, Planned Parenthood, Books, Henry Ford, Jeffrey Cruikshank, Lasker Foundation, Leo Frank, Advertising, Albert Lasker, Arthur Schultz

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.