Obvious Adams – Chapter 5

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At three o’clock Adams was summoned to the president’s office.

“Mr. Adams,” said Mr. Oswald, as he sat down, “the Golden Brown Cake Company is back with us, and with us strong. They say the plan looks good to them. So we are off for another campaign. Now I want you to take this material up to Mr. Howland and go over it with him. I have told him about it, and he is just as pleased as I to think you have done it. I have told him to go over the copy with you. It is good copy, very good, but it is rough in spots, as you doubtless realize, and Mr. Howland can help you polish it up. Don’t let this give you a swelled head, though, young man. It takes more than one battle to make a campaign.”

Adams was treading on air when he left the president’s office, but after he had talked with the copy chief for an hour he was back on earth again, for he saw that there was much to be done before the copy would be fit to print. However, his main ideas were to be followed out.

They all agreed with him in his contention that people ought to taste the cake, and that to supply grocers with sample slices wrapped in oiled paper fresh every day for three weeks, to give to their customers, was a good idea; that his idea of showing the cake in natural colors in the street-car cards where it would, as he expressed it, “make people’s mouths water,” was a good move; that giving up their old green package in favor of a tempting cake-brown carton with rich dark-brown lettering would make for better display and appeal to the eye and the appetite. Some of these things Adams had learned back in the little New England grocery-store, and they seemed to him perfectly natural things to do. They seemed so to Mr. Oswald and Mr. Howland and all the rest when they heard the plan, and every one of them wondered why he had not thought of them.

Before the first week of the sampling campaign was up the sales had begun to show a substantial increase, and at the end of a month the Golden Brown Cake Company reported an increase of nearly thirty percent in their business in what was ordinarily the dullest month of the year. And that marked the beginning of one of the most successful local campaigns the Oswald Agency ever conducted.

Yes, the copy was simple—almost homely, in fact—but it had the flavor of the old New England kitchen on baking-day, and it told of the clean, sunny bakery where Golden Brown Cakes were baked. In fact, it told it all so simply that it is entirely probable that it would have been turned down flat had not the previous campaign failed.

Several months later there was a very important conference in the front office of the Oswald Advertising Agency. The officers of the Monarch Hat Company—it wasn’t hats, but I dare not tell you what it was, and hats will do for the purpose of the story—were closeted with the president and the copy chief. Conversation, sales reports, and cigar smoke were consumed in about equal parts for nearly three hours.

It seemed that the Monarch Hat Company had two retail stores in a large Southern city; that one of these stores was paying, though the other ran behind steadily. They did not want to abandon either store, for the city was large enough to support two stores, but they could not afford to go on losing. Already they had sunk hundreds of dollars in a special advertising campaign—which made the prospering store prosper even more, but did not pull the unprofitable store out of the loss column. Something had to be done, and done quickly.

The conference had lasted until nearly lunch-time, but nothing had come out of it. Every plan that was suggested had either been tried or was impracticable.

“Well, gentlemen,” said Mr. Oswald at last, “we have spent three hours talking about what ought to be done, whereas it strikes me that our first job is to find out what is the matter. Will you give me two weeks to find out what the matter is, and then meet for another conference?”

They were all hungry; they were talked out; yes, they would agree.

“What’s your idea?” asked the copy chief, after the crowd had left.

Mr. Oswald looked at him quite seriously. “Howland, I’m going to gamble. If I could spare the time I’d go down there myself and investigate, but I can’t. The Monarch people need never know about it, but we are going to send a boy down to that burg to see if he can find out what’s the matter.”

“You don’t mean—”

“Yes, we’re going to send young Adams. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is something obviously wrong in that situation— something that has nothing to do with sales reports or turn-over—and if there is, by cracky ! I’ll gamble that plain, every-day young man will ferret it out. ‘ Obvious ‘ seems to be his middle name! Maybe I’m a fool, but I’m going to try it.”

“Adams,” said the president, as that young man stood before him, “the Monarch Hat Company has two stores in——. One of them is paying and the other is not. I want you to go down there and find out— without asking, mind you—which of the stores is not paying, and then I want you to find out why. Get some expense money from the cashier and leave in the morning. Come back when you feel reasonably sure you know the answer.”

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