Monday, September 25, 2006

The Penalty of Leadership

"In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man's work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be mediocre, he will be left severely alone - if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious, continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountback, long after the big would had acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his boat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy - but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as human passions - envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains - the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live--lives
." Theodore F. MacManus

MacManus was a rock star copywriter for General Motors. The text above his most famous writing. MacManus wrote the above "ad" for Cadillac. It ran once, with no illustration and wide margins of white space around the text, in the January 2, 1915 edition of Saturday Evening Post. The ad changed everything for Cadillac without mentioning the brand or the competition (Packard). Thirty years after the ad ran the trade Printers' Ink asked readers to name the greatest ad of all time. The Penalty of Leadership won first by a giant margin. When Ad Age created their Best 100 ads of all time list, in the late 1990s, the ad placed in the top half. MacManus would become known as the Claude Hopkins of soft sell.

Howie's dirty little secret: 2.7 million? That's the back of the envelope math on Stern's weekly listenership. Scott Greenstein of Sirius claims 58% of his 4.7mil subs listen during the week. (Without the benefit of Greenstein's further claim that about two people per sub listen) Are Howie's ad rates in free fall? More via Ad Age here. My challenge to Mel stands: show us your numbers or shut up already. (btw, if the numbers were any good at all it's a safe bet Mel would be wallpapering buyers, consumer and trade press with releases)

In Dallas last week for NAB Radio and R&R. Lots to share, later.


Anonymous said...

Hello from David L. Martin :-)

I read your blog using my rss news feed.

Anonymous said...


Your blog rocks! Thank you so much for sharing the brilliant writing of MacManus. A CLASSIC! Forgotten I had come across that one doing my grad work a decade ago. Printed and added to my growing collection of greatest-of-all-time adverts. Cheers! K. Ryan