Value Of Magazine Page Advertising
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
There is wide diversity of opinion regarding the relative value to advertisers of magazine advertising pages. There is no question that some pages are more valuable than others, just as the advertisement next to "pure reading matter" in newspapers is more valuable than an advertisement which is buried in a mass of other advertising matter far away from news items or editorials. Whether one page is actually more valuable than another to the advertiser or not we know the publisher charges more for certain pages which he calls "preferred positions."
But is the scale of rates fixed by the publisher based upon actual tests—upon the experience of advertisers? I think not. Assuming that no one will dispute the claim that the back cover page is the most valuable of all the preferred positions, the publisher ranges the pages about as follows:
First, the last cover page.
Second, the first inside cover page.
Third, the last inside cover page.
Fourth, the first page facing table of contents or first page of reading matter.
Fifth, the page facing last page of reading matter.
The order of this arrangement may vary slightly according to the differing views of publishers, but it fairly represents the generally accepted standard for adjusting a scale of prices for preferred positions. It is also true that publishers of certain magazines have additional "preferred positions" which they regard as more valuable than what is called "the run" of the advertising pages. In such publications as the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal and the Delineator there are obviously only three preferred positions—the three cover pages. Space on all other pages does not differ materially in value for the reason that each of the white pages carries from one to three columns of reading matter so that all advertising may be said to be next to "pure reading matter."
In my opinion the relative value of these pages to the advertiser depends entirely upon the product to be advertised and the kind of copy that is to be used and the kind of people that is reached by the particular medium in which you are advertising. Let me illustrate. In a publication the circulation of which consists largely of news-stand sales and which lies around barber shops, club rooms, hotel reading rooms and other places frequented by men, there is no question about the greater value of the back cover page to advertisers, for the publication is apt to lie with the back cover page ex-posed quite as often as the front cover page.
It is also true that the back cover page of such a publication lends itself more effectively to the exploitation of certain kinds of products or commodities than for other kinds of salable articles. In any kind of publication with any kind of circulation it may be accepted as a fact that the outside back cover page is seen oftener than any other advertising page. But does this fact prove that it has greatest advertising value and that it will bring largest returns to the advertiser for the money expended?
The back cover page of most publications is printed in colors. Some kinds of copy for certain kinds of commodities are not suited to pictorial embellishment in colors. It is not possible to escape a certain "poster" effect in advertisements that are run in colors, and there is no doubt in my mind that this poster effect detracts from the dignity and seriousness of certain kinds of advertising. It is admirably adapted to the exploitation of talcum powder, toilet soaps, shaving soaps, automobiles and many other articles where the purpose is simply to familiarize the reader with the name of the commodity through a well known trade-mark or through a few strong catch-lines that may be taken in at a glance.
But suppose the advertiser wants to make a serious, logical and well considered argument for his product—one that is intended to appeal to the intelligence of the reader and which partakes somewhat of the editorial style. Certainly no one will contend that the strength of such an advertisement is enhanced by printing it on the back cover page in three or four colors. In my opinion, the choicest position for such an announcement is the first inside cover page or the page facing the last page of reading matter in a magazine. Indeed, for such an advertisement, appealing to the intelligent thought and interest of the average reader, I would consider either one of these pages twice as valuable as the back cover page, gaily decked in flashy colors and radiant with pictures.
Here is a sample of what I call the "psychological flash" in advertising and which fairly illustrates the point I am trying to emphasize regarding the profitable use of "preferred positions." This advertisement was gotten out to take advantage of the popular agitation of the pure food question. A pure food bill had just passed the United States Senate, much to the surprise of all the people who were familiar with the fact that for fifteen years the advocates of pure food legislation had been trying unsuccessfully to get a pure food bill through the upper house of Congress. While the topic was uppermost in the public mind and while the bill was being discussed in the daily press all over the country and while the bill was being bombarded by all sorts of amendments in the house I seized the "psycho-logical moment" to print this full-page advertisement in four of the illustrated weeklies of national circulation.
Instead of flashing it on the back cover pages where it would have lost much in dignity and seriousness, I ran it in black and white on the first inside cover page in one publication and on the page facing the last page of reading matter in the other publications. The advertisement was prepared in such a way, indeed, that many thousands of readers mistook it at first for an editorial appeal on the part of the publications in which it appeared to "join the pure food movement." Suppose this advertisement, showing a procession of people in royal blue, moving upon the capitol in yellow brick, embellished with typographical scare heads in green and brown, had been run on the back cover pages of these publications. Would it have been possible to seriously interest any reader in the idea that as a patriotic citizen he ought to "join the pure food movement" by eating shredded wheat? Of course, if I had had the necessary appropriation available for the purpose I should have made this "flash" in fifty or a hundred of the daily newspapers of the country, but having only a limited appropriation for the special purpose, I had to confine the "flash" to the four illustrated weeklies of national circulation.