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The Clock that Had no Hands
And Nineteen Other Essays About Advertising
By Herbert Kaufman
New York George H. Doran Company
COPYRIGHT, 1908 BY THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
COPYRIGHT, 1912 GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
THE.PLIMPTON.PRESS [W.D.O] NORWOOD.MASS.U.S.A
The Clock that Had no Hands 1
The Cannon that Modernized Japan 7
The Tailor who Paid too Much 13
The Man who Retreats before His Defeat 19
The Dollar that Can't be Spent 25
The Pass of Thermopylae 31
The Perambulating Showcase 37
How Alexander Untied the Knot 43
If It Fits You, Wear this Cap 49
You Must Irrigate Your Neighborhood 55
Cato's Follow-up System 61
How to Write Retail Advertising Copy 67
The Difference between Amusing and Convincing 75
Some Don'ts when You Do Advertise 79
The Doctor whose Patients Hang On 85
The Horse that Drew the Load 91
The Cellar Hole and the Sewer Hole 97
The Neighborhood of Your Advertising 103
The Mistake of the Big Steak 109
The Omelette Souffle 113
The Clock that Had no Hands
Newspaper advertising is to business, what hands are to a clock. It is a direct and certain means of letting the public know what you are doing. In these days of intense and vigilant commercial contest, a dealer who does not advertise is like a clock that has no hands. He has no way of recording his movements. He can no more expect a twentieth century success with nineteenth century methods, than he can wear the same sized shoes as a man, which fitted him in his boyhood.
His father and mother were content with neighborhood shops and bobtail cars; nothing better could be had in their day. They were accustomed to seek the merchant instead of being sought by him. They dealt "around the corner" in one-story shops which depended upon the immediate friends of the dealer for support. So long as the city was made up of such neighborhood units, each with a full outfit of butchers, bakers, clothiers, jewelers, furniture dealers and shoemakers, it was possible for the proprietors of these little establishments to exist and make a profit.
But as population increased, transit facilities spread, sections became specialized, block after block was entirely devoted to stores, and mile after mile became solely occupied by homes.
The purchaser and the storekeeper grew farther and farther apart. It was necessary for the merchant to find a substitute for his direct personality, which no longer served to draw customers to his door. He had to have a bond between the commercial center and the home center. Rapid transit eliminated distance but advertising was necessary to inform people where he was located and what he had to sell. It was a natural outgrowth of changed conditions—the beginning of a new era in trade which no longer relied upon personal acquaintance for success.
Something more wonderful than the fabled philosopher's stone came into being, and the beginnings of fortunes which would pass the hundred million mark and place tradesmen's daughters upon Oriental thrones grew from this new force. Within fifty years it has become as vital to industry as steam to commerce.
Advertising is not a luxury nor a debatable policy. It has proven its case. Its record is traced in the skylines of cities where a hundred towering buildings stand as a lesson of reproach to the men who had the opportunity but not the foresight, and furnish a constant inspiration to the young merchant at the threshold of his career.
The Cannon that Modernized Japan
Business is no longer a man to man contact, in which the seller and the buyer establish a personal bond, any more than battle is a hand-to-hand grapple wherein bone and muscle and sinew decide the outcome. Trade as well as war has changed aspect—both are now fought at long range.
Just as a present day army of heroes would have no opportunity to display the individual valor of its members, just so a merchant who counts upon his direct acquaintanceship for success, is a relic of the past—a business dodo.
Japan changed her policy of exclusion to foreigners, after a fleet of warships battered down the Satsuma fortifications. The Samurai, who had hitherto considered their blades and bows efficient, discovered that one cannon was mightier than all the swords in creation—if they could not get near enough to use them. Japan profited by the lesson. She did not wait until further ramparts were pounded to pieces but was satisfied with her one experience and proceeded to modernize her methods.
The merchant who doesn't advertise is pretty much in the same position as that in which Japan stood when her eyes were opened to the fact that times had changed. The long range publicity of a competitor will as surely destroy his business as the cannon of the foreigners crumbled the walls of Satsuma. Unless you take the lesson to heart, unless you realize the importance of advertising, not only as a means of extending your business but for defending it as well, you must be prepared to face the consequences of a folly as great as that of a duelist who expects to survive in a contest in which his adversary bears a sword twice the length of his own.
Don't think that it's too late to begin because there are so many stores which have had the advantage of years of cumulative advertising. The city is growing. It will grow even more next year. It needs increased trading facilities just as it's hungry for new neighborhoods.
But it will never again support neighborhood stores. Newspaper advertising has reduced the value of being locally prominent, and five cent street car fares have cut out the advantage of being "around the corner." A store five miles away, can reach out through the columns of the daily newspaper and draw your next door neighbor to its aisles, while you sit by and see the people on your own block enticed away, without your being able to retaliate or secure new customers to take their place.
It is not a question of your ability to stand the cost of advertising but of being able to survive without it. The thing you have to consider is not only an extension of your business but of holding what you already have.
Advertising is an investment, the cost of which is in the same proportion to its returns as seeds are to the harvest. And it is just as preposterous for you to consider publicity as an expense, as it would be for a farmer to hesitate over purchasing a fertilizer, if he discovered that he could profitably increase his crops by employing it.
The Tailor who Paid too Much
I was buying a cigar last week when a man dropped into the shop and after making a purchase told the proprietor that he had started a clothes shop around the corner and quoted him prices, with the assurance of best garments and terms.
After he left the cigar man turned to me and said:
"Enterprising fellow, that, he'll get along."
"But he won't," I replied, "and, furthermore, I'll wager you that he hasn't the sort of clothes shop that will enable him to."
"What made you think that?" queried the man behind the counter.
"His theories are wrong," I explained; "he's relying upon word of mouth publicity to build up his business and he can't interview enough individuals to compete with a merchant, who has sense enough to say the same things he told you, to a hundred thousand men, while he is telling it to one. Besides, his method of advertising is too expensive. Suppose he sees a hundred persons every day. First of all, he is robbing his business of its necessary direction and besides, he is spending too much to reach every man he solicits."
"I don't quite follow you."
"Well, as the proprietor of a clothes shop his own time is so valuable that I am very conservative in my estimate when I put the cost of his soliciting at five cents a head.
"Now, if he were really able and clever he would discover that he can talk to hundreds of thousands of people at a tenth of a cent per individual. There is not a newspaper in town the advertising rate of which is $1.00 per thousand circulation, for a space big enough in which to display what he said to you."
"I never looked at it that way," said the cigar man.
It's only "the man who hasn't looked at it that way," who hesitates for an instant over the advisability and profitableness of newspaper publicity.
Newspaper advertising is the cheapest channel of communication ever established by man. A thousand letters with one-cent stamps, will easily cost fifteen dollars and not one envelope in ten will be opened because the very postage is an invitation to the wastebasket.
If there were anything cheaper rest assured that the greatest merchants in America would not spend individual sums ranging up to half a million dollars a year and over, upon this form of attracting trade.
The Man who Retreats before His Defeat
Advertising isn't magic. There is no element of the black art about it. In its best and highest form it is plain talk, sane talk—selling talk. Its results are in proportion to the merit of the subject advertised and the ability with which the advertising is done.
There are two great obstacles to advertising profit, and both of them arise from ignorance of the real functions and workings of publicity.
The first is to advertise promises which will not be fulfilled,—because all that advertising can do when it accomplishes most, is to influence the reader to investigate your claims.
If you promise the earth and deliver the moon, advertising will not pay you.
If you bring men and women to your store on pretense and fail to make good, advertising will have harmed you, because it has only drawn attention to the fact that you are to be avoided.
It is as unjust to charge advertising with failure under these conditions, as it would be for your neighbor to rob a bank and make you responsible for his misdeed. In brief, advertised dishonesty is even more profitless than unexploited deception.
The other great error in advertising is to expect more out of advertising than there is in it.
Advertising is seed which a merchant plants in the confidence of the community. He must allow time for it to grow. Every successful advertiser has to be patient. The time that it takes to arrive at results rests entirely with the ability and determination devoted to the work. But you cannot turn back when you have traveled half way and declare that the path is wrong.
You can't advertise for a week, and because your store isn't crowded, say it hasn't paid you. It takes a certain period to attract the attention of readers. Everybody doesn't see what you print the first time it appears. More will notice your copy the second day, a great many more at the end of a month.
You cannot expect to win the confidence of the community to the same degree that other men have obtained it, without taking pretty much the same length of time that they did. But you can cut short the period between your introduction to your reader and his introduction to your counters, by spending more effort in preparing your copy and displaying a greater amount of convincingness.
You mustn't act like the little girl who sowed a garden and came out the next day expecting to find it in full bloom. Her father had to explain to her that plants require roots and that, although she could not see what was going on, the seeds were doing their most important work just before the flowers showed above ground.
So advertising is doing its most important work before the big results eventuate, and to abandon the money which has been invested just before results arrive, is not only foolish but childish. It would be just as logical for a farmer to desert his fields because he cannot harvest his corn a week after he planted it.
Advertising does not require faith—merely common sense. If it is begun in doubt and relinquished before normal results can be reasonably looked for, the fault does not lie with the newspaper nor with publicity—the blame is solely on the head of the coward who retreated before he was defeated.
The Dollar that Can't be Spent
Every dollar spent in advertising is not only a seed dollar which produces a profit for the merchant, but is actually retained by him even after he has paid it to the publisher.
Advertising creates a good will equal to the cost of the publicity.
Advertising really costs nothing. While it uses funds it does not use them up. It helps the founder of a business to grow rich and then keeps his business alive after his death.
It eliminates the personal equation. It perpetuates confidence in the store and makes it possible for a merchant to withdraw from business without having the profits of the business withdrawn from him. It changes a name to an institution—an institution which will survive its builder.
It is really an insurance policy which costs nothing—pays a premium each year instead of calling for one and renders it possible to change the entire personnel of a business without disturbing its prosperity.
Advertising renders the business stronger than the man—independent of his presence. It permanentizes systems of merchandising, the track of which is left for others to follow.
A business which is not advertised must rely upon the personality of its proprietor, and personality in business is a decreasing factor. The public does not want to know the man who owns the store—it isn't interested in him but in his goods. When an unadvertised business is sold it is only worth as much as its stock of goods and its fixtures. There is no good will to be paid for—it does not exist—it has not been created. The name over the door means nothing except to the limited stream of people from the immediate neighborhood, any of whom could tell you more about some store ten miles away which has regularly delivered its shop news to their breakfast table.
It is as shortsighted for a man to build a business which dies with his death or ceases with his inaction, as it is unfair for him not to provide for the continuance of its income to his family.
The Pass of Thermopylae
Xerxes once led a million soldiers out of Persia in an effort to capture Greece, but his invasion failed utterly, because a Spartan captain had entrenched a hundred men in a narrow mountain pass, which controlled the road into Lacedaemon. The man who was first on the ground had the advantage.
Advertising is full of opportunities for men who are first on the ground.
There are hundreds of advertising passes waiting for some one to occupy them. The first man who realizes that his line will be helped by publicity, has a tremendous opportunity. He can gain an advantage over his competitors that they can never possess. Those who follow him must spend more money to equal his returns. They must not only invest as much, to get as much, but they must as well, spend an extra sum to counteract the influence that he has already established in the community.
Whatever men sell, whether it is actual merchandise or brain vibrations, can be more easily sold with the aid of advertising. Not one half of the businesses which should be exploited are appearing in the newspapers. Trade grows as reputation grows and advertising spreads reputation.
If you are engaged in a line which is waiting for an advertising pioneer, realize what a wonderful chance you have of being the first of your kind to appeal directly to the public. You stand a better chance of leadership than those who have handicapped their strength, by permitting you to get on the ground before they could outstrip you. You gain a prestige that those who follow you, must spend more money to counteract.
If your particular line is similar to some other trade or business which has already been introduced to the reading public, it's up to you to start in right now and join your competitors in contesting for the attention of the community. The longer you delay the more you decrease your chances of surviving. Every man who outstrips you is another opponent, who must be met and grappled with, for the right of way.
The Perambulating Showcase
The newspaper is a huge shop window, carried about the city and delivered daily into hundreds of thousands of homes, to be examined at the leisure of the reader. This shop window is unlike the actual plate glass showcase only in one respect—it makes display of descriptions instead of articles.
You have often been impressed by the difference between the decorations of two window-trimmers, each of whom employed the same materials for his work. The one drew your attention and held it by the grace and cleverness and art manifested in his display. The other realized so little of the possibilities in the materials placed at his disposal, that unless some one called your attention to his mediocrities you would have gone on unconscious of their existence.
An advertiser must know that he gets his results in accordance with the skill exercised in preparing his verbal displays. He must make people stop and pause. His copy has to stand out.
He must not only make a show of things that are attractive to the eye but are attractive to the people's needs, as well.
The window-trimmer must not make the mistake of thinking that the showiest stocks are the most salable. The advertiser must not make the mistake of thinking that the showiest words are the most clinching.
Windows are too few in number to be used with indiscretion. The good merchant puts those goods back of his plate glass which nine people out of ten will want, once they have seen them.
The good advertiser tells about goods which nine readers out of ten will buy, if they can be convinced.
Newspaper space itself is only the window, just as the showcase is but a frame for merchandise pictures. A window on a crowded street, in the best neighborhood, where prosperous persons pass continually, is more desirable, than one in a cheap, sparsely settled neighborhood. An advertisement in a newspaper with the most readers and the most prosperous ones, possesses a great advantage over the same copy, in a medium circulating among persons who possess less means. It would be foolish for a shop to build its windows in an alley-way—and just as much so to put its advertising into newspapers which are distributed among "alley-dwellers."
How Alexander Untied the Knot
Alexander the Great was being shown the Gordian Knot. "It can't be untied," they told him; "every man who tried to do so, failed."
But Alexander was not discouraged because the rest had flunked. He simply realized that he would have to go at it in a different way. And instead of wasting time with his fingers, he drew his sword and slashed it apart.
Every day a great business general is shown some knot which has proven too much for his competitors, and he succeeds, because he finds a way to cut it. The fumbler has no show so long as there is a brother merchant who doesn't waste time trying to accomplish the impossible—who takes lessons from the failures about him and avoids the methods which were their downfall.
The knottiest problems in trade are:
1—The problem of location.
2—The problem of getting the crowds.
3—The problem of keeping the crowds.
4—The problem of minimizing fixed expenses.
5—The problem of creating a valuable good will.
None of these knots is going to be untied by fumbling fingers. They are too complicated. They're all inextricably involved—so twisted and entangled that they can't be solved singly—like the Gordian knot they must be cut through at one stroke. And you can't cut the knot with anything but advertising—because:
1—A store that is constantly before the people makes its own neighborhood.
2—Crowds can be brought from anywhere by daily advertising.
3—Customers can always be held by inducements.
4—Fixed expenses can only be reduced by increasing the volume of sales.
5—Good will can only be created through publicity.
Advertising is breeding new giants every year and making them more powerful every hour. Publicity is the sustaining food of a powerful store and the only strengthening nourishment for a weak one. The retailer who delays his entry into advertising must pay the penalty of his procrastination by facing more giant competitors as each month of opportunity slips by.
Personal ability as a close purchaser and as a clever seller, doesn't count for a hang, so long as other men are equally well posted and wear the sword of publicity to boot. They are able to tie your business into constantly closer knots, while you cannot retaliate, because there is no knot which their advertising cannot cut for them.
Yesterday you lost a customer—today they took one—tomorrow they'll get another. You cannot cope with their competition because you haven't the weapon with which to oppose it. You can't untie your Gordian knot because it can't be untied—you've got to cut it.
You must become an advertiser or you must pay the penalty of incompetence.
You not only require the newspaper to fight for a more hopeful tomorrow, but to keep today's situation from becoming hopeless.
If It Fits You, Wear this Cap
Advertising isn't a crucible with which lazy, bigoted and incapable merchants can turn incompetency into success—but one into which brains and tenacity and courage can be poured and changed into dollars. It is only a short cut across the fields—not a moving platform. You can't "get there" without "going some."
It's a game in which the worker—not the shirker—gets rich.
By its measurement every man stands for what he is and for what he does, not for what he was and what he did.
Every day in the advertising world is another day and has to be taken care of with the same energy as its yesterday.
The quitter can't survive where the plugger has the ghost of a chance.
Advertising doesn't take the place of business talent or business management. It simply tells what a business is and how it is managed. The snob whose father created and who is content to live on what was handed to him, can't stand up against the man who knows he must build for himself.
What makes you think that you are entitled to prosper as well as a competitor who works twice as hard for his prosperity?
Why should as many people deal at your store, as patronize a shop that makes an endeavor to get their trade and shows them that it is worth while to come to its doors?
Why should a newspaper send as many customers to you, in half the time it took to fill an establishment which advertised twice as long and paid twice as much for its publicity?
This is the day when the best man wins—after he proves that he is the best man—when the best store wins, when it has shown that it is the best store—when the best goods win, after they've been demonstrated to be the best goods.
If you want the plum you can't get it by lying under the tree with your mouth open waiting for it to drop—too many other men are willing to climb out on the limb and risk their necks in their eagerness to get it away from you.
It is a man's game—this advertising—just hanging on and tugging and straining all the time to get and keep ahead. It is the finite expression of the law of Competition, which sits in blind-folded justice over the markets of the world.
You Must Irrigate Your Neighborhood
Half a century ago there were ten million acres of land, within a thousand miles of Chicago, upon which not even a blade of grass would grow. Today upon these very deserts are wonderful orchards and tremendous wheatfields. The soil itself was full of possibilities. What the land needed was water. In time there came farmers who knew that they could not expect the streams to come to them, and so they dug ditches and led the water to their properties from the surrounding rivers and lakes; they tilled the earth with their brains as well as their plows—they became rich through irrigation.
Advertising has made thousands of men rich, just because they recognized the possibilities of utilizing the newspapers to bring streams of buyers into neighborhoods that could be made busy locations by irrigation—by drawing people from other sections.
The successful retailer is the man who keeps the stream of purchasers coming his way. It isn't the spot itself that makes the store pay—it's the man who makes the spot pay. Centers of trade are not selected by the public—they are created by the force which controls the public—the newspapers.
New neighborhoods for business are being constantly built up by men who have located themselves in streets which they have changed from deserted by-ways into teeming, jostling thoroughfares, through advertising irrigation.
The storekeeper who whines that his neighborhood holds him back is squinting at the truth—he is hurting the neighborhood.
If it lacks streams of buyers, he can easily enough secure them by reaching out through the columns of the daily and inducing people from other sections to come to him. Every time he influences a customer of a competitor he is not only irrigating his own field but is diverting the streams upon which a non-advertising merchant depends for existence. Men and women who live next door to a shop that does not plead for their custom will eventually be drawn to an establishment miles away because they have been made to believe in some advantage to be gained thereby.
The circulation of every daily is nothing less than a reservoir of buyers, from which shoppers stream in the direction that promises the most value for the least money.
The magic development of the desert lands, has its parallel in merchandising of men who consider the newspaper an irrigating power which can make two customers grow where one grew before.
Cato's Follow-up System
If a man lambasted you on the eye and walked away and waited a week before he repeated the performance, he wouldn't hurt you very badly. Between attacks you would have an opportunity to recover from the effect of the first blow.
But if he smashed you and kept mauling, each impact of his fist would find you less able to stand the hammering, and a half-dozen jabs would probably knock you down.
Now advertising is, after all, a matter of hitting the eye of the public. If you allow too great an interval to elapse between insertions of copy the effect of the first advertisement will have worn away by the time you hit again. You may continue your scattered talks over a stretch of years, but you will not derive the same benefit that would result from a greater concentration. In other words, by appearing in print every day, you are able to get the benefit of the impression created the day before, and as each piece of copy makes its appearance, the result of your publicity on the reader's mind is more pronounced—you mustn't stop short of a knock-down impression.
Persistence is the foundation of advertising success. Regularity of insertion is just as important as clever phrasing. The man who hangs on is the man who wins out. Cato the Elder is an example to every merchant who uses the newspapers and should be an inspiration to every storekeeper who does not. For twenty years he arose daily in the Roman senate and cried out for the destruction of Carthage. In the beginning he found his conferees very unresponsive. But he kept on every day, month after month and year after year, sinking into the minds of all the necessity of destroying Carthage, until he set all the senate thinking upon the subject and in the end Rome sent an army across the Mediterranean and ended the reign of the Hannibals and Hamilcars over northern Africa. The persistent utterances of a single man did it.
The history of every mercantile success is parallel. The advertiser who does not let a day slip by without having his say, is bound to be heard and have his influence felt. Every insertion of copy brings stronger returns, because it has the benefit of what has been said before, until the public's attention is like an eye that has been so repeatedly struck, that the least touch of suggestion will feel like a blow.
How to Write Retail Advertising Copy
A skilled layer of mosaics works with small fragments of stone—they fit into more places than the larger chunks.
The skilled advertiser works with small words—they fit into more minds than big phrases.
The simpler the language the greater certainty that it will be understood by the least intelligent reader.
The construction engineer plans his road-bed where there is a minimum of grade—he works along the lines of least resistance.
The advertisement which runs into mountainous style is badly surveyed—all minds are not built for high grade thinking.
Advertising must be simple. When it is tricked out with the jewelry and silks of literary expression, it looks as much out of place as a ball dress at the breakfast table!
The buying public is only interested in facts. People read advertisements to find out what you have to sell.
The advertiser who can fire the most facts in the shortest time gets the most returns. Blank cartridges make noise but they do not hit—blank talk, however clever, is only wasted space.
You force your salesmen to keep to solid facts—you don't allow them to sell muslin with quotations from Omar or trousers with excerpts from Marie Corelli. You must not tolerate in your printed selling talk anything that you are not willing to countenance in personal salesmanship.
Cut out clever phrases if they are inserted to the sacrifice of clear explanations—write copy as you talk. Only be more brief. Publicity is costlier than conversation—ranging in price downward from $10 a line; talk is not cheap but the most expensive commodity in the world.
Sketch in your ad to the stenographer. Then you will be so busy "saying it" that you will not have time to bother about the gewgaws of writing. Afterwards take the typewritten manuscript and cut out every word and every line that can be erased without omitting an important detail. What remains in the end is all that really counted in the beginning.
Cultivate brevity and simplicity. "Savon Francais" may look smarter, but more people will understand "French Soap." Sir Isaac Newton's explanation of gravitation covers six pages but the schoolboy's terse and homely "What goes up must come down" clinches the whole thing in six words.
Indefinite talk wastes space. It is not 100% productive. The copy that omits prices sacrifices half its pulling power—it has a tendency to bring lookers instead of buyers. It often creates false impressions. Some people are bound to conceive the idea that the goods are higher priced than in reality—others, by the same token, are just as likely to infer that the prices are lower and go away thinking that you have exaggerated your statements.
The reader must be searched out by the copy. Big space is cheapest because it doesn't waste a single eye. Publicity must be on the offensive. There are far too many advertisers who keep their lights on top of their bushel—the average citizen hasn't time to overturn your bushel.
Small space is expensive. Like a one-flake snowstorm, there is not enough of it to lay.
Space is a comparative matter after all. It is not a case of how much is used as how it is used. The passengers on the limited express may realize that Jones has tacked a twelve-inch shingle on every post and fence for a stretch of five miles, but they are going too fast to make out what the shingles say, yet the two feet letters of Brown's big bulletin board on top of the hill leap at them before they have a chance to dodge it. And at that it doesn't cost nearly so much as the sum total of Jones' dinky display.
Just so advertisements attractively displayed every day or every other day for a year in one big newspaper, will find the eye of all readers, no matter how rapidly they may be "going" through the advertising pages and produce more results than a dozen piking pieces of copy scattered through half a dozen dailies.
The Difference between Amusing and Convincing
An advertiser must realize that there is a vast difference between amusing people and convincing them. It does not pay to be "smart" at the line rate of the average first class daily. I suppose that I could draw the attention of everybody on the street by painting half of my face red and donning a suit of motley. I might have a sincere purpose in wishing to attract the crowd, but I would be deluding myself if I mistook the nature of their attention.
The new advertiser is especially prone to misjudge between amusing and convincing copy. A humorous picture may catch the eyes of every reader, but it won't pay as well as an illustration of some piece of merchandise which will strike the eye of every buyer. Merchants secure varying results from the same advertising space. The publisher delivers to each the same quality of readers, but the advertiser who plants flippancy in the minds of the community won't attain the benefit that is secured by the merchant who imprints clinching arguments there.
Always remember that the advertising sections of newspapers are no different than farming lands. And it is as preposterous to hold the publisher responsible for the outcome of unintelligent copy as it would be unjust to blame the soil for bad seed and poor culture. Every advertiser gets exactly the same number of readers from a publisher and the same readers—after that it's up to him—the results fluctuate in accordance with the intelligence and the pulling power of the copy which is inserted.
Some Don'ts when You Do Advertise
The price of the gun never hits the bull's eye. And the bang seldom rattles the bells. It's the hand on the trigger that cuts the real figger. The aim's what amounts—that's what makes record counts— Are you hitting or just wasting shells?
Don't forget that the man who writes your copy is the man who aims your policy.
When you stop to reflect what your space costs and that the wrong talk is just noise—bang without biff—you must see the necessity and sanity of putting the right man behind the gun.
Don't tolerate an ambition on your ad-man's part to indulge in a lurking desire to be a literary light.
People read his advertising to discover what your buyers have just brought from the market and what you are asking for "O. N. T." They buy the newspaper for information and recreation and are satisfied with the degree of poetry and persiflage dished up in its reading columns.
Don't exaggerate. Poetic licenses are not valid in business prose. The American people don't want to be humbugged and the merchant who figures upon too many fools, finds himself looking into a mirror, usually about a half hour after the sheriff has come to look over the premises.
Don't imitate. Advertising is a special measure garment. Businesses are not built in ready-made sizes. Copy which fits somebody else's selling plans, won't fit your store without sagging at the chest or riding up at the collar. Duplicated argument and duplicated results are not twins. Your policy of publicity must be specially measured from your policy of merchandising.
Don't put your advertising in charge of an amateur. Let somebody else stand the expense of his educational blunders. Remember you are making a plea before the bar of public confidence. Your ad-writer is an advocate. Like a bad lawyer, he can lose a good case by not making the most of the facts at hand.
Don't get the "sales" habit. "Sales" are stimulants. When held too often their effect is weakening. The merchant who continually yells "bargain" is like the old hen who was always crying "fox." When the real article did come along, none of her chicks believed it.
Don't use fine print. Make it easy for the reader to find out about your business. There are ten million pairs of eyeglasses worn in America, and every owner of them buys something.
And Don't start unless you mean to stick. The patron saint of the successful advertiser hates a quitter.
The Doctor whose Patients Hang On
Out in China all things are not topsy turvy. Physicians are paid for keeping people well and when their patients fall ill, their weekly remittances are stopped. The Chinese judge a medical man not by the number of years he lives, but by the length of time his patrons survive.
An advertising medium must be judged in the same way. The fact that it has age to its credit isn't so important as the age of its advertising patronage. Whenever a daily continues to display the store talk of the same establishment year after year, it's a pretty sure sign that the merchant has made money out of that newspaper, because no publication can continue to be a losing investment to its customers over a stretch of time, without the fact being discovered. And when a newspaper is not only able to boast of an honor roll of stores that have continued to appear in its pages for a stretch of decades, but at the same time demonstrates that it carries more business than its competitors, it has proven its superiority as plainly as a mountain peak which rises above its fellows.
The combination of stability and progress is the strongest virtue that a newspaper can possess. Only the fit survive—reputation is a difficult thing to get and a harder thing to hold—it takes merit to earn it and character to maintain it. There is a vast difference between fame and notoriety, and just as much difference between a famous newspaper and a notorious one.
Just as a manufacturer is always eager to install his choicest stocks in a store which has earned the respect of the community, just so a retailer should be anxious to insert his name in a newspaper which has earned the respect of its readers. The manufacturer feels that he will receive a square deal from a store which has age to its credit. He can expect as much from a newspaper which is a credit to its age!
The newspaper which outlives the rest does so because it was best fitted to—it had to earn the confidence of its readers—and keep it. It had to be a better newspaper than any other and better newspapers go to the homes of better buyers. Every bit of its circulation has the element of quality and staying power. And it is the respectable, home-loving element of every community—not the touts and the gamblers—toward which the merchant must look for his business vertebrae—he cannot find buyers unless he uses the newspaper that enters their homes. And when he does enter their homes he must not confuse the sheet that comes in the back gate with the newspaper that is delivered at the front door.
The Horse that Drew the Load
A moving van came rolling down the street the other day with a big spirited Percheron in the center and two wretched nags on either side. The Percheron was doing all the work, and it seemed that he would have got along far better in single harness, than he managed with his inferior mates retarding his speed.
The advertiser who selects a group of newspapers usually harnesses two lame propositions to every pulling newspaper on his list, and just as the van driver probably dealt out an equal portion of feed to each of his animals, just so many a merchant is paying practically the same rate to a weak daily, that he is allowing the sturdy profitable sheet.
Unfortunately the accepted custom of inserting the same advertisement in every paper acts to the distinct disadvantage of the meritorious medium. The advertiser charges the sum total of his expense against the sum total of his returns, and thereby does himself and the best puller an injustice, by crediting the less productive sheets with results that they have not earned.
It's the pulling power of the newspaper as well as the horse that proves its value, and if advertisers were as level headed as they should be, they would take the trouble to put every daily in which they advertise on trial for at least a month and advertise a different department or article in each, carefully tabulating the returns. If this were done, fifty per cent of the advertising now carried in weaker newspapers would be withdrawn and the patronage of the stronger sheets would advance in that proportion.
There are newspapers in many a city that are, single handed, able to build up businesses. Their circulation is solid muscle and sinew—all pull. It isn't the number of copies printed but the number of copies that reach the hands of buyers—it isn't the number of readers but the number of readers with money to spend—it isn't the bulk of a circulation but the amount of the circulation which is available to the advertiser—it isn't fat but brawn—that tell in the long run.
There are certain earmarks that indicate these strengths and weaknesses. They are as plain to the observing eye as the signs of the woods are significant to the trapper. The news columns tell you what you can expect out of the advertising columns. A newspaper always finds the class of readers to which it is edited. When its mental tone is low and its moral tone is careless depend upon it—the readers match the medium.
No gun can hit a target outside of its range. No newspaper can aim its policy in one direction and score in another. No advertiser can find a different class of men and women than the publisher has found for himself. He is judged by the company he keeps. If he lies down with dogs he will arise with fleas.
The Cellar Hole and the Sewer Hole
A coal cart stopped before an office building in Washington and the driver dismounted, removed the cover from a manhole, ran out his chute, and proceeded to empty the load. An old negro strolled over and stood watching him. Suddenly the black man glanced down and immediately burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, which continued for several minutes. The cart driver looked at him in amusement. "Say, Uncle," he asked, "do you always laugh when you see coal going into a cellar?" The negro sputtered around for a few moments and then holding his hands to his aching sides managed to say, "No, sah, but I jest busts when I sees it goin' down a sewer."
The advertiser who displays lack of judgment in selecting the newspapers which carry his copy often confuses the sewer and the cellar.
All the money that is put into newspapers isn't taken out again, by any means. The fact that all dailies possess a certain physical likeness, doesn't necessarily signify a similarity in character, and it's character in a newspaper that brings returns. The editor who conducts a journalistic sewer, finds a different class of readers than the publisher who respects himself enough to respect his readers.
What goes into a newspaper largely determines the class of homes into which the newspaper goes. An irresponsible, scandal-mongering, muck-raking sheet is certainly not supported by the buying classes of people. It may be perused by thousands of readers, but such readers are seldom purchasers of advertised goods.
It's the clean-cut, steady, normal-minded citizens who form the bone and sinew and muscle of the community. It's the sane, self-respecting, dependable newspaper that enters their homes and it's the home sale that indicates the strength of an advertising medium.
No clean-minded father of a family wishes to have his wife and children brought in contact with the most maudlin and banal phases of life. He defends them from the sensational editor and the unpleasant advertiser. He subscribes to a newspaper which he does not fear to leave about the house.
Therefore, the respectable newspaper can always be counted upon to produce more sales than one which may even own a larger circulation but whose distribution is in ten editions among unprofitable citizens.
You can no more expect to sell goods to people who haven't money, than you can hope to pluck oysters from rose-bushes.
It isn't the number of readers reached, but the number of readers whose purses can be reached, that constitutes the value of circulation. It's one thing to arouse their attention, but it's a far different thing to get their money. The mind may be willing, but the pocketbook may be weak.
If you had the choice of a thousand acres of desert land or a hundred acres of oasis, you'd select the fertile spot, realizing that the larger tract had less value because it would be less productive.
The advertiser who really understands how he is spending his money, takes care that he is not pouring his money into deserts and sewers.
The Neighborhood of Your Advertising
Circulation is a commodity which must be bought with the same common sense used in selecting potatoes, cloth and real estate. It can be measured and weighed—it is merchandise with a provable value. It varies just as much as the grocer's green stuff, the tailor's fabrics and the lots of the real estate man.
Your cook refuses to accept green and rotten tomatoes at the price of perfect ones. She does not calculate the number of vegetables that are delivered to her, but those that she can use. When your wife selects a piece of cloth she first makes sure that it will serve the purpose she has in view. When you buy a piece of property you consider the neighborhood as well as the ground. Just so when you buy advertising you must find out how much of the circulation you can use. You must judge the neighborhoods where your copy will be read, with the same thoughtfulness that you devoted to selecting the spot where your goods are sold.
A dealer in precious stones would be foolish to open up in a tenement district, and equally short-sighted, to tell about his jewelry in a newspaper largely distributed there. Out of ten thousand men and women who might see what he had to say not ten of them could afford to buy his goods. These ten thousand readers would be mass without muscle. He could make them willing to do business with him, but their incomes wouldn't let them become customers.
One of the greatest mistakes in publicity is to drop your lines where the fish can't take your bait.
Circulation is, as you see, a very interesting subject, but very few people know anything about it. It would surprise you to know that this ignorance often extends to the business offices of newspapers. I have known publishers to continually mistake the class of their readers and have met hundreds of them who had the most fantastic ideas upon the figures of their circulation.
While I would not be so harsh as to accuse them of anything more than being mistaken, none the less their tendency to infect others with this misinformation renders it extremely advisable for you to become a member of the Missouri society—and "be shown."
Don't rely solely on circulation statements. You don't understand the tricks in their making. Make the newspaper which carries your advertisement show you the list of its advertisers. A newspaper which prints the most advertising, month after month, year after year, is always the best medium. This is equally true in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kenosha and Walla Walla.
The Mistake of the Big Steak
Watch out for waste in circulation. Find out where your story is going to be read. Don't pay for planting the seed of publicity in a spot where you are not going to harvest the results.
The manufacturer of soap who has his goods on sale from Oskaloosa to Timbuctoo doesn't care how widely a newspaper circulation is scattered. Whoever reads about his product is near to some store or other where it is sold—but you have just one store.
Buying advertising circulation is very much like ordering a steak—if the waiter brings you a porter-house twice as big as your digestion can handle, you've paid twice as much as the steak was worth to you, even if it is worth the price to the restaurant man.
You derive your profit not from the circulation that your advertisement gets, but from circulation that gets people to buy.
If two newspapers offer you their columns and one shows a distribution almost entirely within the city and in towns that rely upon your city for buying facilities, your business can digest all of its influence. If the other has as much circulation, but only one third of it is in local territory, mere bulk cannot establish its value to you—it's another case of the big steak—you pay for more than you can digest. That part of its influence which is concentrated where men and women can't get your goods after you get their attention, is sheer waste.
By dividing the number of copies he prints into his line rate, a publisher may fallaciously demonstrate to you that his space is sold as low as that of his stronger competitors, but if half his circulation is too far away to bring buyers, his real rate is double what it seems. He is like the butcher who weighs in all the bone and sinew and fat and charges you as much for the waste as he does for the meat.
The Omelette Souffle
There is a vast distinction between distribution for the sake of increasing the circulation figures and distribution for the sake of increasing the number of advertising responses.
There is a difference between a circulation which strikes the same reader several times in the same day and the circulation which does not repeat the individual. There is a difference between circulation which is concentrated into an area from which every reader can be expected to come to your establishment, if you can interest him, and a circulation that spreads over half a dozen states and shows its greatest volume in territory so far from your establishment that you can't get a buyer out of ten thousand readers.
You've got to weigh and measure all these things when you weigh and measure circulation figures. It isn't the number of copies printed, but the number of copies sold—not the number of papers distributed, but the number of papers distributed in responsive territory—not the number of readers reached, but the number of readers who have the price to buy what you want to sell—that determine the value of circulation to you.
You can take a single egg and whip it into an omelette souffle which seems to be a whole plateful, but the extra bulk is just hot air and sugar—the change in form has not increased the amount of egg substance and it's the substance in circulation, just as it is the nutrition in the egg, that counts.
[ Transcriber's Note:
The following is a list of corrections made to the original. The first line is the original line, the second the corrected one.
pronounced—you musn't stop short of a knock-down impression. pronounced—you mustn't stop short of a knock-down impression. ]