Obvious Adams – Chapter 3

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“That night on the way home I thought it over again. One sentence stuck in my memory: ‘I want to get into the advertising business and I want to work for you, and I thought the obvious thing to do was to come and tell you so.’

“It all struck me in a heap: How many of us have sense enough to see and do the obvious thing? And how many of us have persistency enough in following out our ideas of what is obvious? The more I thought of it the more convinced I became that in our organization there ought to be some place for a lad who had enough sense to see the obvious thing to do and then to go about it directly, without any fuss or fireworks, and do it!

“And by George, the next morning I sent for that lad and gave him a job checking up and filing periodicals.”
That was twenty years ago. Today Oliver B. Adams is the vice- president and active head of the great Oswald Advertising Agency. Old Oswald comes to the office once or twice a week and has a chat with Adams, and of course he always attends directors’ meetings, but otherwise Adams is the head of the business.

It all happened naturally enough, and it all came about through that ” darned obviousness,” as old man Oswald good-naturedly characterizes it.

Before Adams had been working at his checking and filing job a month he went to his boss and suggested a change in the method of doing the work. His boss heard him through and then asked him what was to be gained. Adams told him that it would save about a quarter of the time and handling, and errors would be almost impossible. The change was simple and he was told to go ahead.

After the new plan had been in operation three months he went to his boss again and told him that the new plan worked so well that a girl at two-thirds of his salary could take care of his work, and wasn’t there something better for him? He said he noticed that the copy staff had to work nights, and he wondered if they didn’t have so much work for the future that they could start in to train up a new man. The boss smiled and told him to go on back to his work. ” You are no John Wanamaker.”

Back he went, but also he began to write copy during his spare time. The copy rush was on account of a big campaign for the California Peach Canners’ Association. Adams proceeded to study up on the subject of peaches. He thought, studied, dreamed, and ate peaches, fresh, canned, and pickled. He sent for government bulletins. He spent his evenings studying canning.

One day he sat at his little desk in the checking department putting the finishing touches on an advertisement he had written and laid out. The copy chief came in to ask him for the back number of a certain paper that was in the files. Adams went to get it, leaving the advertisement on top of his desk. The copy chief’s eye fell on it as he stood waiting.

“Six Minutes From Orchard to Can” was the heading. Then there were lay-outs for pictures illustrating the six operations necessary in canning the peaches, each with a little heading and a brief description of the process:

Picked ripe from the trees.
Sorted by girls in clean white uniforms.
Peeled and packed into the cans by sanitary machines. Cooked by clean live steam.
Sealed air-tight.
Sent to your grocer for you—at 30 cents the can.

The copy chief read the ad through and then he read it through again. When Adams got back to his desk the copy chief–Howland by name –was gone. So was the advertisement. In the front office Howland was talking with the president, and they were both looking at an ad lay-out on the president’s desk.

“I tell you, Mr. Oswald, I believe that lad has the making of a copy man. He’s not clever—and goodness knows we have too many clever men in the shop already—but he seems to see the essential points and he puts them down clearly. To tell the truth, he has said something that we up-stairs have been trying to say for a week, and it has taken us three half-page ads to say it. I wish you’d apprentice that boy to me for a while. I’d like to see what’s in him.”

“By George! I’ll do it,” agreed Mr. Oswald. Whereupon he sent for Adams’s boss.

“Could you get along without Adams, Mr. Wilcox?” he asked.

Mr. Wilcox smiled. ” Why, yes, I guess so. He told me the other day that a girl at two-thirds his salary could do his work.”

“All right; send him up to Mr. Howland.”

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