by Gary Hicks
“a most impressive piece of research” Sir Bernard Ingham
“a terrific read, excellently researched, taking you down byways you hardly knew existed and all the time linking with the present day.” Amazon reviewer
The First Adman reveals the untold story of how modern advertising was pioneered 200 years ago by the entrepreneur, self-publicist and dodgy Member of Parliament, Thomas Bish. Royalty and politicians courted this early media star and society figure, who was one of the best-known men in the land and allegedly more famous than the prime minister himself.
Bish’s promotional creativity helped the old state lottery raise the equivalent of £2 billion for good causes, also bringing him great wealth. Hiring the essayist Charles Lamb as a copywriter and George Cruikshank to illustrate his advertisements, Bish professionalised ad campaigns. Techniques he pioneered include spin doctoring, graphic design, modern typography, direct marketing, and even early market research. Unfortunately his talents did not prevent him from being expelled from both the Stock Exchange and the House of Commons.
Drawing on previously inaccessible contemporary sources, Gary Hicks resurrects the Bish brand, as famous in its day as Coca-Cola is today, and explains how it started a publicity revolution. This is an entertaining and rollicking tale of an eccentric marketing genius whose extraordinary legacy survives in modern mass media.
Gary Hicks is a former political reporter who later ‘spun’ for global corporations and the UK government, travelling worldwide with prime ministers from Harold Wilson to Margaret Thatcher. His first book , Fate’s Bookie; How the Lottery Shaped the World, was published in 2009. He lives in London and Cambridge.