For decades, the three S’s dominated media in our politics: Bob Squire, David Sawyer and Tony Schwartz. Now the last of this splendid trio has passed away. It makes us all feel a bit more mortal, a useful thing for politicians.
Tony was special. Everything I have ever learned about advertising and media either comes directly from his teachings or is anchored in his wisdom. He basically founded modern political media. A disciple of Marshall McLuhan, he translated his ideas into practical ways to influence voters and convey a message from a candidate.
He is directly responsible for Johnson’s huge margin over Goldwater, Carter’s election and Bill Clinton’s comeback, in 1982, following his 1980 defeat as governor of Arkansas.
He believed that media was but a catalyst for an intellectual transaction that took place in our minds. He felt the content of all advertising was internal and that the film or sound merely elicited a reaction that had been stored away.
He saw survey research (pre-search, as he liked to call it) as the road map to this internalized media. He invented the word and idea of “narrow casting,” an alternative to broadcasting – advertising aimed at a small group of people or perhaps just one president, senator or mayor.
He was a giant in the field. There is no debt more onerous and none which can be repaid with more difficulty than an intellectual one. When one’s career and the insights that have led to one’s achievements are derivative of another’s thinking, that is a hard debt to repay. This note is partial payment.
Tony Schwartz. A creative, public-spirited, brilliant man with a mind that transformed our country. Rest in peace.