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Advertising must be simple. When it is tricked out with the jewelry and silks of literary expression, it looks as much out of place as _a ball dress at the breakfast table_!
The buying public is only interested in _facts_. People read advertis.e.m.e.nts to find out _what you have to sell_.
The advertiser who can fire the _most facts_ in the shortest time gets the _most returns_. Blank cartridges _make noise but they do not hit_--blank talk, however clever, is only wasted s.p.a.ce.
You force your salesmen to keep to solid facts--you don't allow _them_ to sell muslin with quotations from Omar or trousers with excerpts from Marie Corelli. You must not tolerate in your _printed selling talk_ anything that you are not willing to countenance in _personal salesmanship_.
Cut out clever phrases if they are inserted to the sacrifice of clear explanations--_write copy as you talk_. Only be more brief. Publicity is costlier than conversation--ranging in price downward from $10 a line; talk is not cheap but the most expensive commodity in the world.
Sketch in your ad to the stenographer. Then you will be so busy "_saying it_" that you will not have time to bother about the gewgaws of writing. Afterwards take the typewritten ma.n.u.script and cut out every word and every line that can be erased without omitting an important detail. What _remains_ in the _end_ is all that _really counted_ in the _beginning_.
Cultivate brevity and simplicity. "Savon Francais" may _look_ smarter, but more people will _understand_ "French Soap." Sir Isaac Newton's explanation of gravitation covers _six pages_ but the schoolboy's terse and homely "What goes up must come down" clinches the whole thing in _six words_.
_Indefinite talk wastes_ s.p.a.ce. It is not 100% productive. The copy that omits prices sacrifices half its pulling power--it has a tendency to bring _lookers_ instead of _buyers_. It often creates false impressions.
Some people are bound to conceive the idea that the goods are _higher priced_ than in _reality_--others, by the same token, are just as likely to infer that the prices are _lower_ and go away thinking that you have exaggerated your statements.
The reader must be _searched out_ by the copy. Big s.p.a.ce is cheapest because it _doesn't waste a single eye_. Publicity must be on the _offensive_. There are far too many advertisers who keep their lights on top _of_ their bushel--the average citizen _hasn't time_ to overturn your bushel.
Small s.p.a.ce is expensive. Like a _one-flake snowstorm_, there is not enough of it to lay.
s.p.a.ce is a _comparative matter_ after all. It is not a case of _how much_ is used as _how it is used_. The pa.s.sengers on the limited express may realize that Jones has tacked a twelve-inch shingle on every post and fence for a stretch of five miles, but they are _going too fast_ to make out what the shingles say, yet the two feet letters of Brown's big bulletin board on top of the hill leap at them before they have a chance to dodge it. And at that it doesn't cost nearly so much as the _sum total_ of Jones' d.i.n.ky display.
Just so advertis.e.m.e.nts attractively displayed every day or every other day for a year in one big newspaper, will find the eye of _all_ readers, no matter how rapidly they may be "going" through the advertising pages and produce more results than a _dozen_ piking pieces of copy scattered through _half a dozen_ dailies.
The Difference between Amusing and Convincing
An advertiser must realize that there is a vast difference between _amusing_ people and _convincing_ them. It does not pay to be "smart" at the line rate of the average first cla.s.s daily. I suppose that I could draw the attention of everybody on the street by painting half of my face red and donning a suit of motley. I might have a sincere purpose in wishing _to attract_ the crowd, but I would be deluding myself if I mistook the nature of their attention.
The new advertiser is especially p.r.o.ne to misjudge between amusing and convincing copy. A humorous picture _may_ catch the eyes of _every_ reader, but it won't pay as well as an ill.u.s.tration of _some piece of merchandise_ which will strike the eye of every _buyer_. Merchants secure varying results from the same advertising s.p.a.ce. The publisher delivers to each _the same quality of readers_, but the advertiser who plants _flippancy_ in the minds of the community won't attain the benefit that is secured by the merchant who imprints _clinching_ arguments there.
Always remember that the advertising sections of newspapers are no different than farming lands. And it is as preposterous to hold the publisher responsible for the outcome of unintelligent copy as it would be unjust to blame the soil for bad seed and poor culture. _Every advertiser gets exactly the same number of readers from a publisher and the same readers_--after that it's up to him--the results fluctuate in accordance with the intelligence and the pulling power of the _copy_ which is inserted.
Some Don'ts when You Do Advertise
The _price_ of the gun never hits the _bull's eye_.
And the _bang_ seldom rattles the bells.
It's the _hand on the trigger_ that cuts the _real_ figger.
The _aim's_ what amounts--_that's_ what makes _record_ counts-- Are _you_ hitting or just _wasting_ sh.e.l.ls?
_Don't_ forget that the man who writes your copy is the man who aims your policy.
When you stop to reflect what your _s.p.a.ce_ costs and that the wrong talk is just _noise_--_bang_ without _biff_--you must see the necessity and _sanity_ of putting the _right man behind the gun_.
_Don't_ tolerate an ambition on your ad-man's part to indulge in a lurking desire to be a literary light.
People read his advertising to discover what your buyers have just brought from the market and what you are asking for "O. N. T." They buy the _newspaper_ for information and recreation and are satisfied with the degree of poetry and persiflage dished up in its _reading_ columns.
_Don't exaggerate._ Poetic licenses are not valid in business prose. The American people _don't_ want to be humbugged and the merchant who figures upon too many fools, finds _himself_ looking into a mirror, usually about a half hour after the sheriff has come to look over the premises.
_Don't imitate._ Advertising is a _special measure_ garment. Businesses are not built in _ready-made_ sizes. Copy which fits somebody else's selling plans, won't fit your store without sagging at the chest or riding up at the collar. Duplicated _argument_ and duplicated _results_ are not twins. Your policy of publicity must be _specially_ measured from your policy of merchandising.
_Don't put your advertising in charge of an amateur._ Let somebody else stand the expense of his educational blunders. Remember you are making a plea before the bar of public confidence. Your ad-writer is an advocate.
_Like a bad lawyer, he can lose a good case by not making the most of the facts at hand._
_Don't get the "sales" habit._ "Sales" are stimulants. When held too often their effect is _weakening_. The merchant who continually yells "_bargain_" is like the old hen who was always crying "fox." When the real article did come along, none of her chicks _believed it_.
_Don't use fine print._ Make it easy for the reader to find out about your business. There are ten million pairs of eyegla.s.ses worn in America, and every owner of them buys something.
_And Don't start unless you mean to stick._ The patron saint of the successful advertiser _hates a quitter_.
The Doctor whose Patients Hang On
Out in China _all_ things are _not_ topsy turvy. _Physicians are paid for keeping people well_ and when their patients fall ill, their weekly remittances are stopped. The Chinese judge a medical man not by the number of years _he_ lives, but by the length of time his patrons survive.
An advertising medium must be judged in the same way. The fact that it has _age_ to its credit isn't so important as the _age of its advertising patronage_. Whenever a daily continues to display the store talk of the same establishment year after year, it's a pretty sure sign that the merchant has _made money_ out of that newspaper, because no publication can continue to be a losing investment to its customers over a stretch of time, without the fact being discovered. And when a newspaper is not only able to boast of an honor roll of stores that have continued to appear in its pages for a stretch of decades, but at the same time demonstrates that it carries _more_ business than its compet.i.tors, it has _proven its superiority_ as plainly as a mountain peak which rises above its fellows.
The combination of _stability and progress_ is the strongest virtue that a newspaper can possess. _Only the fit survive_--reputation is a _difficult_ thing to _get_ and a harder thing to _hold_--it takes _merit_ to _earn_ it and _character_ to _maintain_ it. There is a vast difference between _fame_ and _notoriety_, and just as much difference between a _famous newspaper_ and a _notorious one_.
Just as a manufacturer is always eager to install his choicest stocks in a store which has earned the respect of the community, just so a retailer should be anxious to insert his name in a newspaper which has _earned the respect of its readers_. The manufacturer feels that he will receive a square deal from a store which has age to its credit. He can expect as much from a newspaper which is a credit to its age!
The newspaper which outlives the rest does so because it was _best fitted to_--it had to _earn_ the confidence of its readers--and _keep it_. It had to be a _better_ newspaper than any other and _better_ newspapers go to the homes of _better_ buyers. Every bit of its circulation has the element of _quality and staying power_. And it is the _respectable_, _home-loving_ element of every community--not the touts and the gamblers--toward which the merchant must look for his business _vertebrae_--he cannot find buyers unless he uses the _newspaper_ that enters their homes. And when _he does_ enter their homes he must not confuse the sheet that comes in the back gate with the newspaper that is delivered at the front door.
The Horse that Drew the Load
A moving van came rolling down the street the other day with a big spirited Percheron in the center and two wretched nags on either side.
The Percheron was _doing all the work_, and it seemed that he would have got along far better in single harness, than he managed with his inferior mates _r.e.t.a.r.ding_ his speed.
The advertiser who selects a group of newspapers usually harnesses two _lame_ propositions to every _pulling_ newspaper on his list, and just as the van driver probably dealt out an _equal_ portion of feed to each of his animals, just so many a merchant is paying practically the same rate to a _weak_ daily, that he is allowing the _st.u.r.dy profitable sheet_.
Unfortunately the accepted custom of inserting the _same_ advertis.e.m.e.nt in _every_ paper acts to the distinct disadvantage of the _meritorious_ medium. The advertiser charges the sum total of his _expense_ against the sum total of his _returns_, and thereby does _himself and the best puller an injustice_, by crediting the less productive sheets with results that they have _not_ earned.
It's the _pulling power_ of the newspaper as well as the horse that proves its value, and if advertisers were as level headed as they should be, they would take the trouble to put every daily in which they advertise _on trial_ for at least a month and advertise a different department or article in each, carefully tabulating the returns. If this were done, fifty per cent of the advertising now carried in weaker newspapers would be withdrawn and the patronage of the stronger sheets would _advance_ in that proportion.