The Humors Of Advertising
( Originally Published 1902 )
When I was a boy I used to work in a country newspaper office. My chief duty was to " write up the mail," and incidentally I found time to set up a few sticks of type in the run of a week.
As the forms were being made up one particular week our principal advertiser in the office-a fussy little merchant—came rushing in the office and wanted to know if we could not squeeze in the locals a small paragraph referring to a recent acquisition to his stock—a new importation of American boots, shoes and rubbers.
I took the paragraph and soon set it in cold type, and with-out the formality of a proof-reading it was soon embedded in the waiting forms. The hand press was soon in operation and in the course of the day the edition was run off.
What was the horror and consternation of the proprietor, editor, reporter, business manager and advertising manager, merged in one individual, when the worthy advertiser came in the office next day in a towering rage and demanded that some-body be hanged, drawn and quartered because his carefully drawn-up paragraph read
" Mr. begs to announce that he has just received a new importation of American boots, shoes and rubbish." An investigation followed and I came very nearly losing the very important position I then held.
A few weeks later the above-mentioned editor-in-chief was honored by a visit from his best girl. She was a farmer's daughter—a sweet, unsophisticated young thing, who was soon lost in wonderment in the mysteries of a newspaper office. Her Adonis was very much engaged that day, it being the day of going to press, but with much grace and patience he began explaining the dictionary of " quads," " takes," " forms " and other terms peculiar to the business.
" And, George, tell me what's this? " she asked, sweeping her muff across three columns of set up editorials. The type was not locked—been simply wet—and it was swept by her muff into inextricable confusion over the cold stone and the floor.
He glanced in horror at the catastrophe—for it meant a delay of twenty-four hours in getting out that week's paper, and then said with much feeling
"That's pi, by gad-pi that the whole office force and the paper's three thousand subscribers will have to eat for a whole week."
As advertising manager for a certain department store I used to be occasionally much amused at the breaks of the head of the hat department. One day he came up to the advertising sanctum iri great glee.
"I think this is a corking good heading I've written," he said. "Let me read it to you
" ` Fathers and Mothers, if you have children, prepare to bring them around to our great sale of children's hats and caps tomorrow.''
He was asked how it was possible for readers to be fathers or mothers without having children. The cigars were on him.
A piece of advertising copy once left my hands with this soul stirring caption
" A MINE Or BARGAINS." When it came back set up it read
"A MIRE Or BARGAINS."
A furniture heading was prepared by the writer with this display head;
" PALTRY PRICES."
The printer made it read
" PALTRY PIECES."
Once an advertising writer in a great hurry attempted to write
" HERE ARE HIGH VALUES AND LOW PRICES."
What he did actually produce was:
" HERE- ARE HIGH PRICES AND LOW VALUES."
You would scarcely believe it, but the cold fact stands behind the following paragraph:
Alpine Hats, These Alpaca Coats are worth $1.25, but we offer them for 75c. In this lot are some black Sateen Croats—color guaranteed. All sizes.
Do you see the joke—or the double joke? Notice how the printer calls coats "goats." and how he said " Alpine Hats " instead of alpaca coats. This occurred the other day while I was working on a New York department store ad.
Most of the errors are caught by the advertising man before the ads go to press.
A friend of mine, who is a writer on a New York daily, told me last evening in a rather perturbed state of mind, how he turned in a piece of copy relating to " trust magnates."
"And what' do you think?" he said. "The confounded printer made it read `trust maggots.'"
Some of the errors are perfectly absurd. For instance, I saw the proof of a ribbon ad the other day that said a yard of ribbon would cost $300. Of course the price was pc.
Occasionally a mistake gets in the papers. The other day I saw advertised a lot of Lamb's Hair hats at $5.00. each. There are no such things as Lamb's Hair hats, but there are plenty of Camel's Hair hats at $5.00 and thereabouts, and I am certain the advertiser meant Camel's Hair hats.
"The proper measures to take," etc., etc., is what a friend of mine wrote. When it appeared in type it read, " The proper medicine to take," etc., etc. One day last summer I saw in a small out of town paper an ad, the headline of which said: " Have you seen our hollar shirts?"
The tale of these shirts went on to say that they were very exceptional shirts for a dollar.
I remember I once wrote:
"After an exhaustive study of the markets," etc. The printer made it read :
"After an exclusive study of the markets," etc.
I caught it in the proof, corrected it, then had the pleasure of reading in the paper:
"After an exhasive study of the markets," etc.
To this day I do not know what the word "exhasive" means. Neither does the printer, for I asked him.
" The trust maggots " mistake reminds me of an error that occurred some years ago. I wrote an article for a "high-class monthly," in which I said something about " the local magnate." I could scarce believe my eyes when I saw it read—in the magazine, too!—" the tall gate."
Errors of prices are very common, which is not to be wondered at considering the pages of items and prices which department stores are constantly putting forth.
I remember an instance when the advertisement of a concern appeared in the daily papers without the name or address of the concern. This was done through some neglect in the composing room. Yet although it appeared in the morning in this shape there was quite a crowd of buyers in the department thus advertised. Inquiry among the shoppers elicited the fact that they recognized the concern by the style of set up.
Accidents will happen not only in the best-regulated families, but also in the best-regulated advertising departments and news-paper offices, and though some are extremely irritating, yet some are mirth provoking—viewed from the standpoint of the man who does the laughing.