Advertising Mail Order
Mail Order Advertising - What it Teaches
The severest test of an advertising man is in selling goods
by mail. But that is a school from which he must graduate before
he can hope for success. There cost and result are immediately
apparent. False theories melt away like snowflakes in the sun.
The advertising is profitable or it is not, clearly on the face of
returns. Figures which do not lie tell one at once the merits of
This puts men on their mettle. All guesswork is eliminated.
Every mistake is conspicuous. One quickly loses his conceit by
learning how often his judgmenterers - often nine times in ten.
There one learns that advertising must be done on a scientific
basis to have any fair chance of success. And he learns that every
wasted dollar adds to the cost of results.
Here is a tough efficiency and economy under a master who
can't be fooled. Then, and only then, is he apt to apply the same
principles and keys to all advertising.
A man was selling a five-dollar article. The replies from his
ad cost him 85 cents. Another man submitted an ad which he thought
better. The replies cost $14.20 each. Another man submitted an
ad which for two years brought replies at an average of 41 cents
Consider the difference, on 250,000 replies per year. Think
how valuable was the man who cut the cost in two. Think what it
would have meant to continue that $14.20 ad without any key on
Yet there are thousands of advertisers who do just that. They
spend large sums on a guess. And they are doing what that man did
- paying for sales from 2 to 35 times what they need cost.
A study of mail order advertising reveals many things worth
learning. It is a prime subject for study. In the first place, if
continued, you know that pays. It is therefore good advertising as
applied to that line.
The probability is that the ad has resulted from many traced
comparisons. It is therefore the best advertising, not
theoretical. It will not deceive you. The lessons it teaches are
principles which wise men apply to all advertising.
Mail order advertising is always set in small type. It is
usually set in smaller type than ordinary print. That economy of
space is universal. So it proves conclusively that larger type
does not pay.
Remember that when you double your space by doubling the size
of your type. The ad may still be profitable. But traced returns
have proved that you are paying a double price for sales.
In mail order advertising there is no waste of space. Every
line is utilized. Borders are rarely used. Remember that when you
are tempted to leave valuable space unoccupied.
In mail order advertising there is no palaver. There is no
boasting, save of super-service. There is no useless talk. There
is no attempt at entertainment. There is nothing to amuse.
Mail order advertising usually contains a coupon. That is
there to cut out as a reminder of something the reader has decided
Mail order advertisers know that readers forget. They are
reading a magazine of interest. They may be absorbed in a story.
A large percentage of people who read and ad and decide to act will
forget that decision in five minutes. The mail order advertisers
that waste by tests, and he does not propose to accept it. So he
inserts that reminder to be cut out, and it turns when the reader
is ready to act.
In mail order advertising the pictures are always to the
point. They are salesmen in themselves. They earn space they
occupy. The size is gauged by their importance. The picture of a
dress one is trying to sell may occupy much space. Less important
things get smaller spaces.
Pictures in ordinary advertising may teach little. They
probably result in whims. But pictures in mail order advertising
may form half the cost of selling. And you may be sure that
everything about them has been decided by many comparative tests.
Before you use useless pictures, merely to decorate or
interest, look over some mail order ads. Mark what their verdict is.
A man advertised an incubator to be sold by mail. Type ads
with right headlines brought excellent returns. But he conceived
the idea that a striking picture would increase those returns. So
he increased his space 50 per cent to add a row of chickens in
It did make a striking ad, but his cost per reply was
increased by exactly that 50 per cent. The new ad, costing
one-half more for every insertion, brought not one added sale.
The man learned that incubator buyers were practical people.
They were looking for attractive offers, not for pictures.
Think of the countless untraced campaigns where a whim of that
kind costs half the advertising money without a penny in return.
And it may go on year after year.
Mail order advertising tells a complete story if the purpose
is to make an immediate sale. You see no limitations there on
amount of copy.
The motto there is, "The more you tell the more you sell."
And it has never failed to prove out so in any test we know.
Sometimes the advertiser uses small ads, sometimes large ads.
None are to small to tell a reasonable story. But an ad twice
larger brings twice the returns. A four-times-larger ad brings
four times the returns, and usually some in addition.
But this occurs only when the larger space is utilized as well
as the small space. Set half-page copy in a page space and you
double the cost in returns. We have seen many a test prove that.
Look at an ad of the Mead Cycle Company - a typical mail order
ad. These have been running for many years. The ads are
unchanging. Mr. Mead told the writer that not for $10,000 would
he change a single word in his ads.
For many years he compared one ad with the other. And the ads
you see today are the final results of all those experiments. Note
the picture he uses, the headlines, the economy of space, the small
type. Those ads are as near perfect for their purpose as an
ad can be.
So with any other mail order ad which has long continued.
Every feature, every word and picture teaches advertising at its
best. You may not like them. You may say they are unattractive,
crowded, hard to read - anything you will. But the test of
results has proved those ads the best salesman those lines have yet
discovered. And they certainly pay.
Mail order advertising is the court of lest resort. You may
get the same instruction, if you will, by keying other ads. But
mail order ads are models. They are selling goods profitably in a
difficult way. It is far harder to get mail order t n to send
buyers to the stores. It is hard to sell goods which can't be
seen. Ads which do that are excellent examples of what advertising
We cannot often follow all the principle of mail order
advertising, though we know we should. The advertiser forces a
compromise. Perhaps pride in our ads has an influence. But every
departure from those principles adds to our selling cost.
Therefore it is always a question of what we are willing to pay for
We can at least know what we pay. We can make keyed
comparisons, one ad with another. Whenever we do we invariably
find that the nearer we get to proved mail order copy the more
customers we get for our money.
This is another important chapter. Think it over. What real
difference is there between inducing a customer to order by mail or
order from his dealer? Why should the methods of salesmanship differ?
They should not. When they do, it is for one of two
reasons. Either the advertiser does not know what the mail order
advertiser knows. He is advertising blindly. Or he deliberately
sacrificing a percentage of his returns to gratify some desire.
There is some apology for that, just as there is for fine
offices and buildings. Most of us can afford to do something for
pride and opinion. But let us know what we are doing. Let us know
the cost of our pride. Then, if our advertising fail s to bring us
the wanted returns, let us go back to our model - a good mail order
ad - and eliminate some of our waste.
Return to Book Intro and Chapter Index: Scientific Advertising
Continue to next Chapter: Advertising Headlines