Famous Last Words: ROI Is Everything!
I wrote and published my first novel, “Cedarhurst Alley,” in the late 1960s. My publisher was a taciturn Vermonter named Paul S. Eriksson, who ran a two-person shop on West 57th Street in Manhattan. Paul had the inside office; Peggy, his wife, sat outside and kept the business running.
My second boss in the publishing business was an outrageously funny guy named Franklin Watts, a hard-drinking, hard-living, ex-traveling book salesman who started his own company and then, in a disastrous move, sold out to the encyclopedia giant, Grolier. When Watts was drinking, he slurred his words, and everybody was sure his mind was gone. But it wasn’t. The next day, Watts would be at the office, razor sharp, dictating memos and letters that related to everything that went on the previous night, which he remembered in precise detail.
Etched in Eriksson’s mind was the first time he met Watts. They were at a crowded New York cocktail party, and Eriksson told Watts he was going to start a small publishing company. Watts, who towered over Eriksson, said four words to him. “Profits! Always remember profits!”
Throughout the evening, every time they passed one another, Watts would waggle his finger at Eriksson and say, “Profits!”
Super Bowl Idiocy
Unlike many Super Bowls, the 2008 game—with the Giants scoring a huge upset in the last two minutes—was a nail-biting stunner, while the ads, for the most part, were a bore. “The only purpose of advertising,” wrote the 1920s practitioner Claude Hopkins, “is to make sales.” According to BusinessWeek, the telecast brought in $225 million in revenue to the Fox Network. Add in production costs of an estimated $25 million, and you’re looking at a quarter of a billion dollars being spent by big agencies, not to make sales, but rather to show off to other big agencies how wonderfully creative they are. Think of it: $250 million spent on one-upmanship!