Billy, Tom and Ted Go Viral

Posted by on February 3, 2014

Beagle_Hearst_532We could call this memo, “The Poodle and The Vamp, Part Two,” but we won’t. No one likes the sequel quite so much as they liked the original.

Talent isn’t rare. Our world overflows with worthy talent that continues day-to-day unrecognized. I’ll wager that you possess such talent.

There is something you’re capable of doing, I’ll bet, that could make you famous around the world. Your fame might even happen in a whoosh, the way it did for Billy, Tom, and Ted.

Billy Graham started preaching in 1947. In 1949, Billy set up a circus tent in Los Angeles, certainly not the first to do so. So there he was, night after night, just another preacher with a tent, when two words forever altered the trajectory of his life: “Puff Graham.”

William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper mogul who inspired the movie, Citizen Kane, sent that unexplained, 2-word telegram to every editor at every newspaper he owned in America. The next day, papers from coast to coast were glowing with stories about this Christian minister. Hearst never told the papers to quit puffing Graham.

And they never did.

In his book, Just as I Am, Billy Graham says he never learned why Hearst took an interest in him. “Hearst and I did not meet, talk by phone, or correspond as long as he lived.”

Billy Graham was, and is, remarkably talented. But so are 10,000 other ministers.

Every poodle needs a vamp.

“Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman in Maryland when, in the early nineteen-eighties, he wrote a book, ‘The Hunt for Red October,’ that Ronald Reagan, with a handsome public mention, turned into a best-seller. Clancy’s career took off like, well, like one of his rockets. Too nearsighted to serve in the armed forces, Clancy, who kept a tank on his front lawn, was a military fantasist whose end-is-nigh concoctions spawned a franchise…”
– David Denby, The New Yorker, Jan. 20, 2014, p. 78

Reagan played vamp for Tom Clancy just as Hearst did for Billy Graham.

But what about Teddy Roosevelt? Wasn’t he one of the most popular and beloved presidents in the history of the United States?

Nope. Not really. His policies and decisions were as hotly debated as those of Barack Obama today. We think of Roosevelt as “one of the great ones” primarily because his monumental face watches over America from Mount Rushmore along with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, the undisputed big boys of American history.

Roosevelt’s vamp was Gutzon Borglum.

Borglum was not commissioned by the government to create Mount Rushmore. It was a private work begun by a private individual.

And that individual was a buddy of Ted Roosevelt back when Teddy was still alive. Roosevelt had been gone for only 8 years when Borglum began his carving.

If Gutzon Borglum was only just now beginning to carve that granite in South Dakota, he might chose Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Carter because Gutzon answered to no one but himself.

That is the power of a vamp.

Do you believe in someone? Vamp for them.

The Wizard of Ads partners are known throughout the Engish-speaking world because we have agreed upon a covenant: Never boast of your own accomplishments but only those of your partners.

“You vamp for me. I’ll vamp for you.”

It’s called “third party credibility,” or at least it used to be. Today they call it “feedback,” “comments” and “customer reviews.”

Billy, Tom and Ted went viral before it had a name. But one thing remains the same: A poodle needs a vamp.

Every business is a poodle.
Every ad writer is a vamp.

How good is yours?

Roy H. Williams

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