( Originally Published 1902 )
Choice of Advertising Mediums.
This is the most perplexing question in the whole calendar of perplexing problems that the advertiser must confront--the selection of the best advertising mediums.
By the application of that rule which should govern all advertising, viz., the application of hard, common sense, can this problem be solved. Even when it is apparently satisfactorily solved, sometimes there arises a doubt whether or not there is some money thrown away in unwise selection.
The expenditure of the advertising appropriation is a most important one. With the usual up-to-date store this appropriation amounts to an annual expenditure of thousands-and in some metropolitan concerns hundreds of thousands every year.
A clothing concern in a central New York town recently wrote me on this point. They advertised in the two daily papers and in several weekly papers in that vicinity. They asked me as to the best method of judging the value of the various mediums. I answered thus:
Take two equally good values—give them the same space in each of the daily papers: Have both ads written up in the same vein—have both illustrated with the garment advertised, and take very good care that both articles advertised are of equal value. Speak only of seasonable, necessary goods. Then tabulate the results.
Later on in the week advertise the same garment in the two dailies, only transpose the ads. Tabulate the results. With the -weekly papers do the same. In each case note carefully the results. Should weather or other conditions cut sufficient figure to possibly affect the sale of each garment repeat this test advertising the week following.
Results tell the story—abide by them. Stick to the paper that brings the business—drop the others. Advertising is not for fun—not for glory—advertising is a plain business proposition to bring more business. You know, I know, and many others know that some people advertise for the pleasure of seeing their names in the papers. But with the rapid advance of advertising knowledge this class is growing happily smaller. People now appreciate advertising simply as a lever to swing trade in their direction. That is its sole aim and object.
In New York-in Boston-in other cities I have done this test advertising. It is necessary in intelligent advertising. Blind advertising is not intelligent advertising. Only the advertising that is thoughtfully, seriously, intelligently studied is successful advertising.
In mail order advertising key your advertising in some way so you can tell exactly from which source you get your results. Supposing there was a mail order concern in the Lexington Building, which numbers from 141 to 155 East Twenty-fifth Street, that wished to do some magazine advertising. The plan would be to have say McClure's Magazine answers go to 141 East Twenty-fifth Street, Munsey's to 142 East Twenty-fifth Street, Cosmopolitan to 143 East Twenty-fifth Street, Harper's, X44 East Twenty-fifth Street, and so on. All the responses would come to the Lexington Building and the advertiser could tell in a moment which mediums paid him best for mail order trade. With this knowledge he could make his advertising dollars do better duty.
Lots of concerns in advertising catalogues, etc., ask the readers to send for catalogue P., catalogue G., catalogue P., etc. Of course it is the same catalogue that all get, but the requests tell the story as to which medium pulls the best. It is a splendid plan as the requests rightly filed stand as silent evidences of the best publications in which to advertise.
Now as to the choice of mediums to which you are a stranger. Appearances in publications as in -men are sometimes deceitful-but the shrewd observer can gather a whole lot by appearances.
When a stranger enters your presence you consider his appearance at once. If he is well dressed, well groomed, easy in manner and conversation you are generally favorably impressed with him until you know him better to his credit or discredit. Same way with a publication. If it has a happy, healthy, well-fed appearance in its advertising columns—if its editorials and articles are original, bright and written by writers who understand their subjects (you can tell that in a moment if you are any judge of publications) if its paper, typographical appearance and general get-up impress you favorably then it is a safe assumption that that publication has character, weight and circulation. If its advertising rates are reasonable you would be justified in giving it an ad. Then watch the results carefully.
George P. Rowell & Co.'s Newspaper Directory is as necessary to the advertiser as is Dun or Bradstreet to the business man.
I was with a big advertiser the other day who was making up his list of mediums. He would pick up a paper, glance over its reading and advertising columns for about two minutes -then lay it on a heap of rejected or accepted publications. Appearances helped him in his decisions. Of course, being an advertiser of some years' experience, he was familiar with most of the publications, but even some in which he previously advertised, he just then rejected because their appearances in his estimation were not as healthy as they once were.
A publication is never at a stand-still in circulation and influence. It is either traveling ahead or going backwards. This s a point that all successful advertisers consider carefully. They watch publications as they do their bank accounts and are all the time asking questions from every source regarding the progress of this or that paper.
Here is a point that I have noticed lots of advertisers lame on. That is the choice of mediums to fit the articles being advertised. High-class goods should be advertised in high-class publications—medium class goods in medium class publications and so on. While it is good sense to advertise bric-a-brac and champagne in the New York Herald,. yet it is a sheer waste of good money to advertise them in a paper that reaches the denizens of Avenue A.
I am aware that in this article I am speaking to thousands of advertisers who are doing some tall thinking on the subject of their local publications. They are wondering if their dollars are spent right in this daily or weekly—if a clipping or increase of mediums would do them more good. To them I would say: —
Keep the percentage of advertising expenditure down to the proper point—which averages in the vicinity of three per cent. for the established retail business-frequently give test ads and tabulate carefully the results—keep a close eye on the advertising and other features of these publications, and try and have a pretty good idea of what they are doing for you.