The AdPulp Interview: Tom Asacker

The AdPulp Interview is one of my favorite features on the site. I get to ask smart people about important topics of the day in our industry and learn from them in the process. With that in mind, I’m excited to offer you the following interview with Tom Asacker. Tom’s one of the good guys with a wry sense of humor to compliment his deep sense of purpose. We’ve talked on the phone over the years, and Tom has written some articles for AdPulp, as well. Now, with the arrival of his latest book (due November 15th from Paramount Market Publishing), it’s a good time to get to know Tom a little better.
Q. Tom, you’re a consultant. Why is that, like ad people, consultants often have a shroud around themselves and what they do for a living? Who wants to go through life on the defensive? There must be a better way.
A. I guess that’s why I’ve found a better way. ☺ I do very little consulting today, David. Instead, I teach and inspire organizations with perspective-changing content through my writing, keynote speeches, presentations at management retreats, and insight sessions with corporate management. It’s all out there for everyone to see, learn from, and steal. ☺
Q. Hold it, did you just walk away from the consultant title and then describe what a consultant does? I think it kind of proves my point that the actual services you provide are highly valued, but it’s how you package it.
A. Hmm. You may be right. I’ve never really thought of it that way. The intent is certainly the same, but it “feels” different than consulting. I suppose it’s like Apple walking away from the term “mp3 player” with the iPod. ☺
Q. You had an online “TV show” going there for awhile. What happened? Why’d you do it and what did you learn?
A. I started out doing it with a friend because it sounded like a lot of fun, plus we knew it was the future of media and we wanted to play with it. And it was fun (and still is the future). But it was also a lot of work for two people–writing, filming and editing. After many months, and with no revenue source in sight, we decided to pull the plug. But, we learned a hell of a lot. In fact, my friend has launched a successful online video consulting business, and I’m presently working on a new web-based show with its funding source baked-in.
Q. How do you find time to write books? What portion of your working day do you commit to the practice?
A. I’m always “writing books,” because I’m always seeking the truth about business and marketplace success. I’m continuously testing my concepts, assumptions, and ideas in the real world of my clients and in the marketplace. And when something works, I write it down. When it fails, I scrap it.
My new book, Opportunity Screams, is the result of taking those ideas that worked⎯the ones that were logically consistent with my philosophy, agreed with experience, and could be explained simply⎯and weaving them together into a clear and compelling narrative and framework.
Q. You send out a great email newsletter and you like to run your essays as downloadable PDF files. What’s the deal? You have a blog, you know.
A. I try to present my content in the various ways that people like to read and share it. Some folks like to print out a page, jot a note on it, and drop it on someone’s desk. Others like to forward a link. Also, by archiving my articles, people can easily scan and find something that perks their interest. By contrast, it’s difficult to scan someone’s blog.
Q. What’s it like living and working in New Hampshire? In what ways is it a positive for you?
A. I reside in the “Live Free or Die” state, but my work is done on the road–on planes, in hotels, at events, and in meetings with clients. New Hampshire is a beautiful, quiet, tax-free place to enjoy my downtime. And in less than an hour, I can drive to the mountains, the lakes, the beach, or to my favorite city–the city of my youth–Beantown.
Q. Tell us about the new book! What’s it about? Why did you write it? How will it shape the future?
A. Well, what I say about it certainly won’t do justice to it, but here goes. Opportunity Screams is a philosophical system. It’s my philosophy of business and work wrapped around a unique metaphorical framework.
There are doors, invisible metaphysical doors, to people’s hearts and minds. More importantly, there are specific keys and designs that will unlock those doors. I’ve spent the past twenty years decoding this seemingly incomprehensible marketplace mystery. The result of that learning is inside this little book.
I wrote it to help passionate people connect their ideas for improving people’s lives with those people they seek to help. And let me be clear: my book won’t shape the future, but it will help the people who read it shape the future. The model will absolutely help them differentiate the wheat from the chaff in today’s noisy marketplace of ideas, and move them to create content and experiences that boost the adoption of their products, services, and causes.
Q. It’s obvious from reading your stuff that you care deeply about people–the people in marketing organizations who can make a difference and the people on the street they’re making a difference for. Why do you care so much?
A. Look, everyone can make a difference. I care about those people who are actively trying to make a difference. And I care about them because they inspire me; they feed my self-perception as someone who refuses to compromise my beliefs and settle for less than I know is possible.
Most marketers are bright, caring people, but they’re operating within the wall of the marketing cultural immune system. Some are struggling to get outside that wall, but within the wall there were no intellectual tools that would allow them to break out.
Q. It seems like you harbor a ton of hope for change. What’s the source of your optimism?
A. My daughters. And the fact that today holds more possibility for human progress than any time in the history of the world.
Q. There’s a huge focus on metrics today. Is this good or bad for business?
A. It depends on your philosophy of business. In my philosophy, it’s good if the metric moves people to create new ideas that will add value, meaning and happiness to their lives and to the lives of the people they exist to serve.
Q. Like me, you grew up pre-digital. I feel like we’ve lost something in the rapid transition to an always-on state of hive mind. In your estimation, do the gains outweigh the losses?
A. Having more choices is definitely an advantage. However, gains and losses are dependent on the individual’s ability to choose judiciously. It’s no different than being exposed to an abundance of food or, more to the point of your question, to drugs and alcohol.
Q. Restraint from the user perspective is probably a good thing, but what about the overabundance of buzz around things like social media from the media? Are clients putting too much faith in the shiny new objects or not enough faith?
A. I wouldn’t put my faith in any particular medium or platform. Instead, I’d obsess over delivering value to customers. And if an idea doesn’t add value, including shiny new ones, I’d ignore it.

You can learn more about Tom and his new book at his blog,, and at



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.