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PUBLIX AD HEAD|
Tf the theory of pre-natal influence is tenable, then a doublebarrelled reason exists to explain the fact that A. M. Botsford is the most outstanding and capable chief of merchandising effort employed by any theatre organization in the industry. (Dear Serk: Nou let me tell one—AM.B.)
Grasp of the public in all its varying emotions, strata ‘and circumstances was so deeply inbred in A. M. Botsford, General Director of Publix Advertising, Publicity, Promotion, Merchandising and Public Relations, that it “aropped out in_the flesh’ at an early age.
His father, the late E. M. Botsford, was the editor and publisher of daily newspapers in Rockford, [ll., and Quincy, Ill., from the time of his graduation at Princeton in 1874 until. his death in 1908. That hectic period of Illinois history included all the chaos of the post-Civil War period, with all the multitude of bitter and dramatic political creeds that the growingpains of a pioneer state could pring into being. Mr. Botsford, Senior, could, and did, teach his son plenty.
In those days, editors toted pistols (plural) and newspaper readers thought nothing of murdering a reporter before stopping their subscriptions. Making a personal issue out of public community problems was the popular diversion. Under those circumstances, A. M. Botsford first saw the light of day. His primary and high school education was punctuated with daily periods as a printer’s apprentice, pressman’s aDp
prentice, sometime advertising copy-writer, salesman and ~ re= porter.
When his father sold the Rockford Register-Gazette, and established the Quincy Daily Herald, his son soon found that the sleepyappearing Mississippi river town of the old fashioned steam-boatin’ days was more turbulent and primitively human than anything he had ever heard or imagined. As a reporter, his daily grist of stories brought him in frequent daily contact with every kind of human emotion and reaction. As a small town reporter, he soon found that his experiences were of wider scope, and more intense, than would have been possible in a big town.
In Quincy he was the sporting editor, the murder-expert, the eourts reporter, and he_ also checked into and upon all the activities of the federal, state and city governments. In a big town, he would have spent his time specjalizing and writing about one of these activities, to the exclusion of all the others. But in the very nature of small town journalism, he picked up a vivid experience in a few years that could not have been possible elsewhere.
‘Felt’? Public Pulse
The joys, sorrows and impulses of thousands of people under nearly every conceivable circumstance became his own experience —even if it was second-hand by reportorial contact. He learned the “feel” of the gigantic public pulse, and he learned how to soothe or inflame, or amuse or educate that giant by writing in cadence with its heart-beats, as he had learned them by studying weeping mothers in gallows yards, or runaway flappers sobbing in jail matrons’ offices.
Bank presidents, generals, mayors, policemen, rich men, beggar men, doctors, lawyers, merchants and thieves; all added, through their happy or unhappy activities, to the fund of information and knowledge that Quincy’s boy reporter was storing up for later use in expertly selling theatre tickets on a national scale. He
learned to write “‘by ear,” but that} more was the star.
PUBLIX OPINION, WEEK OF JANUARY 3lst, 1930
BOTSFORD TRAINED BY NEWS
depend upon theirs.
our tasks enjoyable. an important part of its s
HOME OFFICE DEPARTMENTS
Here is the tenth of a series of stories about Publix Home Office Department personalities who depend upon your effort, just as you To know and understand each other’s personalities and problems will lighten the burdens of everyone, and make For this reason, PUBLIX OPINION is devoting pace to these brief biographical sketches.
A. M. BOTSFORD
Director of Advertising and Publicity
ear was keenly attuned to the
heartbeats of humanity.
This is indicated by a glimpse at some ancient clippings of his news and feature stories, written just before he passed. the entrance
‘requirements of Williams College,
where in four years he acquired a D. K. E. fraternity pin and a Bachelor of Arts degree. It also polished his thinking and writing style, and gave him a fondness for the theatre, to such extent that in his first year he participated in all of the college dramatic society activities. Became City Editor
He finished his college career as president of the student group of amateur actors, and returned to Quincy, where he became City Editor of the ‘‘Herald.”
Somehow, the drama of local real life had lost its appeal for him, and he yearned for the glamorous unrealities of the footlights. So, for a year, he studied in New York at the Sargent School of Drama.
“He proved an apt student, and found no difficulty in landing a job when he concluded his term. Frank Gilmore, now president of Equity, then in charge of the New Theatre Stock Company on the site of the present Century theatre, gave him a job as a second juvenile lead. He also played in dramatic stock in Buffalo, without arousing John Drew’s jealousy. Winthrop Ames accepted his services in Galsworthy’s “Pigeon” and so did Dillingham, who found use for his histrionic ability in two productions in which John Barry
was Barrymore’s understudy—and although the latter frequently reported for duty in various stages of indisposition, he never actually missed a performance, so Mr. Botsford never had a chance to let the public judge between them. Studied Audiences
Another season saw him, studying audiences in a show. with Florence Reed, and in_ those days — when there was such a thing as “‘the road’’ for ‘“Tegit”’ shows—Quincy was a one night stand. After giving the Home Town a chance to see him in all the glory of his actorhood, he spent that night on a welcome parental featherbed with a complete home-cooked meal tucked between his ribs, forgetting the pitcher-and-washbowl hotels. and day coaches on hick railroads. So Miss Reed and her troupe went on to Keokuk, where the clam-fishermen and employees of the button factory and C. B. & Q. railroad saw her with the entire original New York cast intact—except A. M. Botsford.
Mr. Botsford was otherwise engaged at the moment, writing up for the Quincy Herald, the account of Mrs. Sprudel’s _ buffcochins which had scratched up the sweet-peas in Mrs. Dewegap’s garden. It seems that this incident resulted in a spite-fence on the Sprudel-Dewgap property line, and was really the underlying motive in Junior Dewgap being the defendant before Justice of the Peace Elmer Miller. Ordinance Number 547 distinctly specifies against small boys using the ud
ders of neighborly milch-cows
Swope. you for a Man With a Mission!”’
for air-rifle targets, and a complaint particularly specified the Sprudel’s Jersey, yclept ‘Edna.’ That spite fence activity seemed to spread—and its ramifications almost became an industry in Quincy which threatenéd to absorb the entire Botsford literary output. Anyway, two years later, Old Grandpap Sprudel had set fire to the haymow of one of the Dewgap in-laws over on the other side of the town, near Persimmon street, and it was a hot day—the very day the Maccabees had their picnic. ‘Oh, For God’s Sake! “Ain’t This Ever Gonna End!” shouted Mr. Botsford when that Dewgap-Sprudel holocaust crowded the Maccabee Picnic PotatoRace awards off Page One. Being the one person in the Daily Herald office who knew all about the entire history of the Dewgap-Sprudel
,matter, it looked as though he’d
have to outlive all the Dewgaps and all the Sprudels in order to ever write about anything else. St. Louis Bound
The next day the “With the Stork” Editor reported that the latest batch of Sprudels brought in at least ten more Sprudel-Democrats. “I refuse to spend my life being the official historian of the lives and loves of the Sprudels and
Dewgaps!’’ young Mr. Botsford screamed when he heard of it. While Old Man Tucker, the exchange editor, polished his glasseye, aghast, the up-and-coming Mr. Botsford snatched up his hat, skidded over the tobacco-juice near the Personal-and-Society Editress’ desk—and made the C. C. Cc. & St. L. milk-local by a handhold, bound for St. Louis.
“I’m a reporter,” he breathless
ly exclaimed on arrival, to Herbert
Bayard Swope, who was then visiting old friends on the “St. Louis Globe-Democrat.”*
“My-yy God!” faltered Mr. “T would have mistaken
In penance he gave Mr. Botsford
a job some several thousand miles
away, on his own newspaper, the “New York World.”
He appeared on the weekly payroll of the ‘‘New York World” as a staff writer until 1917, by which time he gained the reputation on
that Democratic newspaper of hav
ing a most effective knack of writing accounts of the doings of the Republicans. Mr. Botsford’s writ
‘ing manners did not tamper with
the truth, nor did they leave much aid and comfort for the Republicans. He also became intimately acquainted, through personal interviews, with the moods and motives of as choice an assortment of scamps and heroes as paraded daily through the news-grist of one of America’s greatest daily newspapers. Drenching Magazines —
Scamps and heroes get tiresome, even on the basis of daily change of faces, so when John Flinn offered an opportunity for Mr. Botsford to use his showmanship and literary talents and understanding of the public mind, for the benefit of Paramount Pictures, Mr. Botsford took it, for better or worse. From 1917 until a few years later, the movie-fan magazines were drenched with picture layouts of Paramount stars, and stories about Why Wallie Reid Preferred Mauve Neckties. He even descended, or ascended, to the practice of digging up pie-recipes and palming them off as the favorite culinary passion of Marguerite Clark, et al.
“Bnough of this!” he shouted one day, when he was nearly starved to death in a Childs restaurant, while day-dreaming about pies like the ones he wrote about. “From now on, I’m going to be a man of honor.’ He made up his mind then and there, never to write any more pie stories.
The very next day, while wishing for pie-less pursuits, he was called in by Jerry Beatty, then Advertising Manager for Paramount. ‘Your stories about Petrova’s Blueberry Pies,” he said, “have caused a run on the blueberry mines of Afghanistan and Baluchistan. On account of the high protective Democratic tariff
on blueberries, America now faces a bull market on _ blue-berries, while our own native razzberry market is dying of starvation. The American Razzberry Producers and Distributors are up in arms as a result, and have petitioned Congress to close all theatres in retaliation, on Thursday. It looks like the exhibitors’ wrath will fall upon Paramount’s head as a result of what you started. Therefore, as of today, you’re promoted to be Assistant Advertising Manager, and we’ll get Russ Holman to do the fan-magazine stuff and boost American Razzberries as Gloria Swanson Loves ’Em!”’ Drafted by Publix
Whatever it was that they used to say in 1917, before that “Okay!’’ reply business set in, was the cheerful answer made by Mr. Botsford. He set to work writing press-book ads under Mr. Beatty’s direction. Later, when Mr. Beatty went to Hollywood, where he later emerged as the publicity chief for the Will Hays organization, Mr. Botsford was advanced to his job. When Publix was organized, Mr. Katz drafted him from Paramount with the reluctant consent of Messrs. Lasky, Kent, et al. Next July will round out thirteen years of his effective service in the livery of the Paramount-Publix organization, during which time none of his assistants ever called him ‘“‘chief’’ to his face.
“In getting into theatre operation I found that I had to completely change the viewpoints I held while working in the distribution department. The scope of theatre operation was so much larger, and more intense, that the experience proved more interesting than anything I had ever known,” reminisced Mr. Botsford.. ‘The expansion of the circuit from 250 theatres to nearly 1200 was accomplished swiftly, but the Advertising and Publicity Department of Publix kept pace with the break-neck speed, without much complaint, and a few bouquets.
Old Type Passes
“In the five years of Publix’ existence, I have witnessed the passing of the old circus type of press-agentry, and of the dishonest press-agent. Publix, and Paramount, perhaps, have had more to do with the development of sane merchandising and selling of theatre product than any other influence in the business, due to the
policies formulated by Messrs. Zu
kor, Lasky, Kent, Katz and Dembow, and rigorously carried out by the entire army of ParamountPublix showmen.
“Merchandising of theatre prod| uct is a legitimate business now, |
and has been for some time. Today, more than ever, the value of newspaper display advertising is recognized as the mainstay of the job of selling tickets. This opens the field to legitimate writers and thinkers and businessmen, and automatically eliminates most of the merchandising trickery that for decades clouded show business. There is a very strong drift away from outdoor advertising today, because of the knowledge that newspapers, supplemented by radio, do the job more effectively. In my opinion, directed sales appeal on a national scale should be made in the proportion of 85 per cent in English language daily newspapers and 10 per cent on screen-trailers and theatre fronts. Radio effort, I think, sells four per cent of the tickets and the other one per cent covers all other media.”
‘“‘Are you sorry you didn’t stay in the acting business?’’ your Editor asked Mr. Botsford, who just then was trying to make the company’s contractual obligations with a vainglorious male singingstar fit into the dictates of effective theatre advertising practice.
“Why bring that up?’ he moranandmacked, closing an interview which reflected the quiet, modest affability, the quick penetrating humor and the shrewd but indulgent insight into human foibles which make him the ablest yet most popular Boss Advertising Man in the amusement industry.