To properly understand advertising or to learn even its
rudiments one must start with the right conception. Advertising is
salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship.
Successes and failures in both lines are due to like causes. Thus
every advertising question should be answered by the salesman's
Let us emphasize that point. The only purpose of advertising
is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to
its actual sales.
It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name
before the people. It is not primarily to aid your other salesmen.
Treat it as a salesman. Force it to justify itself. Compare
it with other salesmen. Figure its cost and result. Accept no
excuses which good salesmen do not make. Then you will not go far
The difference is only in degree. Advertising is multiplied
salesmanship. It may appeal to thousands while the salesman talks
to one. It involves a corresponding cost. Some people spend $10
per word on an average advertisement. Therefore every ad should
be a super - salesman.
A salesman's mistake may cost little. An advertisers mistake
may cost a thousand times that much. Be more cautious, more
A mediocre salesman may affect a small part of your trade.
Mediocre advertising affects all of your trade.
Many think of advertising as ad-writing. Literary
qualifications have no more to do with it than oratory has with
One must be able to express himself briefly, clearly and
convincingly, just as a salesman must. But fine writing is a
distinct disadvantage. So is unique literary style. They take
attention from the subject. They reveal the hook. Any studies d
attempt to sell, if apparent, creates corresponding resistance.
That is so in personal salesmanship as in
salesmanship-in-print. Fine talkers are rarely good salesman.
They inspire buyers with the fear of over-influence. They create
the suspicion that an effort is made to sell them on other lines
Successful salesmen are rarely good speech makers. They have
few oratorical graces. They are plain and sincere men who know
their customers and know their lines. So it is in ad-writing.
Many of the ablest men in advertising are graduate salesmen.
The best we know have been house-to-house canvassers. They may
know little of grammar, nothing of rhetoric, but they know how to
use words that convince.
There is one simple way to answer many advertising questions.
Ask yourself, "Would it help a salesman sell the goods?" "Would it
help me sell them if I met a buyer in person?"
A fair answer to those questions avoids countless mistakes.
But when one tries to show off, or does things merely to please
himself, he is little likely to strike a chord which leads people
to spend money.
Some argue for slogans, some like clever conceits. Would you
use them in personal salesmanship? Can you imagine a customer whom
such things would impress? If not, don't rely on them for selling
Some say "Be very brief. People will read for little." Would
you say that to a salesman? With a prospect standing before him,
would you confine him to any certain number of words? That would be
an unthinkable handicap.
So in advertising. The only readers we get are people whom
our subject interests. No one reads ads for amusement, long or
short. Consider them as prospects standing before you, seeking for
information. Give them enough to get action.
Some advocate large type and big headlines. Yet they do not
admire salesmen who talk in loud voices. People read all they care
to read in 8-point type. Our magazines and newspapers are printed
in that type. Folks are accustomed to it. Anything louder is
like loud conversation. It gains no attention worth while. It may
not be offensive, but it is useless and wasteful. It multiplies
the cost of your story. And to many it seems loud and blatant.
Others look for something queer and unusual. They want ads
distinctive in style or illustration. Would you want that in a
salesman? Do not men who act and dress in normal ways make a far
Some insist in dressy ads. That is all right to a certain
degree, but is quite important. Some poorly-dressed men, prove to
be excellent salesmen. Over dress in either is a fault.
So with countless questions. Measure them by salesmen's
standards, not by amusement standards. Ads are not written to
entertain. When they do, those entertainment seekers are little
likely to be the people whom you want.
That is one of the greatest advertising faults. Ad writers
abandon their parts. They forget they are salesmen and try to be
performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause.
When you plan or prepare an advertisement, keep before you a
typical buyer. Your subject, your headline has gained his or her
attention. Then in everything be guided by what you would do if
you met the buyer face-to-face. If you are a normal man and a good
salesman you will then do your level best.
Don't think of people in the mass. That gives you a blurred
view. Think of a typical individual, man or women, who is likely
to want what you sell. Don't try to be amusing. Money spending is
a serious matter. Don't boast, for all people resent it. Don't
try to show off. Do just what you think a good salesman should do
with a half-sold person before him.
Some advertising men go out in person and sell to people
before they plan to write an ad. One of the ablest of them has
spent weeks on one article, selling from house to house. In this
way they learn the reactions from different forms of argument and
approach. They learn what possible buyers want and the factors
which don't appeal. It is quite customary to interview hundreds
of possible customers.
Others send out questionnaires to learn the attitude of the
buyers. In some way all must learn how to strike responsive
chords. Guesswork is very expensive.
The maker of an advertised article knows the manufacturing
side and probably the dealer's side. But this very knowledge often
leads him astray in respect to customers. His interests are not in
The advertising man studies the consumer. He tries to place
himself in the position of the buyer. His success largely depends
on doing that to the exclusion of everything else.
This book will contain no more important chapter than this one
on salesmanship. The reason for most of the non-successes in
advertising is trying to sell people what they do not want. But
next to that comes lack of true salesmanship.
Ads are planned and written with some utterly wrong
conception. They are written to please the seller. The interest
of the buyer are forgotten. One can never sell goods profitable,
in person or in print, when that attitude exists.
Return to Book Intro and Chapter Index: Scientific Advertising
Continue to next Chapter: Advertising Service