Obvious Adams – Chapter 7

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“How’d you like to go out and talk to these people, Adams?” asked Mr. Oswald, with a quizzical smile, handing him the letter. He liked to try out new combinations of men and jobs.

“Oh, I’d like to,” said Adams, his face lighting up with pleasure at the thought of such a mission.

“Then go, and good luck to you,” said the chief, and he turned and plunged into the last-minute details of departure.
Adams went the next morning. The paper-mill president asked him if he thought bond paper could be advertised successfully. Adams replied that he couldn’t tell until he knew more about the mill and the product. He had to have the facts.

He was given a guide, and for the next two days he fairly wallowed in paper. He found that this mill’s paper was made of selected white rags; that the purest filtered water was used in the making; that it was dried in a clean loft; and, most surprising of all, it was gone over sheet by sheet and inspected by hand. These things weren’t known in those days, and Adams saw great possibilities for advertising.

The third day he spent in his hotel room laying out some tentative advertisements. These he took with him late in the afternoon and went to call on the president. The president looked them over and grunted. Plainly he was disappointed. Adams’s heart sank; he was going to fail on his first selling trip. But not without a fight.

The president rocked back and forth in his chair for a few minutes. “Young man,” he said, finally, “every good bond paper is made of carefully selected rags” quoting from the advertisement in his hand; “every good bond paper is made with pure filtered water; every good bond paper is loft-dried; all good papers are hand inspected. I didn’t need to get an advertising man from New York to tell me that. What I wanted was some original ideas. Every one knows these things about bond paper.”

“Why, is that so?” said Adams. “I never knew that! Our agency controls the purchase of many thousands of dollars’ worth of bond papers every year, yet I venture to say that not a single man in our organization knows much about paper-making, excepting that good paper is made of rags. You see, Mr. Merritt, we aren’t any of us paper-makers, and no one has ever told us these things. I know there is nothing clever about these advertisements.

They are just simple statements of fact. But I honestly believe that the telling of them in a simple, straightforward way as qualities of your paper, month after month, would in a comparatively short time make people begin to think of yours as something above the ordinary among papers. You would be two or three years at least ahead of your competitors, and by the time they got round to advertising, your paper would already be entrenched in the public mind. It would be almost a synonym for the best in bond paper.”

Mr. Merritt was evidently impressed by the logic of Adams’s argument, yet he hesitated.

“But we should be the laughing-stock of all the paper-makers in the country if they saw us come out and talk that way about our paper, when all of the good ones make their paper that way.”

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John