Railroad And Steamship Advertising
( Originally Published 1902 )
When one has a yearning to shake the dust of the present territory from his feet and looks over the transportation ads in the daily press he runs across many.
Transportation advertising, the newspaper end of it anyway, is about the poorest advertising done. It is not that the railroads lack money to advertise or that they lack the brains to conceive advertising. What is needed is somebody to take the initiative and instead of giving the local newspaper a fifth of a column of dry technical information (which is generally paid in passes) fill up a column or two with well written, descriptive matter regarding the territories traversed, when trains leave and arrive, the dining car service, the restaurant features, the sleeping car arrangements, the staunch roadbed, the high class rolling stock and the many other points of interest that any advertising man could swing in type talk.
You say we have all this in booklet and pamphlet form, beautifully written and most exquisitely illustrated?
Which is true. The transportation lines of this country spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in this book-let and pamplet work but the great question is:—"Who reads it all?"
Were this immense sum directed into larger and better newspaper ads the results would be greater.
One summer I went to the City of Mexico. I was undecided whether to go by way of Washington and New Orleans, St. Louis and San Antonio, Chicago, Kansas City and El Paso or any of the several routes a man can take from New York. The railroad ads in the New York dailies appeared to be very uninteresting and decidedly unsatisfactory. The Pennsylvania Railroad trains for Washington left New York very frequently; but when they arrived in Washington and with what train, if any, they connected was a mystery. The Royal Blue Line trains left at various hours but the advertising omitted to state when they would arrive in Baltimore and Washington. The trains of the New York Central, West Shore and other lines left New York at certain hours but when the traveler arrived in Chicago, St. Louis or Kansas City was something the advertising could throw no light upon whatever.
"Why don't you get some of their;time-tables, pamphlets and booklets?" asked my friend.
After making selections from most liberal stacks I found I had a load of literature embracing time-tables, pamphlets, leaflets and booklets without number and my friend and I sat down to study the coolest and quickest route between New York and the City of Mexico.
A remembrance of that effort is a phantasy of yellow, blue, pink, black and colors of many hues and shades depicting Mexican sombreros and zarepas against a background of mountain or desert, burros under mineral loads, trains speeding across plains, emerging from tunnels or crossing great bridges and interior as well as exterior views of "limited expresses "—an artistic showing in myriad effects that must have taxed an army of artists. As for the text there were miles of it—all beautifully written-descriptive, incidential, confidential, symphathetic, optimistic and pessimistic.
The task to study was too much!
No human being could read more than one twentieth of it and even that was a great physical and mental effort.
The next day I still had the same confused idea as to how I should go, so I cut the problem short by taking a Pennsylvania R. R. train to Washington and there, after a consultation with a very pleasant passenger clerk, bought a through ticket by way of New Orleans, San Antonio and Eagle Pass. Take the above ease as an illustration.
Would it not be better for each railroad to have a column or so in the New York dailies, as fresh, newsy and interesting as any department store advertising? Could not the cost of this be made up from the saving in other forms of advertising? If a man wanted to travel over a certain railroad would not that railroad's full column give him all the information needful? If he wished to go somewhere and was puzzled as to which line to select, would not' the several column ads of the several railroads help him? Is there not too much attention given to pamphlet advertising on the part of railroads and steamships and too little to newspaper advertising?
Steamship advertising is so closely allied to railroad advertising that an article covering one also covers the other.