( Originally Published 1902 )
The great charm of all matter, whether printed or oral, lies in its being natural. We do not want the stilted, the artificial, or the labored—we want the sentiments we read or hear to express naturally and faithfully the thoughts of the person responsible for them.
When you read a letter from a friend you want that letter to mirror the exact thoughts of your friend at the moment he penned it. You prefer honesty to an artificial effort to disguise or color his sentiments. Just so with a newspaper article, a magazine tale or a novel. Spontaneity and naturalness must necessarily be there before the attention is thoroughly captured.
This is the cardinal virtue of advertising literature. When it is not spontaneous it is labored and artificial—therefore ineffective-when it is not natural it is mechanical and unattractive. An honest out-and-out effort that rides rough shod over the rules of spelling and syntax is more effective by far than the elegant production, faultless in grammar and expression, but stilted and artificial in effect.
Shakespeare's injunction, " To thine own self be true and thou canst not then be false to any man," is especially applicable to the advertising writer. He must swing his pen in exact obedience to the thought just then uppermost in his mind, and if he has any thoughts worth remembering they'll be recorded in cold type to his fame and fortune-if he has no thoughts worth remembering he had better betake himself to other spheres of usefulness.
This article attempts to treat clothing advertising Inasmuch as you have men for an audience, you must be spontaneous, succinct and interesting. Men demand these qualities in an ad. They are more occupied with their various duties than the fair sex, therefore they demand brevity and point in newspaper stories—as they have a larger bump of humor and generally more all-around intelligence than women, they therefore appreciate the wit, philosophy, argument or illustration that may be placed before their eyes. Mind you, I do not deny that women do not demand the qualities above mentioned. They do—some even more than most men-but taking men in the mass and women in the mass you will find men more likely to appreciate the spontaneous, the succinct and the interesting in advertising.
Very well. Suppose you are advertising—say spring over-coats. Hold up the coat. Look it over. Feel its texture—its linings—run your hands in its pockets and note its cut and finish. And its price is very low—very low indeed! All these points are flashed on your mind and you make mental notes. You cross-question the salesmen about the styles of spring overcoats-which are likely to be popular. You go back to your desk full of overcoat information, and bursting with this intelligence, you proceed to fix up an ad on spring overcoats.
The first thing is the caption. You write a couple or three headings.
" The Proper Spring Overcoat."
" This Spring Overcoat."
" Your Spring Overcoat."
Ah! the last will do! Now let us see:
"YOUR SPRING OVERCOAT
is at this moment an important subject. We have just the coat you're looking for-showing the popular style—it's of covert cloth, with strap seams—well made—stylish, serviceable and satisfactory, and its price is only $12.50."
Display De Vinne makes a very handsome top line, and Pica lower case appears very well for body. The short talk at the bottom, speaking of your stocks in general may go either in Nonpariel or Agate lower case. Which is plenty variety of type for an ad of either the above styles, in fact, the fewer varieties of type used in an ad, the better is its general appearance. I speak of this advisedly, because some printers think that if a dozen different styles of type were used in an ad the better it would appear. A too-great variety of type begets confusion-it detracts the eye from the main idea.
Speak about your spring overcoats in your ads as you would in conversation with a customer. Give him the details easily, quickly—and if he likes to laugh, a short joke or story may help you in your sale.
Although no illustrations are used. in the examples given, yet I am a believer in illustrations for clothing ads. A picture of a well dressed young man wearing such an overcoat as you wish to speak of helps wonderfully in emphasizing the points you desire to bring out.
Get the details of the overcoat, or suit, or shirt, or whatever it is, pictured in your mind-then sit down at your desk and write your exact thoughts about this article. Put everything down on paper. Then when it is all written you can trim and polish up the story-cutting a word here, changing a sentence there—as grammar and diction and betterment suggest. Be your own reporter first, and managing editor afterwards. Put you thoughts on paper, then with them in material form criticise them and swing them into better shape.
Nearly all ads go through this process. They are jotted down in the rough, then carefully gone over. I know of a first-class advertising writer who goes over an ad half a dozen times before he thinks it is all right. And then again, I know of another—but he is an exception-who finds the right idea and the proper words to fit that idea at the first blush.
Short, snappy, sententious sentences are the sentences that strike men. Clean, artistic outline cuts, full of action to harmonize with the text, should be used. Then the type dress should be simple, yet with an air of style. There are types now cast that convey this impression.
There is a well-known clothing concern in New York City that every Saturday outlines the selling and advertising policy of the succeeding week. The heads come together and say thus:
"We will dress up one window with overcoats cut to $8.50 another will be given to the suits cut to $7.50, another will be given to the 50-cent neckwear now cut to 38 cents.
" We will take a certain space in the daily papers-so much in the Evening World, so much in the Evening Journal, so much in the Evening Sun," and so on. The plan is laid out, the window dressers, superintendents and salespeople notified, and when the ads of the overcoats, suits or neckwear appear in the daily evening papers, customers find handsome window displays and special inside exhibits.
You can see the advantage of a clean cut, complete selling scheme like the above. Prom start to finish it is carefully thought and carried out. How much better is it than the usual whitewash of advertising which simply brings people in only to be disgusted with the unpreparedness of things. Now do not forget these three points
(1) Have good window displays and inside showings with plenty of price cards to back up the ads.
(2) Have also plenty of goods to back up the ads and hew to the line of eternal truth.
(3) Use cuts—plenty of them—neat, not overlarge, with crisp, convincing text.