Advertising Illustrations And Their Uses
( Originally Published 1902 )
An examination of the advertising columns of any publication will speedily determine the fact that the use and influence of illustrations is growing right along.
It is not so many years ago that some advertisers used to snort at illustrations. Take Wanamaker's advertising for instance. Before Mr. Gillam took hold of John Wanamaker's advertising lever, no cuts were used in the Wanamaker announcements. Today they are lavish—the cuts are as carefully prepared and made to fit the text as is possible for cuts to be. Every Wanamaker ad—whether in New York or in Philadelphia-has a goodly sprinkling of cuts.
Bloomingdale Bros., Siegel-Cooper Co., Macy, Adams and all the big New York retailers use cuts—and use them lavishly too. Illustrated advertising, like illustrated journalism, has come to stay-it is here in response to a demand of the public to get at the story of advertising articles without waste of trine.
The illustration that does not express a distinct idea is a poor illustration. It should be clearly drawn by an artist with an abundance of ideas to be conveyed in the fewest lines possible. The etcher and electrotyper should see that these lines are cut deep and clear. When there is a superabundance of detail in the drawing and a lack of depth and clearness in the workmanship of the cut, the result is disastrous as far as retail advertising is concerned. The average newspaper, city and country, is printed on a rapid press with poor ink on poor paper; that is why so many cuts come out blurred and blotched.
Some retailers keep the cuts indexed in their own advertising offices, some ask the newspapers to file away the cuts. Some unwise merchants keep the cuts in old barrels and dry goods boxes. When contingencies arise the cuts are difficult or impossible to find. In large cities, where the matrix system can be worked, it has been found that the best plan is to have the matrices indexed in the store's advertising office and the electrotypes or stereotypes in the newspaper composing rooms. In small towns, I believe, the best system is to have the newspapers index the cuts and the advertiser to be supplied with several proofs of each. When the " printer's devil " knows his business this is all right; when that individual is careless there is constant trouble on account of cuts mislaid or lost.
In Boston there is a greater demand for wood engravings than in any other city. But wood engravings are more expensive in production than the usual outline cuts known as chalk plates, zinc etchings, pen and ink drawings, etc. On good paper wood engravings show up more clearly the fabric of the suit or the grain of the wood than any other newspaper cuts. But the fine effect of a wood engraving is lost in the poor paper, ink and press work of so many dailies.
Generally speaking the chalk plate or ordinary outline cut is the cut for the retailer. It costs little to get up.
In the matter of advertising garments for men, women and children cuts are very necessary—almost absolutely necessary. A garment ad without a cut is not one-fifth as eloquent as an ad with the picture of the garment advertised. Garment cuts—and other cuts for that matter—should do more than merely picture the article being advertised-they should suggest the time and place forits uses. A man portrayed walking down Broadway, with a handsome covert overcoat, instantly suggests to the good male dresser of Danbury, Denver or Dover, a Saturday afternoon saunter in the principal street of his town cutting a swell in the same garment. An effective illustration, showing a couple of ladies on Fifth Avenue, on Easter Sunday morning, resplendent in stylish spring capes and skirts of the latest mode, in a moment strikes a note of admiration and keen appreciation in the mind of every lady in the city or rural district, who would like to appear to equally excellent advantage in the same outer garments. Columns of talk could not make this impression—but a few words deftly strung together describing the garments and their prices, make the combination sure to win custom. The first great point in advertising is to under-stand the art of attracting attention, then retaining it long enough to tell your story. Cuts will help you as nothing else in this regard. It is like retailing. First induce the customer to come to your store then win him by the excellence of your values. Induce the reader to glance at your ad by your bright cut and happy catch-line, then retain his attention by the brightness and logic of your talk—keep him fastened to your ad until his head is filled with the tale you would impart.
You have noticed—I have noticed—every student or even casual observer of advertising has noticed the past few years, an evolution in cuts. The same evolution has taken place in the ads proper. This evolution is
Not so many years ago in the minds of many advertisers the proper caper in illustrations was a man falling off a precipice—a boy turning a handspring—an individual having his eyes pulled from the socket—a woman chasing a cat with a broomstick or some other idiotic caricature to give point to an equally idiotic joke or drivel. The point aimed at was " to be original." In the desire for originality all the canons of decency, common sense and art were forgotten—everything was swept aside to bring before the public eye a far-fetched and labored witticism or effort to be extraordinarily unusual.
Nowadays there is very little of that.
The eminently plain, beautiful and dignified now is justly considered in cuts as well as in ads, and it will be justly considered unless advertising takes a swing back to its dark ages—of which there is no danger.
The first-classartist can invest his illustrations with the proper amount of originality by the natural force of his individuality. He will take a pair of shoes, a silk hat or a corset, and with a few strokes of his pencil give it a winsome, harmonious effect, brimful of suggestion and action, originality and thought, yet so easy and natural in its artistic effect that the most ordinary reader can in a moment grasp its points and uses.
Originality cannot help flowing from the pencil of the good artist—he will naturally give an original turn to every picture he makes. All the while he is not straining for this effect, but rather following the natural bent of his artistic nature in reproducing the article and hinting a thought as to its performances.
Same way with the advertising writer. In telling his tale he need burst no suspender-buttons in a wild desire to be original, because originality will naturally follow in the wake of clearness and conciseness, which are the first considerations he aims at. His mind, like the artist's, is trained in the direction of bringing out the best in the article being advertised-both have the creative faculty-the application of this creative faculty gives the illustrations and the ads all the originality necessary.