Advertising – An Essay in 1909

Adapted based on the essay in

Economic Advertising Magazine


Vol 1., No. 9,   May, 1909

Straight Talks


As a matter of fact, the true advertising expert, like the true scientist, realizes that his knowledge of the profession is limited by his experience and his knowledge of human nature. We may carry the analogy further. The scientist knows much, but he is well aware of the fact that he is only a student of universal law himself. The true advertising expert  he knows that general publicity — and by general publicity we mean all sorts and conditions of advertising — is the mightiest selling lever of our rushing business age, he refuses to talk in mysterious terms about it. 

Advertising has been called “Printed Salesmanship,” but that definition is far from being comprehensive enough. Because some of the best commercial literature produced is not printed salesmanship at all. 

The primary object of all good advertising literature is not so much to actually sell goods as to create a demand for certain lines of goods or products. There are times when it is necessary to make one’s advertising take the place of real live salesmen, as in the mail order business. But, as a general rule, the merchant or manufacturer invests money in newspaper and periodical space for the purpose of creating a demand for his goods. Therefore, the accepted definition will not do. Indeed, there can be no very exact definition of advertising in general, because the business is just as wide and varied as the commerce of the world. Speaking broadly, all modern publicity is an essential factor, some say the essential factor, in our present system of distribution. It creates a demand for certain brands of goods, but it does not actually sell goods, because it is not generally designed and executed for that purpose. In judging an ad. the question should be: “Will it create a demand for the goods?” unless the copy is planned and executed for mail order purposes. 

There is value in the concept  of  of “Printed Salesmanship” — copy that DOES sell goods. The production of that sort of copy should be the constant aim of every man in the advertising business. 
The ability to produce such copy places the adman in the van of his profession, and his services at a premium. 
Joseph of early biblical fame was perhaps the first genius in the advertising business. After being sold into captivity by his brethren, he so shrewdly advertised his own ability to do things that, in a few short years, he was prime minister to Pharaoh— the real uncrowned king of all Egypt. You can take our word for it, without consulting the clergy, that if Joseph had not talked big— made a strong bluff— he would have passed away as an insignificant and unknown slave. Future generations would never have heard his name. However great he might have been, he would have remained unknown if he had not asserted positively that he could do things. He looked honest. His assertions were believed. And he made good. The same law holds good right down through the ages.

The origin of the advertising business, as it is known today, lay in the necessity of man having to make his wants known. Gradually it dawned on the born leader of men that he would have to demonstrate his capabilities as a leader. The chance to demonstrate his superiority may have happened, but in the majority of cases the kings, warriors, counsellors, and legislators of the early world asserted their inherent greatness by words or bearing. Somehow they advertised. The 
people believed in them — licensed them to get busy and they made good. 

What we often call American bluff is really not bluff at all. It’s oftener confidence. Our cousins south of the line know things, and they know that they know them. Hence they state their ability to accomplish things in the most matter-of-fact way. They advertise. And incidentally we may mention that advertising has not only built up the huge business concerns of the United States — it has also built up the country. 
We have endeavored to bring out two very important points, viz., self-confidence largely makes the man, and advertising creates great business institutions and nations. He who has attained greatness must have advertised in one form or another — he must have caused some people to believe implicitly in his ability to accomplish things. Without advertising no great man comes to his own — without publicity no great event can happen. This is in no way idealistic, it is merely sound commercial sense. 

A separate Essay

Advertising Media 

While Copy is the First Essential in all Judicious Advertising Campaigns the Choice of Media is all

If the best advertising copy frequently appears in the worst media,  all the genius and exactness one can put into advertising matter may be absolutely futile as far as selling the goods is concerned. The choice of media is by all odds the most important part of an advertising campaign.  Good copy is the fundamental essential, but its significance is worse than commonplace if it is not read.

Industry has been likened to war — active, relentless, and unceasing. The manufacturers and big merchants of the world are the generals in the game. These master spirits have somehow gained a knowledge of the rules governing success.

The manufacturer surveys a certain territory, sometimes a whole country, as a big buyer for his product. He is convinced that it is superior to the product of most of his competitors. He knew exactly how to perfect his product, but he is not very certain of the best possible means of marketing it. If the young manufacturer captures a big market, he must fight huge aggregations of capital with ingenuity. He cannot, as a general rule, place an effective field force on the road right at the outset. He knows, or sincerely believes, that his product is just what the people want, and his problem is to get it into the hands of the people at the minimum expense. If he could only line up the dealers — secure their active co-operation, success would be assured.

This is where the trade paper floats into our consideration as the good angel of distribution, and shrewd men are agreed in believing that it should be all that. The dealers are the outworks which the manufacturer must capture before he proceeds to land the central and important party of all commerce — His Majesty — The Consumer.

The proper trade or class publication is the most effective of all advertising media for the very simple reason that there can be no waste circulation. Space in a trade journal which fulfils its mission is worth a high price. Before placing good copy in any medium the advertising man should know its circulation in round figures. No evasion on this point should be considered for a second of time. The publisher has a certain commodity for sale — that commodity is white space. Its value to the buyer is determined by a journal’s circulation and its class of readers. A trade paper should cover the trade — that is 75% of the trade all the time. An excellently conducted class publication may attain that circulation. It seldom exceeds it. We should know the circulation — actual, all told, paid-up circulation of any trade paper before handing over any business to it. We should know its circulation in the different provinces or states, cities, towns, and townships. The declaration of a trade paper’s circulation should certainly be
an informing document.

And then the wary advertising man will find out exactly what subscribers think of the paper — how much or how little importance the merchants of the country attach to it. All these points decide the value of a trade journal as an advertising medium. Of course the trade paper which fulfils its mission
is the best and cheapest advertising medium in the world.

The daily and weekly newspapers, when carefully selected, are always effective media. Their selling power is potential to say the least. But — they must be carefully selected.

In marketing a product the general advertisers seem to gauge the value of a campaign by results, regardless of the cost. Because there is a direct relationship between cost and results, we desire to emphasize one or two points which are too often overlooked. If a manufacturer can sell a million dollars’ worth of goods at a 15% cost, is there any good solid reason why he should spend 20 or 25% to do that million dollars’ worth of business? No, there is positively no reason why a manufacturer should throw away $50,000 annually. Many continental advertisers do that very thing. We do not need to look far for evidence of this fact. Most of us have noticed a product advertised in big city dailies and also advertised in the dailies or weeklies of towns and villages within an easy radius of the city at the same time.

The advertising man should make it his business to know more than the figures about any medium. He should know the class of a paper’s readers. If a city daily is read by the farmers of a community, it is obviously a waste of money to advertise in their local papers. The urban and rural population
attach more significance to an ad. appearing in the city dailies or weeklies at any rate. This does not say that we should ignore the value of space in country and small city papers. It only means that the advertising man should be careful not to duplicate his copy. The newspapers are the most effective
advertising media we have.

The choice of media is governed by the nature of the campaign. Sometimes a big advertiser will cover the country by provinces or states, and in such cases the work of the advertising man is simplified. Most newspapers give a sworn statement regarding their circulation. But the class of readers is generally more important than the number. As an illustration — it would be poor business policy to advertise automobiles in a workingman’s paper. And it would be as foolish to advertise
stoves, as heating apparatus, in a paper read by the upper middle class. The newspapers are about the easiest advertising mediums to select. Their standing is very readily understood and explained. And, with the exception of small, insignificant publications, the dailies must fulfil their mission or they cannot live.

The selection of weekly periodicals and monthly magazines calls for more careful consideration. The ordinary man can very readily find out the exact value of a trade journal or newspaper to his client, but it isn’t quite so easy to determine the value of a magazine or weekly with extraordinary circulation. Canada is blessed with a few publications of this kind, but, if circulation statements are correct, magazine publishers are certainly philanthropic.

It is different with similar publications in the United States and England. Magazines are potential selling forces, or factors in the selling game. The advertising pages of McClure’s magazine are called ” the market place of the world.” And there’s considerable truth in the same. The price of space in
the popular monthlies and weeklies, on both sides of the Atlantic, is enormous, ranging from $150 per page per insertion, up to $2,000 and more. Apparently no firm, however wealthy, can afford to advertise in the popular monthlies or weeklies without serious consideration. The price is ruinous, and in nearly every case far ahead of proportionate returns. The magazines, which the people buy voluntarily, are by all odds the best advertising media of this class. Where enormous circulation is the result of unusual activity in the circulation department, the price of space is easily 50% too high. The
advertising man must discriminate between good, bad, and indifferent circulation. Munsey’s magazine may be termed good circulation, because there is no mad endeavor on the part of
the publisher to boost the circulation. The people buy it because they want it. They are not cozened or flattered or forced into subscribing for the magazine by the adroit ingenuity of clever canvassers. We could name quite a number of so-called popular magazines, on the other hand, which are not popular
at all. For the simple reason that 50% of their subscribers do not want, and certainly do not read them.

The writer spent three months in the U.S. investigating this matter. He found that over 50% of the people he called on were subscribers to a popular magazine (so-called) which they never read.

It is an easily demonstrated fact that only the least intelligent class of a community are trapped in this way. They are not readers. In the majority of cases they could not buy the articles or products advertised at any rate. To price space in this kind of a magazine on a circulation basis is something
akin to fraud. And yet, there are more than one or two well-known periodicals doing that very thing.

The advertising man of the future will want to know more than mere circulation figures about some magazines. He will want to know how the circulation is secured. It is a notorious fact that many people are simple enough to buy things they do not want — books they do not read — magazines they never open. Even sensible men, men in a position requiring the exercise of brains and ingenuity, will often subscribe for a magazine because of the personality of the canvasser, or out of pure good nature — not because they are interested in the publication at all. Is it any wonder advertising experts bewail the fact that their ads. are not read? They wearily admit that their ads. do bring results, but when an excellent piece of copy appears issue after issue in a magazine with several hundred thousand of a circulation, and barely pays for itself, we are safe in asserting that there’s a nigger in the wood-pile.
Circulation figures should be only considered as the basic fact of a circulation statement. The class of readers should be known. The political stand of a newspaper should be compared with the trend of political opinion locally. Because we’re buying the probable attention of readers — not mere claims.

 T. J. S.,    T. Johson Sterward, Editor

The copy of the magazine is available in