The How Of Writing Advertising
( Originally Published 1902 )
Most New Yorkers read the Evening journal and most readers of the Evening journal turn over to the last page, where in the editorial column matters of everyday practical interest are discussed by Mr. Arthur Brisbane in an eminently sensible manner. A case in point is the following clipped from a recent issue.
"ADVICE TO AN ADVERTISEMENT WRITER. TRUTH IS THE THING.
The letter which we print here should interest a great many readers besides those engaged in writing advertisements. Large salaries—ten, fifteen, and in one instance as high as twenty-five thousand dollars annually—are earned by men who prepare attractive advertising matter.
' W. R. HEARST, Esq., Editor Evening journal:
' DEAR SIR—I am bookkeeper for a prosperous retail concern, and among other duties I have is that of preparing copy for our advertising.
` I wish to make as much as possible of my opportunity in this respect and would like a few pointers from those who are prepared to give them, so I come, as many others do, for advice.
Will you kindly give the names of good helps in that line-publications that treat of the subject—and, most of all that I would value, is a few remarks 'straight from the shoulder' from you.
` Without a semblance of flattery I think the Evening journal has done more for the common people in inducing them to think than any other agency before the public to-day.
` Permit me to say, Success to the Evening journal. I enclose stamped envelope if personal reply is necessary. Please withhold correct address from above.
` Yours truly, ' A. A. D. ` Sussex County, N. J.'
The best way to learn to write good advertisements is to read good advertisements.
We have heard Mr. Nathan Straus, one of the biggest of advertisers, say that the art of advertising is merely to present attractively the absolute truth concerning goods that are to be sold.
We suppose that successful advertising consists in deciding how much you can say in praise of an article without damage to truth, and in saying what you have to say as attractively and as convincingly as possible.
Whatever you do, beware of humorous advertising. The man who wants to buy an overcoat wants an overcoat and not a joke. You can never convince him that your coats are as good as your jokes, no matter how good your joke may be. Simply say as earnestly and solemnly as you can: ` I have good over-coats for sale cheap.' That is what the overcoat buyer wants to know. You may lead up to this statement as attractively as you choose, but that statement wants to stand out more distinctly than any other part of your advertisement.
Be earnest in your advertising. Believe what you say. Say only what you believe. Study the advertisements in this newspaper, little and big. They are the work of successful men.
The Evening fournal editor spoke well. Seldom do you find so much good advertising advice compressed into so few words.
Truth and earnestness! Think of them long and hard. Paste these two words in your desk so that every time you sit down to prepare advertising copy they will meet your eyes. They are synonymous with sincerity and thoroughness—two qualities inseparable from success.
If you are earnest and truthful in your advertising you will undoubtedly be earnest and truthful with your employer and business associates. Earnestness in your work will cause you to study how you can save your employer's money by the use of strong, succinct sentences, a study of rates and advertising mediums and a constant digging up of ideas.
Study clearness of expression. Let the reader catch your meaning in the shortest possible time.
Although compiling and studying ads in the same line of business is advisable to start a suggestion or a series of ideas yet do not depend too much upon outside aids. Train the mind to take the initiative and with its own strength follow fully a line of thought. The mind can be trained as well as the body. Will, memory and different brain qualities can be so strengthened and developed that what at first appears impossible presently becomes easy.
The newspaper habit, the novel habit, the memorandum habit and various other mental habits get the mind in a rutin a sort of crippled condition, as it were, so that it can only move with the crutches of outside assistance. This is bad. The mind of a writer should be free, fresh, spontaneous—in a condition to create and give proper expression to his own ideas.
Granted that the new advertising writer's mental qualities are promising, then he should study the distinctive—the dramatic features of his subject. This means analysis and a use of the perceptive qualities. After using his perceptions then he constructs, after constructing he judges. From start to finish his work demands the exercise of a round of faculties. The better equipped are his faculties by nature and training, the higher the quality of the work he turns out.
Therefore it is inevitable that the advertising writer to turn out daily a certain amount of work must keep himself in the best possible physical and mental condition. If he dissipates, overexerts or underworks himself his work suffers.
The mental self is at its best with physical comfort.
The writer of advertising should study his readers. Much money is wasted by talking in a Harvard College style to a Bowery crowd, and many a Cambridge man has been disgusted with a too familiar tone. Three or four stirring display lines have been known to win a roomful, while a small paragraph with no head lines at all cut into trade as a diamond would into glass.
Get into the atmosphere of your audience, even if you have to get out of your own atmosphere. You do not want to talk to yourself, you want to talk to outsiders,—possible customers.
And when you catch their eyes give them truthful, earnest statements.
(In connection with the above is printed the following short article which Mr. MacDonald wrote for The Advertising World issue of May, 1902, and which was reproduced by many advertising journals)
Advice From an Adept in Attracting Attention: First of all the advertising writer must have something to say.
If he has nothing to say and uses up a lot of words in trying to say it the result is labored to the readers as well as to the writer.
Study the article to be advertised.
Try and get at the point of view of the reader. Try and use the arguments that would influence him. He is the one to buy the goods. What you are trying to do is to sell goods.
Presently you will find your ideas are presenting them-selves in some sort of order. And the more you think the clearer and clearer will your ideas become until they are so crystalized that they are ready for expression on paper.
At this point begin your writing.
Just now you need not be so very particular about your choice of words.
Simply write—using the words that come most readily and naturally.
After you have given your ideas to paper resolve yourself into the stern critic. Concrete evidence of your ideas is before your eyes.
Use short words instead of long.
Use words well known instead of words that sound strange or strained.
Use forcible words instead of weak.
You will find that certain words add strength to your ideas,
while others weaken. Keep a keen lookout for strong words. Do not be too terse.
Say what you have to say—no more, no less.
It's better to say too much than to say too little, providing you are giving facts. For the reader can skip what he does not wish to read, but he cannot supply omissions.
Hew to the line of truth.
There are enough truths about goods and prices to make strong impressions without using boomerang lies. Write—re-write and again re-write
It is worth every thinking and writing effort.
For advertising space is costly, and an idea poorly put may lose a sale—yes, several.
The proper connection between the point of a pen and the brain is not always in perfect working order.
Perfection in writing comes through practice and more practice.