How this forgotten 1930’s advertising wizard dealt with trolls of his day

By November 1, 2021ISDose

forgottenOne of the great men of advertising was the late Bruce Barton.

If you don’t know who Bruce Barton is, he’s one of the B’s in the world-renowned BBDO ad agency. Unfortunately, hardly anyone knows about him today. But, in the early to mid 1900’s, he was a household name. Back then, the joke was you couldn’t go anywhere or talk to anyone without hearing his name pop up. In the advertising world he was a contemporary of John Caples. Politically, he was an arch enemy of FDR, and they openly battled each other. He also advised presidents, ran for Congress, and consulted Wall Street power players.

Anyway, here’s why I bring him up:

One of the things that made Bruce so good at advertising and landing (and keeping) big accounts was his natural instinct for the consequences of not advertising yourself all the time.

But, not just for the obvious reasons of growing a business.

For Bruce Barton it went beyond that:

He understood the trolls of his day.

Including how vulnerable a company was that didn’t advertise because of trolls… and how entire businesses could be potentially destroyed by a lying, grunting troll.

For example:

In his book “The 7 Lost Secrets Of Success” Joe Vitaly documents how Bruce Barton persuaded US Steel to keep their account with BBDO way back in the 1930s:


“You are going to have national advertising whether you want it or not,” declared Bruce Barton. US Steel had decided to stop their national advertising, and Barton went to Pittsburgh to confront the managers. He told them they could cancel their advertising if they wanted, but that a different kind of advertising would continue. . . “It is the advertising given to you by politicians with axes to grind, by newspapers that hope to build circulation by distorting your ads, by all other operators in the field of public opinion, some unfriendly and some merely misinformed.” Then Barton hit them with a thunderbolt. “Can you afford to take the risk of having all your advertising emanate from sources beyond your control?”


The result?

US Steel renewed their advertising, of course.

They had no choice.

If they didn’t, then the trolls of that time would have done their “advertising” for them.

And so it is for your business today.

Frankly, I’d argue it is a thousand times worse today — with all the consequence-free social media mud-slinging, fake news, and other assorted ways you can be anonymously attacked, slandered, and smeared by an envious, self-loathing troll with just a few angry, cheetos dust-covered fingered keystrokes or taps on a phone.

Don’t think this will ever happen to you?

Think again, Chuckles.

I don’t care if you do everything “right.”

Or if you are the nicest guy or gal in the world.

Or even if you have no enemies (that you know of).

Whoever you are, whatever you sell, no matter what market you are in, I can virtually guarantee it will happen to you sooner or later. It happens all the time to good businesses who have done nothing wrong and who even actively stay out of trouble or under the radar. If you have anything to say worth hearing, someone, somewhere will take a shot at you.

Sometimes it will be lame snarky insults or passive aggressive sniping.

Sometimes it will be a vicious personal attack.

And, sometimes, it will be a coordinated campaign designed to utterly kill and bury your business, brand, and reputation!

Why would someone do this?

Who knows?

The troll is not logical and operates in the unpredictable and volatile realms of emotion-driven envy, jealousy, and self-loathing. All it takes is an email, social media post, something you say/teach/advocate they disagree with, or even merely a testimonial on your website from someone they have deemed the Enemy (for political, religious, ideological, or any other reason — again, it’s all emotional and irrational for the troll). And that’s why, if you have any kind of significance in your market, any visibility in your industry, any presence online or offline… I can all but guarantee you will be attacked by a troll in some way, shape, or form.

Maybe not today.

Maybe not tomorrow.

Or even the next day, month, or year.

But, it will happen eventually.

That’s the bad news.

The good news?

If you know just a few of the principles I teach inside my “Copy Troll” book, you can not only profit like crazy from trolls — big, small, malicious, or harmless — in your business, but you may very well profit so easily from them you might be tempted to seek them out and pick fights with them.

I don’t recommend doing that, by the way.

It can horribly backfire on you, for reasons I go into in the book.

But, that is how predictably profitable trolls can be.


Guest Author: Ben Settle

Seeking to build and grow your brand using the force of consumer insight, strategic foresight, creative disruption and technology prowess? Talk to us at +971 50 6254340 or or visit