In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was in the middle of an election campaign.
One hundred years ago, there were no planes or radios.
So the only way to get the message across to ordinary voters was to take a train across America making speeches.
Then leave hundreds of copies of your speech behind to remind people what you said.
In the train, one carriage was packed with three million beautifully printed copies of the speech.
Each copy had a photograph of Roosevelt on the cover.
The team were checking them when someone spotted a tiny line of print under the photograph: "Copyright – Moffat Studios, Chicago."
They thought they’d better just double-check to make sure the copyright had been cleared.
But they found it hadn’t.
And they checked to see what the cost of using the copyrighted photograph would be.
It was $1 per pamphlet.
That meant $3m (the equivalent of $70m today).
Obviously, they didn’t have anything like that amount.
But they couldn’t blow the whole election by not leaving the pamphlets behind.
They decided to discreetly find out how amenable the photographer was likely to be to doing a deal.
To help them out by letting them use the photograph for a greatly reduced rate.
The answer was: not very likely at all.
He had a reputation for being very keen on money and for being ruthless about it.
So they went to see the head of Roosevelt’s campaign, George Perkins.
He’d been a partner of JP Morgan and was used to negotiating difficult deals with tough customers.
George Perkins realised deals are all about the presentation.
The trick is to have it crop up as an opportunity.
So he sent the photographer a telegram:
"We are planning to distribute millions of pamphlets with Theodore Roosevelt’s picture on the cover.
It will be great publicity for the studio whose photograph we choose.
How much will you pay us to use your photograph?
The photographer replied immediately saying he would offer $250 (that’s $6,000 in today’s money.)
George Perkins wired back saying the offer was acceptable.
The photographer couldn’t believe it: he’d just got three million photographs distributed nationwide for only $250.
He was thrilled with the shrewd deal he’d just pulled off.
And so the Roosevelt campaign got to use the photograph for free.
All because George Perkins didn’t ask the photographer for a favour.
He didn’t let him know they’d already printed all the leaflets and would have to pay whatever he wanted.
George Perkins didn’t tell a lie, he just turned the situation around.
He looked at it from the photographer’s side.
And he had it crop up as an opportunity.
(Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three. This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)