( Originally Published 1916 )
ADVERTISING is the great art of attract ing attention. Life would be a dreary desert indeed without the charm of interest aroused by the unusual, the startling or the bizarre, all of which terms fit advertising. The Pharaoh who built the pyramids and carved the Sphinx, whatever his motive, has advertised Egypt for 3000 years. The builders of the tower of Babel were undoubtedly the executive committee of Babylon's Board of Trade, intent upon doing something to put the first city of Mesopotamia on the map, just as the later Eiffel exalted Paris. The. architect of the Parthenon picked out the most conspicuous height above Athens to glorify Greece through all time and King Solomon's temple was a master attraction for the City of Jerusalem.
The peacock's tail, the expanded fan of the turkey-gobbler, the drumming of the partridge, the roar of the lion and the neck of the giraffe are splendid specimens of Nature's essays in the field, while the female costume through ,all the ages has been de-signed to attract the attention of man more than to garb the lady !
The Venus of Milo advertises the perfect form of woman and the Farnese Hercules the perfection of masculine development. Applied commercially, advertising falls below the achievements of Nature and but displays a usefulness that raises it to the dignity of a profession. To say what form of advertising is the best advertising is beyond the ken of men. It is safer to hold to the view of the Kentucky Colonel when asked to name a good whiskey. He said all.. whiskey was good, but some kinds were, better than others. So it is with advertising. We of the newspaper trade are apt to think newspaper advertising better than any other kind. There is some sound reason behind the view. To begin with, the universality of newspaper reading provides the certainty of reaching a large number of possible customers, while the convenience served is so great as to insure profitable response, always assuming that the advertiser has something to sell that people want to buy!
Because newspaper advertising is very conspicuous and ever present it is sometimes intimated that the advertiser controls the columns of the popular press. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only does the advertiser not " control " news-papers, but he seldom tries, and usually with the result of a severe rebuke. Advertising is a by-product of the newspaper, useful in enabling it to sell itself at a much lower cost than if it relied, for income upon the reader alone. Its value to the advertiser naturally grows in a ratio with the paper's hold upon the public. This fact, duly impressed, is usually enough to convince the sensible business man that his relationship with the newspapers is decidedly formal and does not extend beyond the counting room, where he is entitled to know what circulation he gets for his money and to a rate as low as the next man. This is a degree of fairness that prevails in good measure it the newspaper trade. Doing business as it does in the open, the rightly managed newspaper has no place for secret negotiations, rebates or special privileges and the paper succeeds best that carries all its rates on its rate cards. It is really and truly a common carrier and ought to operate like a railroad.
It is sold for a uniform price to all comers and should have but one price for its advertising columns.
Vast as the volume of advertising is in American newspapers, the number of advertisers is surprisingly small. This does not apply to the users of classified announcements, the popular wants," but to " display." A well crowded evening paper in New York City in the centre of 7,500,000 population and innumerable establishments is doing very well if it has 150 separate advertisements in an issue, and a half of these will be the small " ads " of theatres, excursions and restaurants.
The big " local advertisers can be counted on the fingers of the two hands. The fair sized ones may aggregate a score, the " foreign " and " medical " make up the rest. One of the reform waves of recent years was the warfare on proprietary remedies, with the result of much excluding from newspapers, though many shut down with reluctance under the gunfire of the critic; for whatever may be said of the merits or demerits of the proprietary articles, as an advertiser the medicine man was long the mainstay of the press, when other forms of business were indifferent and utterly unresponsive. Beginning with the London dai-lies of the revolutionary period the pill and potion man, and the purveyor of improvements for the female face and form, have been staunch users of newspaper space. Worthy or not, they aided in mating an industry and an educator that is worthy, and so must be esteemed in the newspaper offices, whatever may be thought outside !
The department store expenditure in the large centres is commonly figured at from 3˝ to 4 1/2 per cent. upon the gross amount of sales. A business of $10,000,000 annually therefore indulges in an outlay of from $350,000 to $450,000 in reaching the, public: The cost of merchandising is usually figured at 25 per cent. So much must the customer pay for advertising, wrapping and packing, rental, delivery and clerk hire.
The work of the advertising solicitor is important in all newspaper offices only in so far as he brings in the first " copy." The paper must do the rest. Experience alone tells the " pulling value of an advertisement and the buying power of circulation. Much soliciting energy is wasted forcing business from the wrong lines. A solicitor should study his paper with even more care than an advertiser. The good jockey " knows " the qualities of his horse. Too few solicitors have the acquaintance they ought to have with the powers of their medium. Acquaintance and personal charm have combined often to wheedle business from an advertiser, where knowledge and discrimination should have been employed. It is pretty nearly possible to so apportion " copy " as to make it pay in all newspapers. One grade of readers can be relied upon to respond to the advertising of expensive wares, another to the medium and another to the cheap. Different "copy " means that every sail can be made to draw.
It is rather odd, but few advertisers are willing initiators of the use of printer's ink. With the example of sundry, singular successes before them they begrudge the outlay for publicity and regard the exceptional space user as merely abnormally fortunate. So most business men are repellent or on the defensive, which makes the solicitor's job a rather difficult one. But when he does succeed in picking up a line, it becomes an attractive and profitable occupation.
One very able solicitor, arguing long and eloquently with an obdurate business man, was startled by a gentle snore. His auditor had actually gone to sleep under the spell of the oration. The solicitor, a powerful man, struck the sleeper a mighty slap on the thigh. He awoke with a profane yell" What the do you mean by hitting me?"
" What do you mean," was the cool reply, ",by going to sleep when I am giving you the most valuable information you ever had a chance to hear! "
He got the business.
In another case the widow of a clergyman sought and obtained a place as solicitor for religious announcements on a great New York newspaper, established as a religious daily, but by some considered to have wandered at times from the path! She was warned that it would be a hard undertaking, but full of zeal and faith in her large acquaintance among her late husband's clerical friends, she went blithely to the task. In three days she was back. Her eyes showed traces of tears.
I have seen fifteen of my husband's best friends " she said. " They all were so sorry for me. They knew I needed the salary, and if only I had come to them from some nice paper they would be only too happy to help me, but from this one and so, I've got to give it up."
" Nonsense," replied the business manager who heard the tale of woe. " Go back and ask them ` Do you come to bring the righteous or sinners to repentance?' Because you can tell them if it's sinners they are after, we probably have the largest crop in town! "
,She was plucky and went back with the message. The paper is supreme today in religious announcements.
A shrewd solicitor of summer-resort advertising attended, with the men from rival papers, a Board of Trade meeting at Asbury Park. Each man was asked to state the circulation claimed by his paper. This youth was called early. He gave his paper's figure as 500,000. His chief rival came last. His circulation " was 700,000. Before the meeting adjourned the representative of 500,000 " asked for a chance to say another word.
" If I had been asked last," he said, " My circulation would have been. 700,000."
He got the business!
Another solicitor started out to develop a line of classified " ads " for family pets under " Dogs, Birds, etc." One German dealer in these specialties resisted all blandishments. He stuck to a rival paper as sufficient for his needs. It happened that death notices were a great feature in the paper he preferred and a very light one in that one represented by the solicitor. It was in the pneumonia season and nearly a page of the sad announcements were present in the one and but half a column in the other.
" Don't you want to stay in business? " asked the agent.
"Sure; vy not? "
The solicitor opened up the two papers at the death roll.
" Well, you can't if you stick to the——. The readers are all dying. Ours are all alive. Better get onboard! "
All solicitors are not so lucky in being " pat." One very able New York advertising man whose affluence afforded him a country seat used many of its by-products as agreeable means of introducing " business." With his eye on the taste of a large advertiser of proprietary medicine, he sent the gentleman a collie pup. The pup bit off the card on his collar and, as the event showed, arrived anonymously at his destination—on the outskirts of Philadelphia. After several weeks' waiting for some word the solicitor journeyed to the Quaker City and found his man. He was rather distant. No headway being made on the desired contract, he ventured to inquire about the pup.
The advertiser broke out in sudden fury:
" So you're the idiot who sent us that blanked, blanked pup, are you! I've been ;wanting to kill you and the dog ever since he came. So you're the fellow who sicked that nuisance on me. Why, he's eaten up all the rugs and shoes in the house. Come and get him and do it quick ! "
It is proper to say that the pup developed into a model dog and cordiality and contracts followed in due season. .
A good advertising solicitor can make from $5000 to $15,000 a year on a sizable paper if he is diligent and productive. His advertisers become his own, by newspaper custom. His hours are such as he cares to make them and work alone " drives " a man of standing.
The " adsmith is a modern adjunct to the newspaper. He is the person who prepares " copy " for the advertiser. Few newspapers have had success in maintaining a " copy " department, but the " adsmith has developed a field for himself. By study of type, goods, the field and expression, he has become much sought for as an expert in publicity. Parallel with this very useful person has come another—of no value to the news-paper, and for a long time one who did much to discredit it-the press agent, first a product of the theatre and developing until he reached the lofty pinnacles occupied by the Standard Oil Company and the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Beginning merely as a-person to provide reporters with such information as his employer cared to give out, he expanded himself into a factor in publicity promotion in the securing, of vast amounts of space free of charge by gilding his statements with interest, so that they were eagerly welcomed in many, if not all, editorial rooms. At last the counting rooms became vaguely conscious that the papers were being used and abused by these ingenious gentlemen. Indeed, they earned much discredit for the press, being responsible for a severe share of distrust, almost proving the Populistic charge of corporation control. Steps taken by the American News-paper Publishers' Association found more than 1000 of these busy gentlemen diligently at work. They have been well broken up by concentrated action on the part of the A. N. P. A., but not before they had done much harm in affecting the status of news-paper honesty as well as curtailing legitimate advertising on the part of their employers.