Elias St. Elmo Lewis biography and books

Elias St. Elmo Lewis - Toolshero

Elias St. Elmo Lewis (1872 – 1948) was a successful advertising pioneer and founder of the AIDA model. He wrote and spoke prolifically about the opportunities of advertising to inform the public. Elias St. Elmo Lewis was posthumously inducted in the Advertising Hall of Fame in 1951.

Biography Elias St. Elmo Lewis

Lewis was born in Philadelphia. His middle name, St. Elmo, was derived from the novel of the same name written by Augusta J. Evans in 1866. Lewis was educated at North Broad Street Select School in Philadelphia, which was later renamed “Eastburn Academy” after its founder. He went on to the University of Pennsylvania where he published the “University Courier” in 1893 and 1894.

In 1895 Lewis became the editor of an art publication called “Moods” and he worked as a junior partner and business manager at a printing office. In 1896 he set up an advertising agency called the Advertisers Agency which was established in the old Penn Mutual Building in Philadelphia. The company slogan “Ask Lewis about it” gained proverbial fame. He was in charge of the diphtheria antitoxin advertising campaign of the HK Mulford Co. in 1896.

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In 1901, Elias St. Elmo Lewis was selected by the Peirce School in Philadelphia to manage the Peirce School of Advertising. Lewis worked at the National Cash Register Company from 1902 to 1903 and from 1905 to 1914 he worked as an advertising manager at the Burroughs Adding Machine Company.

In June 1910, Lewis was elected President of the newly established National Association of advertising Managers at their first regular meeting in Hotel Pontchartrain in Detroit. He was employed as an advertising and sales advisor at Campbell Ewald Co in 1915.

Elias St. Elmo Lewis was married to Maude Rose Wherry.

In the early 1940s, on the advice of his doctors, the couple moved from Detroit to St. Petersburg, Pinellas County (FL) where he died on 18 March 1948.

When the AIDA-model was published by Edward K. Strong Jr. in the “Psychology of Selling and Advertising“, it became commonplace to attribute the model to Elias St. Elmo Lewis.

According to Strong, Lewis had already laid the foundation for the AIDA model in 1898 with the slogan “attract Attention, maintain Interest, create Desire” and later the fourth element “get Action” was added. The association of the AIDA model with the Sales Funnel was first proposed in Bond Salesmanship in 1924.

Elias St. Elmo Lewis was a well-known phenomenon in the advertising world.

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Publications and books

  • 1933. Profit engineering, applied economics in making business profitable.
  • 1917. Getting the most out of business.
  • 1914. Efficient Cost Keeping, A study of the most effective applications of cost keeping principles to certain types of management.
  • 1908. Financial advertising: for commercial and savings banks, trust, title insurance, and safe deposit companies, investment houses.
  • 1904. The credit man and his work.

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Van Vliet, V. (2012). Elias St. Elmo Lewis. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/toolsheroes/elias-st-elmo-lewis/

Original publication date: 02/02/2012 | Last update: 04/12/2024

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Vincent van Vliet
Article by:

Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


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