( Originally Published 1902 )
Have you ever felt the narrowing, cramping influence of a rut?
If not you are an extraordinarily favored being and ought to thank your stars for being so lucky. If you have, you have gone through the average experience of the average business man.
Ruts in advertising are very great obstacles to good advertising. A rut is death to vitality—snap and originality. A rut means the ordinary—the common-place—the average every-day half-dead-and-alive way of saying and doing things. Mental habits as thin as air and as light as gossamer become as heavy as iron chains and as tenacious as barnacles, and the victim falls into a narrow, mechanical manner of preparing his ads or doing any of his regular duties.
Ruts in advertising will be my present story. I know the importance of this topic because I have been in and am still in the harness myself and I have noticed the efforts of my brother knights of the advertising quill to keep their wits and pens in b, right, crisp, apple-pie order in spite of the deteriorating effects of an every-day existence.
It is easier to get in a rut in a small town than in a large city. This is by reason of the greater variety of distractions which the large cities offer in the way of theatres and all sorts of amusements, social life and the many phases of business affairs that the day brings forth.
I can conceive no better way to stay out of the advertising rut than by a regular study of the good advertising papers. A careful reading of the pages of good advertising talks and examples, will help any advertising man in the direction of being broad, bright and interesting in his work.
The next best thing, in my estimation, is to take the principal papers of such large cities as Boston, New York, Phila delphia or Chicago and glance over their advertising columns every day. If the reader of this is a clothier I believe he can get most help from the New York papers—in other lines it is a tie between New York, Philadelphia and Chicago dailies, with the chances in favor of the Chicago papers. The Chicago ads are beautifully typographed and very cleverly worded. Mandel Bros., Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co., Schlesinger & Mayor and Siegel-Cooper's ads are full of good advertising points.
Even a short five minutes' study of several such examples of good advertising will give the advertiser enough points to last him for a week.
A variety of duties can keep a man out of a rut. I find a pleasure in the preparation of these articles, because my mind is switched for the time being from the intense study of preparing advertising.
Conversations with intelligent business men are of great help. In my advertising connections with great houses I always enjoyed my talks with bright heads of departments, because I believed they helped me much in being in the receptive mood so essential to good advertising.
I remember dropping in on Mr. Manley M. Gillam one summer day a few years ago at Wanamaker's.
" Where do you get these bright thoughts you swing into your ads?" I asked.
" You see this blank piece of paper? " I did.
" You see this lead pencil?" I did.
" From the bright department heads, and these two helps before me I manage to get all the thoughts you think bright."
Although Mr. Gillam said nothing about his own creative brain, I appreciated the point. He absorbed the ideas of the principal Wanamaker heads, and after they filtered through his own brain they were utilized in conjunction with his own creations.
A man can stay out of a rut by a constant intercourse and rubbing against other business men. Hence you will notice that all bright writers are broad and catholic in their views and relations with their fellow men. The man who gets in a rut on advertising or any other subject has only himself to blame. When he is in that condition you will note how narrow, selfish and obstinate he is in his ideas and dealings with the world in general.