The Advertising Writer
( Originally Published 1902 )
Here's a paragraph clipped from an advertisement occupying a rather expensive space in a New York daily
" A little women out in Oswego, Ill., tells about her husband having determined to see if he could not make her quit coffee drinking, which he believed to be the cause of her constant neuralgia and' general nervousness, brought home several packages of — -, which he had discovered, by trying elsewhere, to be good."
Which said paragraph points a moral and adorns a tale. The man who wrote was not the simon-pure ad-writer. Doubtless he was a "good business man"—a man who could make a contract for newspaper space or could compute compound interest upon a given sum for a given number of years with ac-curacy and dispatch. But he knows enough about advertising to lose money in the game by flabby, elongated sentences and pointless paragraphs. A good advertising writer would produce something after this order:
Coffee drinking brought on neuralgia and general nervousness in the case of a little woman out in Oswego, Ill. Her husband discovered that was good, so he brought her several packages as an antidote.
Fifty-seven words in one paragraph, thirty-seven in the other, with the idea expressed quicker and clearer. Figure up the saving in the year's advertising bills alone and you have the salary paid the writer multiplied. Figure up the better business brought in by stronger, saner advertising and you will be amazed.
Another example is this, clipped from a lengthy advertisement running in the New York dailies:
" This was last December, and although every other physician had told him that they could not cure him, and although it seemed too good to be true, he began the treatment, for it was his only hope, and to the surprise of all his friends and the old doctors he improved from that day. He breathed the soothing, oily vapors into his lungs from week to week, and as a reward it healed them, and the doctors wonder."
What a mess of bad grammar and involved words!"They," a plural pronoun, evidently stands for "physician," a singular noun, and " them," in the last sentence can apply to " vapors" or " lungs."
To think of paying good moneyrfor the advertising space consumed by such an ad! Would it not be better to say something like this?
This was last December. He was given up by every other physician. Yet despite all he began the treatment and as his lungs received the soothing, oily vapors a cure became certain.
It is not a question of nice writing—it is not a question of bowing to personal prejudice—it is simply a question of saying your say so pointedly and gracefully—saying it in the best business way possible. It simply resolves itself into a question of dollars and cents saved in the advertising bills and made by the effectiveness of the advertising.
A great many people extraordinarily many considering the age in which we live-have an idea that the advertising writer is one of the two following individuals
(1) He who with a few turns of his pen produces advertising so sterling, original and forceful as to simply hypnotize business whether the business be worthy of extension or not—and for which extraordinary services he commands a princely salary.
(2) He who makes the most outrageous claims without any grounds whatsoever—a charlatan who should be derided and discouraged by all business men.
The advertising writer is neither one nor the other. He is simply one who can produce better advertising matter than the average business man, because he has a natural knack in that direction and has fostered and brought to perfection that knack by continuous experience in that line, while the average business man's energies go in a dozen different directions.
It is hardly necessary to here state that the advertising writer should be a grammarian-a stylist if needs be—should know words and their various meanings—should understand typographical arrangements and express every meaning exactly as it should be expressed.
That we all admit.
But where the greatest value of an advertising writer to a business man comes in, is that the writer is the connecting link of information between the public and the business.
In other words, the writer so understands the business man's constituency that he can talk to it in a manner clear and telling, and with enough ignorance to look at it with the new, sharp eyes of the public.
The first-class advertising writer looks at a subject with the public's eye. He does not look at it with eye of the owner such a gaze is too full of technical detail to be interesting to any except himself and a few on the inside of his business.
Not only does the writer look at a subject with the eye of the public, but he gives it sufficient study to be able to array telling and interesting facts in the most fetching manner.
There is a bottle of mucilage on the desk on which I am now writing. The man who made that mucilage has probably given his whole time and thought to that business for years, and so thoroughly immersed himself in details that were he to pen an ad about his mucilage it would read something like this:
PURE GUM ARABIC 10 CENTS PER MUCILAGE BOTTLE.
Extra adhesive because it is made of pure Gum Arabic. In all our years of experience we never used adulterated Gum Arabic, and all the ingredients of our Mucilage were first classed and carefully compounded by special machinery under expert eyes.
The advertising writer would say something like the example shown at the top of the next page, which will be found much more explicit.
MUCILAGE 10 CENTS BOTTLE. THAT STICKS
It's a clear, smooth-running liquid—easy to handle —just what is wanted on the business desk. It's superior to all other mucilages, as the Gum Arabic in it is absolutely pure. It is sold everywhere-used everywhere, and always satisfies because it is the best mucilage ever made.
The last ad reads easier than the first because it is less burdened with technical details and is more forceful to the world at large, for it bears upon the points that at once appeal to those who use mucilage. And the advertising writer from the stand-point of an outsider sees the outside points of interest—from a brief inside study he sees the manufacturer's points of view, and with the two points of view well in his mind's eye, he produces advertising that interests the outside world because the outside world's impressions, with some inside knowledge, is brightly put and pleases the manufacturer by benefiting trade and giving him ideas-new fresh and money-making.
The business man that does not believe in the advertising writer has but an imperfect knowledge of advertising. And the business man who does not believe in advertising is as far behind the business procession as is the old express wagon in the rear to the band wagon in front.