At the Cannes Lions, an advertising festival in the south of France that attracts thousands of media and marketing executives, creative directors, and advertising salespeople, Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff described Donald Trump in terms that his audience understands well.
“Just think of Trump as a salesman,” Wolff said to Jeff Goodby, the cofounder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, a San Francisco-based ad agency, who interviewed him onstage this morning. “You guys should be able to appreciate that.”
Wolff described how his publisher’s goal was for Fire and Fury, Wolff’s tell-all of Trump’s first nine months as president, was for the book to land in Amazon’s Top 100 sellers within a week of its release.
The author described how the Guardian leaked quotes from the book before its official release, upending a carefully planned press strategy—but creating circumstances that far exceeded his expectations, thanks in no small part to Trump. He described how shortly following the leaks, he received an email from his publisher while he was at lunch saying the book was #66 on the list. By the time he paid the bill, it had reached #1. And then, Trump set a series of events in motion beyond any publicist’s wildest dreams.
“An hour later, the White House announced they were sending a cease and desist letter, which would make this the first time in the history of the republic the president of the United States has tried to stop the publication of a book,” said Wolff. He continued:
A few hours later, Trump’s lawyer announced that they were suing for defamation and invasion of privacy. Two things that you cannot do to a president of the United States is defame him or invade his privacy. But—Donald Trump. No one told him that. After that, Donald Trump managed to sell almost immediately, millions of books. Once a day, I cast my eyes heavenward, and say, ‘Thank you for Donald Trump.’
Wolff also described how liberally Trump dishes out flattery—one of the oldest strategies in the salesman’s toolbox.
Within minutes of being introduced to him for an interview in 2016 for The Hollywood Reporter—the interview that would set the book in motion—Wolff said Trump showered him with praise.
“It was literally five minutes of the kind of praise I’ve looked for my whole life and never gotten,” he said, and continued:
There is no level of flattery that is too great. If you ever think that people won’t believe, they believe… The change happens with Trump—and this to some degree happens with all salesmen—when he stops believing that he can make a sale. Then he’s not interested in you anymore. Actually, then he sues you … As I say, I cast my eyes heavenward.