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Advertising And The Sign Above The Door

( Originally Published 1898 )

John Wanamaker has said :

"To discontinue an advertisement is like taking down your sign."

That is just the idea. You have a sign above your door to let people know who you are, and where you are, and what you are doing. That's what your ad does. Space in news-papers merely multiplies your sign. It lets thousands of people know what you have to sell.

The way to think of advertising is to consider first the goods you have, to see if they are really desirable. Then figure on the number of people likely to see your announcement in the paper, the proportion of possible customers among that number, and what you can afford to pay for each dollar's worth of new business. That will give you the size of the ad you ought to use. Then make your ad clear, logical, convincing. Don't try to be funny, unless you are naturally so, and even then don't do it too often.

What people want in an ad is exact, definite information. It ought to be given to them in a smooth, more or less argumentative way, and as strongly as possible. "The other fellow" is after these same people.

The amount to be spent for advertising must be determined by the percentage of profits and the percentage of possible customers. It doesn't pay to buy advertising blindly, no matter how good it is. If you are selling $5,000 a week at a gross profit of twenty-five per cent. and can increase the sales to $5,250 at a cost of $50 for advertising, you are a clear $52.50 ahead. Rent and clerk hire, light and heat and interest all go on just the same, whether you sell $1,000 or $5,250. It is advertising that brings in the money to pay all the other expenses. Advertising is business insurance.

Advertising what you haven't got or what you don't do is worse than not advertising at all. You can't well be too careful about this. Make your ads strictly true in letter and in spirit. I believe that the majority of business men do this now, but as it is the most important thing about advertising, it will bear repeating and reiterating.

When merchants and laymen come to consider advertising in its legitimate character of "business news," it will pay better—pay the advertiser better and the advertisee, too.

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