John Kennedy, one of the forefathers of modern advertising, was born in Canada and worked there as a freelance copywriter until 1904, when he landed a job at the Chicago office of Lord & Thomas. He was hired by Albert Lasker, then a junior manager, on the strength of a note Kennedy sent him, which read, "I can tell you what advertising is." Kennedy made good on that promise; although he stayed there for little more than two years, Lord and Thomas¿ sales volume went from $2.5 million to $3.2 million by the time he left the company.
Kennedy went on to hold copywriting jobs at other firms, but his greatest successes were accomplished while freelancing for such firms as Ethridge-Kennedy Company and Lord and Thomas. B.F. Goodrich tires made him a rich man by paying him $20,000 a year to work half time, an amazing amount for the era.
Kennedy¿s made two substantial contributions to advertising: defining advertising as "salesmanship in print" and creating "reason-why" copy. Stephen Fox, in The Mirror Makers, notes that unlike most advertisers of the day, Kennedy viewed the ideal ad as a "rational, unadorned instrument of selling" that did not have to be "charming or amusing or necessarily pleasing to the eye." Kennedy believed in the essential intelligence of the consumer and distilled his copywriting method into The Book of Advertising Texts. His methods influenced such famous copywriters as Rosser Reeves and Claude C. Hopkins. Fox later wrote that Kennedy¿s style was "the foundation stone of successful advertising."