IN 1982, AMERICA TOOK TO READING USA TODAY IMMEDIATELY. BUT ADVERTISERS STAYED AWAY IN DROVES. AD AGENCIES CALLED USA TODAY “MCcPAPER,” BUT AFTER MY AD CAMPAIGN, THEY CALLED IT “No. 1.”

  One of the most important innovations in modern journalism was the  creation in 1982 of the first national newspaper, USA Today. It was the brainchild of Gannett’s gutsy chairman, Al Neuharth, and readers welcomed it immediately,but advertisers stayed away in droves. In his biography, Confessions of an S.O.B., Neuharth wrote: “Lois told us ‘Your product is better than the competitors, but you’re not communicating that to the advertiser. The truth is your advertising sucks.’Lois came into a room of poker-faced Gannett execs–many of them skeptical journalists–to hype his ideas. One proposed ad Lois prepared tackled the question of USA Today’s identity head-on. Was it a newspaper or a news magazine? The ad showed a drawing of a creature that had a body of a rooster but the tail of a fish.  A lot of media people are saying USA Today is neither fish nor fowl, his copy said. They’re right. The truth is...we don’t care what you call us, just as long as you call us. I liked Lois’ bright new approach. But it left us with a dilemma–it wasn’t easy for a new product to ditch the country’s largest ad agency (Y&R). And they ran a lot of ads  in our other Gannett newspapers. So I asked Lois what people  would say if we switched agencies. ‘They’d probably say you’re finally getting your head screwed on straight,’ Lois replied. ‘You’re doing pussy advertising now. You ought to be doing triumphant fucking advertising.’ The man spoke my language...I gave Lois the advertising. It worked.”