Advertising Mail Order

Chapter Four

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 
an ad.
     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 
to do.
     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 
should be.
     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 
our frivolities.
     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


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