Transcript: Morality of Marketing, Jan 22 2007

Thom said the following after his interview with Frank Luntz, in which he pressed Luntz on how he justified to himself the purposes to which he puts his techniques, for example the "death tax" frame.

The Morality of Marketing 22 January 2007

Thom said the following after his interview with Frank Luntz, in which he pressed Luntz on how he justified to himself the purposes to which he puts his techniques, for example the "death tax" frame.

I wrote about this in a book I wrote probably a decade ago called "The Prophet's Way", which was largely about a path in the forest in Germany called "the Prophet's Way". It wasn't, you know, me calling myself a prophet or anything about prophecy, but nonetheless, probably therefore wasn't the best title in the world for a book. But I wrote about this experience back in 1977. I was a partner in an ad agency in Michigan and working also for the American marketing centers teaching advertising and marketing around the country; workshops and seminars and doing consulting work.

And one of the jobs that we got - our largest client; we were a small company, and our largest client was one of the largest breakfast food manufacturers in the United States and one of the jobs that we got that paid very, very well was to write, design and produce a little booklet that went out to millions of schoolchildren all across America. Maybe tens of millions or hundreds of millions, I don't know; I mean; some huge number that was scientifically entirely accurate, titled "Sugar, the essential nutrient".

And they gave me the research. Yeah, if you go into hypoglycemia if your blood sugar drops too low you can die. You know, sugar is an essential nutrient. Now, you know, it didn't mention that it'll rot your teeth and that the main way that people get sugar is by ingesting complex carbohydrates which are broken down by the body in a normal slow, gradual process. None of that, but, you know, anyhow, I wrote this thing and it went out. And my rationalization for the first couple of weeks after I finished was that "Hey, it's the truth" and they paid a lot of money and we had a four year old kid at the time and another one on the way and we needed the money, and, you know, blah-de-blah. I had all these rationalizations and it just finally broke down.

And I looked at that booklet that I had written and I just thought, you know, "This is the point where I get to decide, where I have to decide and it's already too late in a certain way because I did it; where I have to decide who I am and what I'm all about.

And so in March of 1978 I got a call from a friend of mine who was one of the Vice Presidents of Holiday Inns at the time, Don Haughey, and he was in Germany visiting this social welfare organization; a program that had everything from hospitals to programs for abused kids, you know, just a whole bunch of stuff around the world. And he called up and he said you've got to come over here and meet this amazing man, Gottfried Müller. Plus they need some help. They need somebody who knows advertising.

And so on the next day and literally the day after I had just, I literally said a prayer, you know, God give me something else to do, you know, I'm done with this. Hopped on a plane, went to Germany; was so impressed by what these people did. Put together a campaign for them. They came to the United States with an orchestra of 34 kids from this community for abused children in Germany. We set it up, they played the Lincoln Center, they played the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, they played Kennedy Center. Ted, I met with Ted Kennedy; he gave us a check for the organization. We met with Andrew Young's wife, Jean Young who was the head of the International Year of the Child. This was 1978; it was the International Year of the Child.

Herr Müller, the founder of the organization, spoke before the United Nations. He's now 93 years old; he's still alive. He's mostly the subject of my book, "The Prophet's Way".

And, when it was all done in March of 1978 we were sitting at the Watergate Hotel at this gala dinner; a fundraiser that had been thrown for us by Celeste Holme and Maestro Rostipovich. And I said, "You know, I'm not going to bill you for the ad agency work that we did, it was tens of thousands of dollars worth of work that we'd done, and, you know, I've had more fun doing this, this is just absolutely great.

And Herr Müller turned to me, and Louise was there with me. In fact, I'd flown home during the middle of this to deliver my son and she was there with our middle child, nursing him at the table. He was like two weeks old, a week and a half old, and he turns to me and says, "Why don't you sell your advertising business and do something worthwhile with your life? Join us". And I turned to Louise and I said, "What do you think?" And she was like, "That's fine with me". And I thought back to that "Sugar: the essential nutrient brochure" and I said, "You got it. We'll do it". And we moved to New Hampshire, we sold the ad business, or I sold my part of it and moved to New Hampshire. We bought 130 acres of land on a 2,000 acre lake and created what is now one of New England's better communities for abused kids and schools for ADHD kids. And I'm just wondering, you know, what motivates people in that industry to do or not do things.

Can Trump get away with normalizing a coup?

Thom plus logo One of the big lessons that Donald Trump has learned through his years at the center of the New York tabloid media is that he can normalize just about anything.

When he was getting bad press because he was having an affair on his first wife, for example, he called newspapers pretending to be his own assistant to say that Marla Maples was astonished with "the best sex ever." It changed the entire newspaper narrative, and Trump proved to himself one more time that he can normalize just about anything.
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to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."
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