Sunday, May 14, 2023

A Turtle's Approach to Truth

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Raymond Dale ‘Dusty’ Hardesty (1921-1977) was inducted into the International Association of Turtles on 7 June 1963. As I heard tell, in a Manhattan barroom. One can discern, by Official Membership Card (right), Deputy Turtle Arthur Robert ‘Art’ Meares (1911-1977) brought Dusty into the honor society. A half dozen websites seem organized ’round iterations of the Association, a Wikipedia page is committed to it. Some sites readily disclose mutual-member recognition response required when asked “Are you a turtle?” Failure to render password obligated forfeit of examinant's “beverage of choice.”

By his obit, Meares was “a marketing director” at Johnson and Johnson, Inc. After James Edward Burke (1925-2012) moved from Procter & Gamble, he – in 1956 as JNJ Director of Product Development, New Products Division – brought my father, former Director of Marketing Research with Kroger Company at Cincinnati, to New Brunswick, NJ.[i] I recall Art Meares by name … in sordid, cautionary tale dispensed during family foray to Manhattan. Wife Mary (Thompson) Meares (1917-1965) lagged behind a bevy of couples in jaunt while being wined and dined by an advertising agency Account Services Executive. Not until the group gathered at far end of midtown crosswalk did any realize Mrs. Meares had departed them: in a generally free-for-all world of hurried jaywalking, a taxi had dragged her body from protected space into the next block. “Look both ways,” my parents admonished their children with all seriousness.

My father’s Membership Card surfaced as I cleared decks in preparation to update Wild Confusion in Every Direction with print and audio campaign relative to the Hardesty Chemical Co. I was already thinking of advertising. 

I knew other couples in that traumatized Manhattan bevy. Heady atmosphere of booze, high life and Madison Avenue entranced me in AMC production of Mad Men, 2007-2015. Though the show’s creator Matthew Weiner was dismissive of market researchers, I was alerted early on, by a peer of my father's, that lead character was based on Draper Daniels (1913-1983).[ii] Hardesty had been in Media and Marketing Research Department with McCann Erickson advertising agency before taking up with Kroger. Daniels was also at Chicago. As a Creative Director at Leo Burnett’s agency. Jane Maas (1932-2018) in 2012 memoir claimed Mad Men character Peggy Olson was based on her 1964 entry into Manhattan office of Ogilvy & Mather agency as Junior Copywriter. I grew up with execs from all these agencies seeking to seduce my father in attempts to lure new product accounts to their firms: the show enthralled me as recount of wildly imaginative persons from my childhood.[iii] 

“By luring top marketing people from Procter & Gamble, Burke was able to put together several highly successful advertising campaigns,” reads entry at[iv] Where authors documented and marveled at achievements. Hardesty later asserted that, upon leaving Kroger, he entered job hunt … searching for a corporation an expectant, first-time father might like to work for.

He had criteria beyond compensation.

I have, in this Mothers’ Day draft of blog post, just now realized I’ve fallen not far from the tree. I take great satisfaction from historical research; I had but dimly realized that my father obtained M.B.A. from Northwestern University … while majoring in Market Research. Both of us have held interest in study for a true nature of things.
Continuum from McCann Erickson to Johnson and Johnson might hint at corporate values my father embraced. Both enterprises manifest company credos. That penned by Harrison King McCann (1880-1962) in 1912 was not much more than tagline centering corporate activity: “Truth Well Told.” If you’ve not read 1943 Industrial Credo by JNJ Chairman Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. (1893-1968), I commend it to you. Only four paragraphs long, statement of values placed responsibility to stockholders last. “Business must make a sound profit,” he followed. “We must experiment with new ideas. Research must be carried on, innovative programs developed, investments made for the future and mistakes paid for.”[v] 

I realize I’ve been lauding hucksters, and that “marketing of talc-based body powders” was cited in 2020 filing of civil complaint against JNJ … where evidence of manufacturing foreknowledge for asbestos risks dated to 1971 (about the time my father retired to self-directed activity). But I will wrap up with vamp on truth-telling. What with alternative facts circulating in top-echelon traffic, with artificial intelligence engaged in “operationalization of truth” while assisting in outright lying, I find these challenging times for researchers seeking a true state of affairs.

Titillation in accepting International Association of Turtles membership arose in expectation that one would honestly affirm enrollment … with required, vulgar response. Even when in polite company. Perhaps we should consider membership card’s reverse (right) … where indoctrinator played on psychology of social acceptability.[vi] It concluded exercise based on intrusion into presumptive thinking with admonition: “Govern yourself accordingly.” It may be that we, sixty years on, bear even greater responsibility for establishing factual predicate upon which to stand beliefs.


[i] Witnesses stated Burke installed Hardesty in HQ office far from that of Chairman Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. That ‘General’ Johnson did not have faith in market research. Early in tenure that would place him as CEO of JNJ, Burke did not want his superior to see him as unnecessarily progressive.

Hardesty's referenced peer was George Stephen Fabian (1930-2014) who received University of Chicago M.B.A. in 1954. Fabian was, by 1963, Director of Advertising and Media Research with Young & Rubicam agency in Manhattan. As yet unmarried and styled 'Lonesome George' by associates, our family availed ourselves of Fabian's pied-à-terre when overnighting at Manhattan: one Mad Men plot line glanced at adultery in such environs … likely based on 1960 production of Billy Wilder's The Apartment. (Street-crossing admonition likely occurred in foray from Fabian's 'pad.') By 1968 Fabian was Manager of Marketing Research, JNJ Domestic Operating Companies. Industry-shaper Fabian was  (later wildly compensated by advertising agency conglomerate and) elected to the Market Research Council Hall of Fame in 2009.

[iii] According to actor Jon Hamm, Mad Men producers' “pursuit of historical accuracy is such that series researchers will insist on knowing weather conditions, news items, and popular culture for a particular period related to the script's time frame.” Which spanned 1960-1970. I found, among my father's archives, 1960s audio recording where marketers during break mused over spice cigarettes: Weiner never responded to my plot suggestion, based on real-life event ... which I thought delightful for fact that his actors employed the same. Simulated hard-smoking ad executives on health-aware California sets.  

[iv] Press announcement of my father’s 1956 hiring went out under the name of Robert Wood Johnson, III (1920-1970), JNJ Executive Vice-President for Marketing and son of the General. ‘Bobby’ declared Hardesty would report to Burke. See Gurowitz (2012): “Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. was in his early 30s, with new ideas, and he brought in a new generation of marketers who would help modernize the way the Company introduced and sold its consumer products (for example, doing more market research and using it to develop new products).” Hardestys home-tested fanciful BAND-AID® Brand bandages, blue-tinted First Aid® Cream ... and Micrin® mouthwash.

See also Gurowitz (2014) for General Johnson as 1940s initiator of “one of the most iconic and effective advertising campaigns of the 20th century.” I find her contentions credible, but – having fired son Bobby in 1965 – the trepidation-provoking Chief Executive was not depicted as creative by JNJ insiders I was able to overhear. 

[v] Johnson's Credo shaped corporate governance so that Burke could, without hesitation, redirect delivery fleet, recall Tylenol from shelves at onset of 1982 poisonings.

[vi] Hardesty did not complete a Doctorate in Psychology at University of Chicago. While a student, however he worked part-time for A. C. Neilson Company. [Perhaps you’ve heard of Neilson ratings for TV and radio market share: Arthur Charles Nielsen (1897-1980) sent congratulatory telegram to Hardesty following my birth announcement.] Understanding ratings nuances was undoubtedly great assist for assessing advertising effectiveness.

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