The Science of Advertising
THE SCIENCE of
The Force of Advertising as a Business Influence,
Its Place in the National Development,
and the Public Result of Its
By EDWIN BALMER
With the counsel of THOMAS BALMER
We American people—the most practical and progressive in the world—live surrounded by advertisements, which we all pay for. We spend far more for advertising than any other people, and we persist in paying still more each year than we paid the year before
DUFFIELD & COMPANY
WE MAKE an estimated expenditure of one billion dollars annually for the various forms of advertising; but few of us take the trouble to follow the movement of this sum as an industrial force; fewer of us appreciate any substantial part of the economic action of this tremendous amount spent for advertising; and still fewer comprehend the final social result of our modern advertising.
There is a general impression that advertising indirectly subsidizes and supports most of our magazines and newspapers; and with that goes a hazy idea that advertising is also profitable to most of the advertisers; but that is all.
This is a first concise consideration of our billion dollar expenditure for advertising to show, first, the industrial operation of advertising as a Business Influence; to follow, next, the economic causes for its rise to its present place in the National Development; and to trace, then, the values to the people of its practical application.
Science of Advertising
Two friends of mine married the other day and for the first time in their lives had to select and order supplies for themselves. They were showing me proudly through their pantries and kitchen.
Their first supplies ranged the new shelves. As I looked them over, I found myself checking them up in my mind; for—though I am not married and know little of kitchens and pantries—all those articles before me were very familiar to me in name, brand and even in the form and character of the package.
As I checked them up then, I tried to recall the advertisements which had made these intimate domestic things commonplace even to me. And as I recollected the advertising pages of the half dozen magazines which these friends of mine read, I matched off with the advertisements which I and they must have seen, half or more of the tins, glasses and paste-board boxes before me.
Then I remembered certain advertisements in the newspapers which this man and this woman, now man and wife, had been reading impersonally for years before they came to the place where they had to begin suddenly to choose food and supplies for themselves. And with those advertisements I matched off half the remaining articles. Already, too, I had matched off a few of those articles twice.
I recalled then the rows of advertisements in the street cars opposite which these young people had been riding every day for years; and with the car cards which I remembered, I matched off all but one of the remaining cans, boxes, and jars upon the shelves and one of the cakes of soap over the sink. More labels now were matched off twice and a couple of them three times.
The other cake of soap, as I looked at it, reminded me suddenly of the billboards which surrounded a vacant lot a little way down the street and of others scattered all over the city. With the advertisements upon these boards I matched off that soap, the box which I had omitted before and a few of the other articles I had checked off already once or twice.
I opened the bin then and looked at the name stencilled upon the full flour sack. It fitted a very familiar magazine advertisement, a street car card whereto I and my friend had sat opposite half an hour a day morning and evening, and also a ten foot poster which he had had to pass a hundred times a month. I believe that at that very time, too, or just previously, the advertisements of that flour were appearing also in the newspapers.
The brand upon the bacon and even the stamp upon the eggs, guaranteeing freshness, were marks I could match off at least once.
The granulated sugar only, the green vegetables and the fresh meat in the ice-box were the sole supplies which did not suggest some advertisement. I say granulated sugar, because the loaf sugar purchased was in a street-car-card-familiar box and the magazines, I believe, had prepared me for that brand of powdered sugar which "does not cake." And the fresh meat does not fairly class among the unknown-quality supplies of sugar and vegetables. The whole carcass would have borne an advertised name which would have distinguished it at once.
"How did you come to order these things?" I asked.
They had not been following me closely.
"Oh we—we wanted to begin with the best we could get!"
"Yes," I said. "But I mean, what made you pick out those things there?"
"Why—why I just ordered them," the girl said. "I didn't pick them out especially; I just ordered them. Everyone gets those things, don't they?"
"Of course!" He said that. I was thinking about what she said. I had just been going at it backwards, letting the things bought direct me to the advertisements. She had gone at it forwards and shown a fine, clear characteristic example of advertising in operation—having the advertisements direct her to the articles to be bought, and with a wonderful unconsciousness and naturalness upon her part which was astoundingly significant.
The Basis of Purchase—The Cumulative Effect of Advertising
This girl had wished merely to buy the best goods and had filled her kitchen with advertised ones. But she had not ordered advertised products intentionally, even consciously. She had just naturally ordered goods which were familiar to her by name and without knowing whether a single other friend used them, assumed that everyone had them who had the best. Yet she was so unconscious of the advertising which had directed her purchases that even when I asked her about them, the articles had not occurred to her primarily as advertised ones. They had occurred to her as, and she had defended her selection of them as, goods of a superior grade only.
Then, as she looked at me wonderingly, the most astoundingly significant fact of advertising in operation struck me.
This girl could not have named—and a million more brides in similar circumstances who are commencing their buying today, cannot name—anything else but advertised goods. This girl might have said, as her mother had had to say when she first bought things for herself a third of a century before, "bring me some oatmeal, some chocolate, some scouring soap, some flour," and so on. But it is not natural for a girl of today to do that. She never sees "some oats," but ten thousand times and everywhere "Quaker Oats"; the merits of "some chocolate" has never been brought to her, but a thousand times she has been idly convinced of the superiority of "Baker's"; scouring soap never naturally occurs to her anonymously, but naturally and easily in inseparable connection with "Sapolio"; and when she hesitates about flour, can it be over any other alternative than Pillsbury's or Washburn-Crosby's?
For this girl is only one of the class of the millions today who, as we have progressed, have been kept from all direct knowledge of any sort of meal, chocolate, soap, flour or other family supplies—except that which the advertisements have furnished her ubiquitously. And she not only names them naturally, but she can actually not name anything else when she orders them. For twenty-four years—I mean for eighteen, if she began to read at six—the advertised brand and the article were carefully and continuously associated together for her and associated, too, with a favorable impression; and when she comes at last to order for herself, she cannot help still associating them so.
Now I have forgotten how many millions of children the school census tells us are now learning to read and to associate ideas. I do not know how many there were eighteen or twenty years ago and now coming, with these friends of mine, to order for themselves. But it is certain that although the advertising of such articles as Quaker-Oats, Baker's Chocolate, Heinz foods, Sapolio, and Gold Medal flour has been for years and today is markedly successful, they have had to depend most largely for their successes upon their sales to those who have had consciously and unnaturally to order their specific goods.
The orders of the most impressionable part of the public who have been reading their advertisements and the orders of those to whom the naming and requiring of advertised products is the most ready and natural thing, are yet to come in or, at best, are just beginning to come. As a very preliminary consideration, then, in accounting for the efficiency of modern advertising, we must recall first that our modern advertising as a business proposition is markedly and conspicuously successful today, though it is of necessity laying by a sinking endowment fund which would run almost any other enterprise. For advertising's most effective influence must be upon the most impressionable part of our population—the young. The honest advertisers who shall be in business twenty years from now, therefore, are accumulating over and above their present profits a mighty self-compounding endowment fund in the impressions they are fastening upon the children who are soon to marry and buy for themselves.
Characteristics of Modern Business Organization that Affect Advertising.
But this circumstance, instead of discovering a cause for the industrial efficiency of advertising, only shows greater inherent strength in the other twentieth century circumstances which demand and make necessary and effective the great bulk of our modern advertising.
These bases cannot be other than the three which have given their character distinctively to the commercial and industrial development of the last fifty years—particularly to the last score.
These three pre-eminent characteristics which have distinguished the last years which have seen the greatest leaps in advertising expenditure are the fast growing specialization in production, the rapidly increasing speed with which commercial operations are now carried on and the greatly lengthening distance between the manufacturer and the market.
Obviously from the primitive condition where there is no specialization and everyone supplies merely his own need, no one can have a surplus to advertise. There cannot be even a market. Exchange and sale must be the barest barter between chance individuals. And even when specialization commenced so that markets developed—a market being a place where a man who learned to do one thing well enough to make a surplus to exchange for someone's else surplus of the thing he learned to make—unless speed became a requisite of the transaction, there would be little advertising impulse.
The market as a vehicle of distribution prior to a century ago has seemed to me often to be similar to what the sea was then. To get a package to a consumer, as to get a cargo to port, the first must be floated upon the market, the second put upon the sea. The present competition is to get both to the destination as soon as possible.
But once it seems not to have mattered greatly how long goods placed upon the market took getting to the consumer or how long cargoes took getting to port or how safely or surely either arrived there.
Men put their products upon the market and resignedly consigned them to the god of good luck very much as they sent their ships to sea and prayed for good fortune to bring them to port.
When chance conditions held back the sales of his goods upon the market, as when adverse winds held back the sails of his ship at sea, the old merchant did little more than sit and whistle for conditions to favor him again.
And when the need of speed and security in the trade market came, it came as it did to the sea commerce. As someone applied steam to drive his ship faster and more securely, someone began putting a dirigible advertising force behind his goods to drive them through the market.
As at first steam was used only as an auxiliary when the sails of the ship failed to catch the wind, so advertising force was first applied only when the usual sales of the goods failed. During favorable conditions and when the trade winds blew his way, the early merchant stopped his advertising engine as he stopped the steam engine on his ship.
But then as others became more ambitious and the possibility of greater speed and security increased its necessity, mariners became bold to use steam at all times; and merchants kept up their propulsion by advertising in good weather as well as in foul.
Now the manufacturer and the merchant seek to put the control of their own progress—their market and sales and consequent production—into their own hands, instead of leaving it to the chaos of market chances.
Old Ideas Still Restrict the Extent of Advertising.
We smile as we read how, seventy years ago, the superstitiously conservative feared a divine law was being transgressed if a ship, man-controlled by steam, defied the winds which had controlled men so long. To proceed regardless of and contrary to the hitherto all-restrictive conditions seemed fearful to them.
Yet today those merchants are by no means all out of business who fear they are transgressing a trade law, more sacred in their conception than any divine law, if they themselves attempt to regulate by the propulsion of advertising the fate of their product which they have placed upon the market. To try to push it beyond the capacity of its old sales seems to them an endeavor to upset a "divine law" of demand which they themselves have deified through letting it control them so long.
This does not mean to say that men did not begin to grasp the idea of advertising at a very early date. But just as men grasped the first idea of steam power early also, but held its application in abeyance long, so the development of advertising proceeded slowly.
The history of advertising—its development as a creative force, the gradual realization of its real place in business and its practical application.
Almost as far back as civilization of any sort goes, goods exposed in shops acquired some distinctive sign to advertise them; as, with the Romans, a bush for wine, a goat sign for a dairy and a donkey driving a mill as the "Inner-Seal" of the National Biscuit Company of that day.
Criers advertised orally at the gates and in the market places of all ancient cities; and indeed in those days when only a few of the priestly or privileged classes could read, a cry or a symbol had to be the most effective advertisement. Yet more than three thousand years ago, when slaves ran away in Egypt, papyri hand bills and posters were sent about giving descriptions and rewards.
The walls of Pompeii in the most frequented places were placarded in black and red paints with such notices as the following:
"The troop of gladiators of the aedil (the commissioner of public works) will fight on the 31st of May. There will be fights with wild animals and an awning to keep off the sun."
"The baths of Marcus Frugius. Warm, sea and freshwater."
"Baths given after the fashion of Rome."
These notices were most indifferently spelled, though in Rome, at an early date, advertising had dignity enough to attract Callades, the Roman artist, to depict upon walls the different actors in their favorite parts. Booksellers, who sold, of course, only to the reading classes, early began placarding their wares. But as from the time of , who described a steam engine as early as 130 B. C., to the seventeenth century, steam was used, when employed at all, for turning spits and organ blowing, the idea of advertising was used in a very little more advanced way.
For after Rome fell and the barbarians spread west, the dark ages came with their physical chivalries, which called it effeminate—or rather clerical—to read or write. Women, now the best answerers of advertisements, were then even less educated than the men. Monks and clergy almost alone could have written or answered advertisements. Indeed, till comparatively very recent times even in England, it was safer for a man named Cox to display two painted roosters over his shop than write the letters C-O-X.
A trader, with the name of Harebottle, considered himself fortunate, as he could write his name with a hare and a bottle, which anyone might read, rather than use letters which would be legible only to the priest, the provost and—no, not always to the mayor.
The unfortunate whose names could not be expressed by an illustrated rebus ransacked the animal kingdom from the elephant to the bee and the vegetable kingdom from the palm tree to the daisy for a distinctive token to be remembered by.
Yet in spite of the essential crudity of this advertising, it had very early developed the value of the trademark as an indicant of quality in the product to which it was attached. In wills and in other preserved records of property from the sixteenth century trademarks are explicitly named, transferred and bequeathed as valuable property. And one of the surest proofs of the early value of trademarks, as one of the best indications today, is that the trademarks were constantly being imitated or stolen.
Aldus, the great Venetian printer, published in 1518 a specific warning to the public that his competitors in Florence, "seeing they could not equal, have affixed our well-known sign of the Dolphin round the Anchor" to their books, but so "clumsily that anyone," the warning continues, "cannot fail to observe that this is an impudent fraud, for the head of the Dolphin is turned to the left, whereas that of ours is well-known to be turned to the right."
One of the first English printed advertisements (by, the first English printer) was a handbill or poster of 1440: "Pyes....of Salisbury....good and chepe....if it please any man spirituel or temporel to bye."
This is not, as might appear, an early food advertisement to the public. Caxton, as the "History of Advertising" explains, had printed "Pyes," or clerical rules telling how the clergy at Salisbury dealt with the changing date of Easter; and as the clergy could read he was bold enough to print advertisements of his "Pyes." Indeed, for two centuries after it was introduced printing, which should have boomed advertising—if advertising depended primarily upon printing—had little or no effect upon the medieval advertising. The public had to be reached by the rebus over the shop, the public criers in towns, and by boys in front of stalls calling, "What d'ye lack, Master? What d'ye lack?"
Even public notices posted in cathedrals and other frequented places were seldom printed. So few copies were required for the few readers that they were cheaper handwritten.
And even the newspapers, when the civil wars in England in the seventeenth century brought them forth and they began to develop readers, had an extraordinarily small effect in developing advertising.
Book notices, rewards for the arrest of runaway servants and thieves and the announcements of quacks began to appear about 1652. And a little later the germ of modern advertising began to develop in the Mercurius Politicus, the Kingdom's Intelligencer, the Publick Advertiser and others in an effort to introduce tea, coffee and chocolate into England.
Tea: "That excellent and by all Physitians approved China drink called by the Chineans Teha, by other nations Tay, alias Tee."
Coffee: "The grain or berry called coffee, growing only upon little trees in the deserts of Arabia. Brought from thence and as drunk generally throughout all the Grand Seignor's dominions. It is a simple, innocent thing composed into a drink."
And chocolate: "An excellent West India drink called Chocolate."
These advertisements contained the germ of our vast, modern advertising in about the same way that Lord Worcester's steam engine of 1663 held the idea which developed into our complex powerful modern engines. But that was all.
The contrast between popular dependence upon advertising then and now cannot be better shown than by the experience after the great London fire.
In 1666 London was practically wiped out by fire. The printer of the London Gazette, with almost prophetic acumen, offered his columns for notices of new locations of shops. But though practically every important shop in the city was moved, there was absolutely no response to this offer. The old locations had never been known through the newspapers, so why should anyone look there for the new?
Have you seen the newspapers of any American city after any large fire? The pages are filled with notices of the new locations and restorations of business. As a more remarkable example, I have received the statement upon excellent authority that one of the Philadelphia newspapers, which had published Wanamaker's advertisements for years, lost 20,000 circulation when the advertisements were withdrawn and regained it again after the department store's patronage returned. The shoppers of Philadelphia had depended upon newspaper advertisements for their information so greatly that they changed to strange newspapers rather than miss the store information. It is true that a hundred years after the great fire, or in 1759, Dr. Johnson wrote that "Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused" and "the trade of advertising is now so near perfection that it is not easy to propose any improvement." Yet a careful perusal of the so-called advertising of that day discovered very little or nothing of the advertising as we understand it today. There are plenty of typographic hawking of books, quack lotions and remedies; and plenty of printed peddling of a hundred honest trinkets and notices of ships sailing and cargoes received. But that was all.
These have come down to us and are preserved in the British museums along with the old coins and stamped bits of metal. But the printers of those bits of paper had as little conception of what advertising was to become as the stampers of those bits of silver had of today's banking and clearing house operations. Or—to return to the parallel of steam—they had as little understanding of the possibilities of advertising as a propulsive power in business as had that his crude pumping machine of 1781—his "sun-and-planet" wheel—would develop the manufactures of a hundred years later. Up to that time—if advertising depends for its industrial basis upon the power of the printing press to duplicate advertisements and the ability of the public to read—it might be said that the crudity of the press and the lack of literacy had held back advertising.
But after that time for half a century the press was efficient enough and the people literate enough to have developed far more in advertising—if the efficiency of advertising rests in a positive way upon the press and literacy. But for over half a century advertising still failed to develop as we know it. I dwell on this and repeat it, because in examining the basis for the present industrial efficiency in advertising I have found everywhere I have examined that writers have ascribed it primarily to the perfection of the printing press and the spread of literacy. The industrial efficiency of advertising, therefore, has depended upon the increased ability of our modern presses to print and our modern people to read advertisements.
These, as necessary accompaniments to the great growth of modern advertising, must be obvious. But it should be equally clear that as fundamental causes for its efficiency today they must fail.
The vital change from the time prior to sixty years ago, when advertising had yet to start toward its present efficiency, is not the increase in the facility with which advertising matter can be printed and circulated and read, but it is the entire transformation in our method of specialized production of commodities, the revolution in the speed with which it became necessary to carry on production and distribution.
I have not paralleled, therefore, as I traced the slow development of advertising, the slow perfection of printing machines, but I have suggested as I followed the crawl of advertising as a force the corresponding abeyance in the application of the power-producing machine—the steam engine.
For the vital change from former to modern times—the change which has given us the industrial basis for advertising efficiency—cannot be merely the increase in facility with which advertising literature can be produced and read. It must be the increase in facility with which advertised articles can be produced and consumed.
To estimate the industrial basis of modern advertising do not, therefore, compare our great publishing houses, press rooms and mailing facilities with the printing and distributing plants of seventy years ago. They are only the corresponding accompaniments of the two periods. Compare our great factories and specialized machine production with the little workshops and hand tools of the former time. And do not compare the educational conditions of today, which enable almost everyone to read advertisements, with the period when far fewer were literate. But compare the economic conditions of today, when a high purchasing power enables practically everyone to be a consumer of advertised products, to the non-advertising times when but few were able to purchase.
To understand American advertising industrially we must understand that the basic reason of it is that this nation has reached the point where only a small fraction of the people are unable to buy and consume. The American people are quick to learn and use and to want what they learn to use. Their adaptivity calls for a large supply of a large variety of products. These are the reasons why advertising has found its greatest and most rapid development here.
For it is our great machine-driven clothing factories in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia against the little local needle and shears shops of our grandfather's time; our great machine manufactories for shoes in Boston and St. Louis with a world market against the little town cobbling bench; our great packing houses in Omaha, Kansas City and Chicago with their machinery flying to keep up with three continents' demand against the old village butcher's barn; it is these we must be taking into account to compute the industrial basis of advertising need and efficiency today.
Yet denying that the printing press is the industrial basis of our modern advertising achievement only saves the press for its greater function—the economic and social elevation which had to keep pace with our industrial advance.
To our factories and power machines is due our wonderful production of goods, so vast that no other people can equal it. Yet to our printing plants and presses is very largely due our wonderful knowledge of uses, so that, as a people, we demand and use far more than any other.
The marvelous growth and development of advertising within the past few decades is thus determined to be caused by; first, the fast growing specialization in production; second, the rapidly increasing speed with which commercial operations came to be carried on; third, the greatly lengthening distances over which it became necessary to transact them.
These three dominating factors revolutionized the old ways of production and distribution. They followed the substitution of steam for hand power in industry, which brought about a general condition of specialized production which turned out so great a surplus of manufactured goods that, to dispose of them, both the speed of selling had to be suddenly accelerated and the area of distribution greatly increased.
Coincidentally came further progress in printing and a great increase in literate population. But advertising, as an industry, depends more directly upon the capacity of power production for turning out great surpluses of perfected and specialized products and upon the potential ability of the general public to consume them. But on the economic side, the power-printing press came only in time to solve the harder problem.
An old man, whose memory went back well before the days of universal power-machine production summed up this problem to me not long ago. He was not the sort of old man who looked back and considered his time better than ours because his problems were simpler. Just the opposite.
"The difficulty of a problem confronting a people, as the difficulty of a school boy's sum, is the register of their progress," he said. "And it is no more absurd for a boy who is given a problem in algebra to try to apply short division methods to it than it is for a people to try to solve their problem in the terms of the problem of the generation before."
He was talking to me then of the way we were and are restricting our cotton acreage in the south because we had not developed needs for all we could grow; of the waste in the unharvested food products of the West; and the shut-downs in the many factories and mills in the East because our ability to produce as a nation kept running so steadily ahead of our ability to consume our own products.
The reductions and shut-downs under consideration were not the abnormal ones of panic. He was merely counting up the routine and periodical reductions and shut-downs prevalent in prosperous times and due to nothing else than the notorious ability of Americans to produce much more and much faster than they consume.
"The problem of our generation," he explained, "was to make—to produce. Yours is to use—to consume. And yet you seem to be trying to solve your problem in the terms of ours!
"We had to learn to make. You have to learn to need! And what is the matter with all you Americans today that you don't try harder to use more as fast as you can make more? Why can't you keep up with your goods?
"In my time, what was holding us back was not that we could not use but we could not make. To progress we had to learn to make, and we learned. But now you have learned to make and passed on to the problem of learning to use—to consume. Not incapacity to make faster is holding you back now but incapacity to consume faster. And instead of trying to solve your own problem in your own terms—that is, by hurrying and developing more consumption—you put it back into the old terms by checking production.
This treating of the problem of today's progress, not in terms of checked industry and of holding back our advance in production to the slower gait of our demands, but the treating of it in terms of economics and of hastening our wants to keep up with our greatest possibility of production:
That is the function of modern advertising.
Advertising is the Force and Instrument to Solve the Problem.
It seems very radical indeed to imply here that the rapidity of our progress as a nation is determined very largely by the efficiency and effectiveness of our advertising. But it is true. It is taught by every school of sociology that individuals, communities and races are progressive according as they acquire new needs—as they learn to make things and to use them. We call that nation which needs and uses the most as the most progressed. And from that point the insufficiency of our advertising, more than anything else, must slow the progress of America as it shows the progress of all other countries in direct proportion as they are, like America, confessedly and flagrantly behind in the use of their products—as the complete and universal use falls short of the possibility to produce.
Where and When Advertising May Be Used Effectively.
When production was so small, and today wherever production is so impeded industrially that there is a place and use waiting for everything that can be produced, then and there advertising is needless. But when and where—and here and now—a people yearly produce a multitude of things which have no sufficiently general use awaiting them and when the people can produce far more still if the products could be used, then the advertising to make place and use for those products is the necessary instrument of that people's progress.
I do not mean that insufficiency or ineffectiveness of our advertising is holding us back in comparison with other people. We progress conspicuously faster than any other people; and, as said at the outset, we advertise very much more than any other. And as we produce far more than any other people, so to a far greater extent we make more complete and universal use of our productions.
But still no one denies that, if we had a wider and more established use among ourselves for our own products, we could produce far more still.
From the beginning of the race, men more or less constantly produced new and better goods—constantly but very slowly. For five thousand years, or eight thousand, or however many thousand years of human production preceded our factories and power machine, all the results of human labor could require little advertising.
From the first hand implement to the last, manufacture was essentially tedious. We could make more and better things only as a greater number of us gradually became industrious, we slowly perfected our hand tools and painfully acquired hand skill.
Formerly the Problem Was Only One of Insufficient Production.
While things were being made so slowly by hands, the value and use of every good thing was easily made known to the public far in advance of the ability to offer it in any considerable quantity.
Of articles other than those established as necessary, the manufacture was so small and expensive that their use was necessarily confined to a small class—the rich and fastidious. Beds, chairs, shoes, collars, umbrellas, forks and sugar, which our manufacturing conditions have made cheap and attainable by all today, were originally luxuries designed for the rich, and their manufacture was confined to the needs of the rich. The desire for them developed well ahead of the ability to make them in quantities large enough and cheap enough to be available to all.
There could be little advertising under the physical disability which prevented products from being offered at a practicable price. The problem of making the people want and need more could not exist when it was still impossible to furnish more.
For centuries and centuries, while progress was being kept back by the inability of hands to make goods rapidly, the poor people—that is, almost all the people—had very little and got used to wanting very little.
But when our great machine shops, our systematized factories and machine production developed suddenly, almost without warning, a great flood of very good and very cheap products in a quantity and at a price available for almost all surged upon the market. A thousand new things, a thousand old things made in better ways, were suddenly offered to the millions. But the millions were not prepared to take.
The centuries and centuries of waiting upon the feeble hand tools had established a habit of mind which was very deeply inbred.
In a moment the machine could overthrow the industrial traditions of the race—but the economic and the social?
In a moment the industrial revolution put before the millions those thousand things which had never before been in their reach; but it was to require almost an economic and social revolution to make them reach. The very workmen making the products, which now became so cheap that they were available, did not want them. For too many centuries the "people" had been forced and accustomed to consider the refinements and even the simple luxuries of life as for the use only of the few.
An Economic and Social Revolution Necessary to Create Consumption.
The restrictive traditions of the old times cannot be better illustrated than by the old Sumptuary Laws. These laws, once prevalent throughout Europe, regulated even the clothing, personal possessions and habits of the "people." They prescribed that servants, merchants and artificers should have, for instance, only one meal of flesh or fish in the day and that their other food should consist of milk, butter and cheese. Later laws forbade pies and baked meats to all under the rank of baron. And such legal enactments furnish only very incomplete evidence of the ways into which the lower and middle classes were schooled to want but little.
For then the interests of the upper classes in control lay in causing the masses to want but little, as the profits of the controlling classes today lie in leading them now to want much. For now we have the supplies for a high standard of living—not for the few only but for all. And to sell today's increasing supplies we cannot sell only to the classes who have already adopted the high standard of living but must make the "people" now adopt a new standard high enough to consume our increasing supplies.
As suddenly and as rapidly as a manufacturer can produce new and better articles cheaply he must somehow include them into a standard of living which will embrace enough people to exhaust his supply. And if enough people have not reached the standard of living which requires his articles, he must lift them there. He must persuade, not the few now but the millions, to make the additional effort to attain to the standard of life which requires the use of his product and, having gotten enough to gain that standard and the use of his product, he must keep them from falling from that standard and into the disuse of his article.
This in the simplest terms is the economic and social action of modern advertising. And take a simple illustration of that action in the recent advertising of a soap.
Not long ago toilet soap was a luxury, manufactured for and used by the few. It seldom occurred even to makers of soap—certainly it did not generally occur to their social class—that soap was for them. It was above their standard of living. Soap is now and has been one of the most widely advertised products. Much present soap advertising is not essentially modern advertising, but is more of the ancient peddling-in-print which has been mentioned before. However, enough of present day soap advertising is modern, and soap was one of the first products to be advertised in a modern way. The perfumed and delicate soaps, while illustrating the process of modern advertising as well, belong rather to the realm of æsthetics. But Hand Sapolio—a mixture of soap and fine grit—is beautifully elemental in its illustration of advertising soap for its prime service, cleansing.
The manufacturers of Sapolio and Hand Sapolio desired to create a demand for large quantities of the latter quickly. They had to make large numbers of the people demand it so that they could produce it in great quantities and cheaply.
Instead of competing with other soap manufacturers who depended for their sales upon their ability to raise enough people up from the class of cheap soap users to fine soap users, the manufacturers went for those who had to take the more elemental elevation from dirt to soap. We all remember how, when the same firm were pushing their kitchen Sapolio a few years ago, they erected before us all, in the magazines and in the street cars, a higher standard of pot-and-pan brightness and kitchen cleanliness. With a desire to increase their output of plain soap they had to induce people to be more clean and fastidious about their pantries and kitchens. So when they desired to come up to their possible output in hand soap, they started to raise a higher standard of personal cleanliness than was entirely prevalent.
"Be Clean!" They put up the plain statement where the people could not dodge it. It stared at us when we were looking over the contents of one magazine and again when we were finding the place in another.
"Be Clean. 'Tis a fine Habit!" It met us on the car rack just over our eyes. When we changed sides, it was on another rack: "Be Clean; 'Tis the Best of Good Manners." When we changed cars it met us again: "Be Clean; 'Tis Due to Others."
On other cards and elsewhere we are reminded of "Cleanliness as the First Principle," as "Good Policy," as "Healthfulness" and as "Politeness."
Effect of Such Suggestion on the Reader.
Of course, these soap makers are not interested immediately in altering habit or raising the standard of cleanliness. They want to sell the full extent of their possible output of soap under the present cheap and efficient manufacturing conditions; so they are trying to make enough people use soap or more soap to exhaust their supply. They persuade us to make additional effort to be clean and, having once put us on the higher level of more unexceptional cleanliness, they keep us resisting the tendency ever to remain soiled.
I do not mean to ridicule this soap. I use it. I go in and out upon the cars to Chicago—and Chicago requires the use of much soap. But when I got on the cars a year or so ago and saw staring at me, "Be Clean; 'Tis the Best of Good Manners," and "'Tis Due to Others," it began sticking to me a little closer than the Chicago soot.
I would resent as sharply as you the suggestion that I need my standard of cleanliness raised or that it could be raised by a street car advertisement. But I know that I am one of many of the same class of persons who, with those few advertising lines staring at me, was a little less likely to go about complacently under the blanket excuse that everyone in Chicago is entitled to be at least a little soiled.
Now I am sure that I am one only of many thousands who consider themselves habitually clean, yet have, on account of these advertisements, used soap at least a little oftener and have had the standard of cleanliness raised at least that much by this company to enhance the use of a soap. Then there are the many, many thousands who the sale of the soap proved never thought so very much about personal cleanliness till they were met everywhere for a while with the "Be Clean; 'Tis the First Principle, the Best of Good Manners, Good Policy and Healthful."
The success of this well-known advertising—regarded, however, by advertising men as primary grade advertising—is admitted by the manufacturers. Yet it also illustrates another extremely significant element of all modern advertising; that is the free benefit conferred by a well-advertised article upon all articles of the same class, advertised or unadvertised.
Advertisers, in direct proportion to their efficiency, are continually and persistently changing people's habits, making them wish for new and better products and more of them; but they cannot—even the best advertisers—secure to themselves anywhere near all the benefit of their own advertising. Even the most successful advertising gives only a part of its returns to the one who pays for it. All the unadvertised similar articles benefit by and so reduce the success of the advertised ones.
How Non-Advertisers Share in the General Campaigns.
The advertisers in every line of goods, from enameled bathtubs to safety razors, are making extra efforts and taking all the risks incident to establishing their lines in popular favor, while the non-advertisers in similar lines, making no effort and risking nothing, are "scabbing it" upon them and enjoying the general benefit flowing from the agitation.
This is a vertebral principle of operation in publicity to be borne in mind in reviewing the statement made at the opening of the last article that the progress of this country waits very directly upon the establishment of uses by advertising.
The fact that advertising does so much more than sell advertised products is so thoroughly established that it forms one of the most serious and most discussed problems of the advertising business.
Advertising to Be Successful Must Sell the Specific Article Advertised.
For when advertisers spend millions to change people's habits, raise their standards and create in them a sentiment for new and better things, the only part of that advertising which pays the advertiser is the part which makes the people adopt the brand or make of the article specifically advertised, not a copy or an imitation of it.
Some of the best and most effective advertising to introduce new products in many lines has failed not because it didn't introduce the new product but because it did not sell enough of the advertiser's particular brand of the article to pay. It is one of the heroic, inspiring things seen in the advertising world when a pioneer advertiser goes ahead, risking everything on some new thing to be introduced, hoping only for a paying return and that not too much will be stolen from him.
But as we are not now considering advertising as affecting the advertiser but in its effect upon the nation, the important thing is the raising of the popular standards, economic and social. Starting with soap, I could have illustrated as well with automobiles.
With soap advertising the adoption of a higher standard of cleanliness has involved an additional effort upon the part of many thousands of people and advertising has brought it about. With automobile advertising a similar effort is required from a much more highly and complexly organized class of people; but the striking success of the best automobile advertising has shown that it, too, has brought the "automobile standard" about. You—as you pick up the magazines and run through the pages—are you not incited to try harder for the acquisition of the things advertised there? Do not the advertisements impel you to make a very conscious additional effort to obtain them—especially, just now, automobiles which take up so much of the space? I am.
But perhaps you say it is not the advertising; it is the seeing of other people with automobiles; it is the passing by the shops displaying certain articles which makes you want them.
Let us go back to soap.
The workingman, whom I have in mind, for years and years rode down in the cars side by side with people who used soap; he saw the effects of soap upon them. But he was used to seeing other people clean; they were another class and could do many other things beside wash often which he could not do. Their cleanliness had no especial application to him.
For years, too, he passed the shops and the counters where soap was for sale. Other things he did not use were for sale there, too. The good soap had little more application to him than the cosmetic for sale beside it.
But one morning he went down on the cars when the superior cleanliness of others about him disturbed him no more than usual.
But that morning he glanced up.
"Be Clean. 'Tis the First Principle."
Maybe it only interested him for a moment. But the next morning, "Be Clean. 'Tis Due Yourself." It was personal; it hit him; it wasn't for someone else. "Yourself!" He looked down at himself and perhaps was beginning to be disturbed. Then:
"Be Clean. 'Tis Due to Others!" The thing had become more personal to him now and he looked about to notice that the woman on his right did not sit as close to him as she sat to the clerk on the other side of her. He had noticed that before, perhaps, but had grown used to having clerks, though drawing no more pay than he, be clean and he not. But now this had more point and meaning.
Now, perhaps, it took another card and another morning; perhaps still another and another; but one day it broke him down.
He was going by the shop or the counter where soap was for sale. Other things not his requisites were there, too; but the soap meant something to him now and he had a reason for purchasing; a direct, personal reason. And—he bought.
Advertising Action the Same—No Matter What the Product or Prospect.
Now let us go back to ourselves. Neither of us, perhaps, owns an automobile. First we saw a few people with automobiles. We had seen them before with many other things we did not possess. Finer houses, perhaps, or boats or fine horses. We were pretty well accustomed and resigned to seeing a few people have more and better things than we. We saw the automobile and classed it along with the other things which we would have in the hopeful "some day."
We passed the windows where automobiles were for sale; but we were pretty well accustomed to passing windows full of things which we could comfortably put off coveting. We went busily by and in a moment forgot all about the windows.
By evening, when at home, we laid plans for the immediate personal things; we had pretty well forgotten the motors which passed us and those shown in the windows we had passed. But then we picked up our magazine and were held by the series of pages all devoted to automobiles with illustrations, particulars and prices.
"Hello! Here's one for $900." Perhaps, we have almost that much to spare; and in the chair there at home, with nothing to do but pick out a story in that magazine, and with no business to think about, it won't do any harm or attract any attention to wonder what kind of a car we can get with our nine hundred dollars. Then.
"Let's see if there isn't a better one—four cylinders (we're interested in cylinders already and wonder how many the cars which passed us had) for just a little more."
We turn over the pages and compare them. "Here's one for twelve hundred." We may have twelve hundred pretty soon with a little care.
But here is another, a good deal better, for a little more. Then here is the best car made—as good as the French ones—for $4,500.
We haven't that, of course; but we're going to get it and now we are going to get it a little sooner. We think about the extra effort we can make to get it. Then we go over the alternatives again and—well, haven't you done it yourself?
Advertising Draws Personal Attention to Samples of Product.
And the next car that passes we look at more closely and discriminately. We know something about automobiles and we could have one, too, if we were contented with a two-cylinder car like that. Or, as the impatience becomes greater, "That's four cylinders; but didn't that two-cylinder go almost as well?" and we can have the two-cylinder car right now.
We size them up with a keener, more personal interest. The car has not merely passed you upon the street. The maker of the car sent a special, pointed message home to you—home to you when you had nothing else to think about. It came to you directly and personally when you were alone.
The automobile in the garage down the street can no longer be one of your "some day" dreams along with the much finer house and the stable full of horses and the boat like that neighbor's. You are going to have one of those cars; which one, your patience in providing the money for it will decide.
You pass a window now bearing a familiar name. The magazines have made you familiar not only with the name but with the qualities of the car now before you.
The price, without the top, is just what you now can spare. The arguments of the advertisements of this car run through your mind again and again and seem sufficient. You go in.
"I've been a good deal interested in certain points about this car and would like to——" and it's not "some day." It's now!
Advertising Makes Difference Between "Some Day" and "Now" Consumption.
I do not deny that seeing other people with automobiles and passing by the stores might have sold the car to you "some day." Seeing other people clean and seeing soap in the stores would as surely have sold that laborer soap "some day."
Advertising merely effected the sale sooner—"now." The difference advertising effects for which manufacturers pay their scores of millions yearly is that difference between "some day" and "now." And this difference is not only all the difference in the world but often also the difference between this world and the next.
A most striking instance of the difference which advertising makes is to be seen in almost any manufactory where workmen of fairly good means are employed in making some of the more modern luxuries of life.
Skilled men, making such things as pianos and good bathtubs and fine plumbing articles, invariably want to have them in their own homes "some day." But as they reflect and see that other persons in their same social class have not those luxuries, though they want them, the impulse to provide those articles does not persist in anything like as strongly as it would if those articles were regarded as proper to a workman's standard of living.
Now even pianos and enameled tubs are made in such great quantities that they can be offered cheap enough for the great mass of our people who are making only a couple of thousand dollars a year or less. So those articles are advertised to those classes with "copy" and illustrations showing them as proper, available and necessary objects for even the persons of more moderate means.
Suddenly the men who have been spending their lives working over those articles for others and intending to have them for themselves "some day" find they must have them now; they are becoming the proper, necessary objects of their class; and the men make the additional effort necessary to secure or save the price and the pianos and good plumbing go into the cottages. This is not sociology or an account of uplift. This is business—the plain economic and social necessity of the advertising business.
The advertisers of soap and collars keep after us for cleanliness and neatness; the advertisers of filters have perforce to make us hold higher regard for our health; and the advertisers of plumbing requisites, our sanitation. The advertisers of such advanced things as automobiles and pianos are after us, much more continually and effectively than the sociologists, to raise our standards of living and to cause us to make the greater effort toward personal efficiency.
Advertisers have to do this to sell goods. Tomorrow, as they will have more goods to sell they will have to raise more of us into the classes which buy and use those goods. The next day they must raise still more of us.
They must do this if they want to sell more goods; they must also do it if they want to sell better goods or if they wish to sell the same goods more profitably.
The American problem of production, as thus traced, is not how we, as a nation, may make more; but how we may profitably use more. The check to the more rapid advance of our industries is not the physical limitation of manufacturing, but the social and economic checks of consuming capacity.
When the manufacture of all sorts of commodities leaped far beyond the popular acceptance of the use of those things, the suppliers took to advertising to create quickly a higher standard of living among the masses to make them consume more. But the tendency of this advertising to raise standards for the consumer is only a half of its essential economic action. How modern advertising began to operate to raise the standards for the manufacturers themselves, to better the product and effect a purer as well as a larger output, is equally as important to trace.
For we Americans are credited with producing more and using a larger proportion of what we are capable of producing than any other people. We also accuse ourselves of manufacturing and being forced to consume a larger proportion of "shoddy" and unworthy, cheap and adulterated products than any other people.
The comparative figures are unimportant. But it is important and undeniably true—as investigation after investigation has shown us pitilessly—that whenever and wherever we begin turning out our products with the greatest facility and begin piling up our greatest surpluses to sell, there is almost a sure tendency toward deterioration of the product in the making of it.
Now the encouraging feature, not the discouraging one, about this confessed tendency is that it seems to strike almost every line of production which is naturally most efficient industrially—that is, which is most able to produce the greatest amount of surplus products.
The very increase in efficiency and facility with which an article could be produced, had often had the apparently anomalous effect of lowering the standard of the article.
Without citing any special illustration of this, the notorious condition of our food industries before the passage of the national food laws two years ago followed hard upon the heels of the very perfections in packing, preparing and proper preserving which made the industries most efficient and enabled them to turn out easily and cheaply far greater quantities of goods.
The Widening of Distance Between Producer and Consumer and Its Result.
The reason is obvious—and here enters the action of the third characteristic change in modern industry. For the perfected power machines brought in not only a steady surplus of goods with a consequent necessity for accelerating the speed of selling; but it also required a great and rapid increasing of the area over which the specialized product must be sold—a great lengthening of the distance between the producer and the consumer.
When the big modern plant and distributing agents as convenient intermediaries first came in and put the producer physically out of touch with the consumer, a lessening of care and responsibility upon the part of the producer was almost inevitable.
When Mary Jones who put up peaches and pickles for sale for her neighbors who could step about easily and complain to her personally, changed to the great, machine driven, efficient-corporated and unpersonal—often anonymous—pickling and preserving plant hundreds of miles away, the moral separation between the producer and the consumer became almost as great as the physical—and almost as inevitable.
When Brown the butcher who killed his beef in his barn under his neighboring customers' eyes was supplanted by the big central packing houses in Chicago because his methods were wasteful and inefficient, the very concentration and mechanical perfection of the new slaughters and butchers, removed them from touch and immediate responsibility to the eaters of meat. When John Smith, the tailor, a personal friend to every one of his customers, began to become the corporation, cutting patterns by the thousands and driving power machines to put together clothes for wearers thousands of miles away whom John Smith never saw or never will see, and who, perhaps, won't even see John Smith's name upon the suits or know that he has made them, the tailor then is inevitably removed morally as well as physically from his customers.
When the modern conditions first came in and the manufacturer found all his time taken up by the mechanical perfecting of his work, and when his machines first began turning out goods for wholesale distribution, the manufacturer seldom stamped or sewed even his name upon his product. Being engrossed with the industrial work of producing, he spread his goods broadcast anonymously and his character in them—whatever it was—was immediately lost if it was ever known.
So as the manufacturer no longer sold to the people—to the consumers—he could not have the consumers as directly in his mind as the old handworkers who sold direct to their consumers were obliged to.
The modern manufacturer had to have more directly in mind the jobber or the dealer to whom he directly sold his goods under competition.
And when one manufacturer found himself competing with another manufacturer or the jobber's and dealer's trade direct, he soon found that the immediate and essential issue of their competition was not the use of the article but the profit. The persons whom the manufacturers now had to consider immediately were not those who were themselves to eat, wear or use the product but who were to sell it again for profit.
As long then as the consumers were kept in ignorance, a manufacturer could go on cheapening and adulterating a food product or a piece of cloth indefinitely. And for a good many of the first years when the manufacturers found themselves loaded up with the tons of products which their new machinery methods gave them quickly and cheaply, the manufacturers very largely kept the people in ignorance of exactly what they were getting. The producers almost frantically competed for favor with the jobbers and for the dealers' trade—and took readily, perhaps necessarily, to competing in terms which would most immediately satisfy the jobbers and dealers, that is, in terms of direct profit to the dealers.
We—the eaters of the foods—were clearly not the ones immediately considered in the competition which had been going on. For most of those food suppliers were not supplying directly to us; but competing for the dealers.
Our chief interest lay in procuring the best and purest to eat; while the dealers' chief interest—which the trade conditions then exposed were designed to satisfy—apparently lay in procuring the worst and most adulterated to sell profitably again.
The competition for cheap, bulk and adulterated supplies meant not only cutting of grades, lowering of quality and continual adding of adulterants and preservatives injurious to the eater, but—what had already begun to change the conditions in large sections of the industries—it meant for the manufacturers also continuous cutting of prices and reductions of his profits. For competing with an unidentified and anonymous product—as most of the suppliers really did—after getting in all the cheapening he could and putting in all the adulterants to compete with some other manufacturers for the dealers' favors, the manufacturer then found himself competing in cutting down his own profits. For his product, being unidentified with him and anonymous as far as he was concerned, was most eminently supplantable. Any dealer or jobber, dissatisfied with the profits from the sale of any brand of such goods, could merely change to another manufacturer without a single consumer being the wiser.
So after the manufacturer had sacrificed himself in every particular, he could be sure of no positive good will as a basis of future sales. Anyone willing to dare a little deeper degradation of his product as long as the public could be still kept ignorant, might displace him at any time as the progressive cheapening became a sufficient allurement to the dealers who—consciously or unconsciously—were already handling degraded goods.
The Effect of Scaling Quality to Price on the Consumer.
The poor business of scaling quality to price was bad for us, the consumers; but what had already begun to change great sections of the business, was that it was worse for the manufacturers. Many saw truly that to make their business stable and profitable for themselves, they must in the long run be directly and finally responsible to us, the consumers. They reached for us, therefore. Instead of manufacturing now for the men who were merely to sell their products again a few bold pioneers dared in wholesale to consciously and immediately consider, at the expense of the dealer if necessary, us—the eaters of their foods. They began to manufacture and to appeal to us—they advertised.
This far from means that all or even the great proportion of unadvertised goods are inferior; it is meant to be as far from stating that all advertised goods are the best. This means merely to trace and define tendencies and their causes. And having found a notorious and confessed tendency in the methods of selling unmarked and unidentified-with-the-manufacturer goods to the dealers, it repeated it here. And having found another self proclaimed and obvious tendency in the essential sales methods of marked and identified goods to the consumer, it set that down. But this recognizes that when such pioneers of advertising with that tendency as Heinz and the American Cereal Company went into the advertising field, it was preëmpted, almost, as to some extent it is still occupied by fakes, frauds and quacks in the business world.
The pioneer food advertisers, who turned to the people to save them from the evils of competition for the sellers' trade, had to appeal to a largely discredited instrument—advertising—to help them. And to help themselves, they helped it, till today the larger and the happily most rapidly and steadily increasing bulk of advertising is becoming recognized to be sound and beneficial. For the real, essential nature of advertising action, when given a true test, has had to come out. Essentially advertising is the twentieth century link which restores not only the physical proximity but the moral identity and responsibility of the manufacturer to the consumer.
In a condition when the standards of production were lowering from removal from the inspection of the people, they had to be raised again by the restoration of it.
So the modern manufacturing advertiser, instead of putting out a cheapened, unmarked and unidentified article to be sold to the dealer till some more profitable one comes along, marks, identifies and claims his article which he establishes directly in the favor of the people and which can not be supplanted at the dealers' wish, but only when a better one appeals to the people.
For he does not immediately compete with those trying to make a cheaper product for the dealer. He has to compete only with those who, like himself, have the consumer directly in mind; and the sure tendency of their competition must therefore be in quality, value and satisfaction to the consumer.
This must be the primary effect upon the product of the action of advertising. The accompanying economic action has less social but perhaps more business importance.
Advertised products—foods especially—are popularly regarded as usually more expensive than the non-advertised articles of the same sort. And although the great and increasing sales of all proper, advertised articles proves in the most conclusive way that the people regard the advertised articles as, on the whole, purer and better than the unadvertised brands, yet the belief still clings firmly that in buying an advertised article, the buyer must "pay" for advertising.
It seldom seems to occur to most people that the purity, cleanliness and uniformity which they desire and obtain in most advertised articles, should properly cost the small excess over the adulteration, dirt, and uncertain quality of the competing article which costs less. When the price of the superior advertised article is greater, it is inconsistently laid to the cost of the advertising rather than to the superiority.
Indeed, even when the superior advertised product costs no more than the other, and even when it is cheaper, because we see the advertisement which sold us the article and know that it cost money, we persist in thinking we must be "paying for advertising."
All of us will agree, I think, that the great shoe manufacturers who depend upon the advertising appeal to the wearers of shoes as the basis of their sales methods—that is, such firms as the Regal Shoe Company, Sorosis, and so on—and the great clothing makers who depend upon education in cloth values, rather than in popular ignorance, for their sales—that is, Hart, Schaffner and Marx, Stein-Bloch, and others—give us year in and year out a constantly higher grade of shoes and clothing at a low price than do the suppliers of similar goods unadvertised.
We all know that the advertising of these houses has enormously increased their distribution, so that the manufacturers can count upon a steady consumption and can manufacture with all the economies of a steady and tremendous trade. Yet because we have everywhere ocular evidence of the immense sums these houses pay in advertising, we still assume—most of us—that with every pair of shoes and every article of clothing, we are paying besides an advertising bill.
I asked one of the largest and most successful manufacturers and sellers of shoes how much his advertising cost the public per pair of shoes. He answered me thus:
He took an ordinary shoe store which, he knows, sells on the average about forty pairs of shoes a day. This store does not sell an advertised line of shoes; and there is no expense except a few window cards and displays which could be called advertising.
However, the cost of running the store—rent, light, wages and so on—is about $20 a day. When you buy a pair of shoes at that store, then, you pay for no "advertising;" but you pay just 50 cents per pair for the cost in the store of selling you those shoes.
This advertiser of shoes has in the same small city a similar store where his shoes are sold, costing also approximately $20 a day to keep open. From his national advertising campaign cost, he figures he fairly counts that the share of advertising which would accrue to the store is $20 more a day. In all, the cost of that store is $40 a day. But because of the effectiveness of his advertising, he says he sells daily about one hundred and sixty pairs of shoes—for his shoes are among the most popular and best known. When you buy a pair of shoes in that store, therefore, you pay for every advertising and selling cost just 25 cents per pair of shoes.
You can figure that any way you wish. The basis is entirely a comparative one. In this comparison, the shoe sold is the one which I personally think is the best for the money anywhere; and competent men tell me its advertising is the very best.
The cost or the saving by advertising must vary in every individual case with the steady quality of the article and the steady effectiveness of the advertising in showing forth that quality. Take another instance.
A very large manufacturer of clothing called in an advertising expert a few months ago because this manufacturer had discovered, after some investigation, that a rival who advertised was getting from the dealer an average of three dollars more per suit than this non-advertiser whose clothes sold to the wearer for the same price. Now the advertising man happened to know, from another source, that the advertising cost per suit of clothes sold in that section was less than one dollar for the other man. The advertising manufacturer then had a clear margin of over two dollars per suit over his competitor, half of which he could put into his pocket and half of which add to the quality of the clothes, which sold to the wearer at the same price as the other man's!
Again, of course, the figures are merely comparative. The advertising here considered is perhaps the most successful clothing advertising in the country; and as this manufacturer advertises and puts much of his dependence upon creating a demand for dress suits, tuxedos and the finer clothes, the dealer is undoubtedly satisfied with his sales of the supplementary finer lines. Cases of "loading" of advertising expense into the cost of the product could be as easily quoted. But real "loading" means bad advertising; and if the "loaded" goods do not fail naturally in competition with unadvertised goods, they will surely fail as soon as an "unloaded" line pushed by proper advertising methods enters the field.
For when a product is backed by extensive and sustained advertising it generally means that the brand has been on the market for some time; that the goods are made with all the economies possible only to large and steady production and so are sold cheaply, quality considered; that the product is already well established in public favor and that a responsible firm backs, with its money, the merit which it claims for the product.
It means, too, that the profitable investment of a great deal of money is dependent upon the article being as represented. That makes a practical bond of forfeit for the misrepresentation. But lying below all it means that the article is presented to you directly by advertising, because the manufacturer has chosen not to compete with those whose success lies most immediately in making an "attractive proposition" for other sellers of the article. It means that he has the user, not the next seller, most directly in mind. It means that he has chosen for his sales method not to depend upon your ignorance of his unidentified product, but to depend upon the qualities in his article which he dares to point out to you and for which he wishes to stand directly and personally responsible.
But the final and most far reaching effect of advertising is not that, industrially, it closes the gap of distance between producer and consumer; nor that, economically, it closes the gap between the amount able to be produced and consumed; nor that, socially, it merely closes the gap between the quality of goods which could be sold and should be demanded. Advertising is a part of the world's progress on far broader grounds.
For the world sweep of affairs today is toward democracy. The propulsion of affairs is from and toward the people. Direct is the word that defines today's tendencies—direct nomination, direct primaries, direct voting.
We call our present political system inherently weak, because voters have little or no direct choice of candidates for office. While politicians are necessary, originally intended to serve the people by selecting the best men for public office, yet they have come to dominate and make selection for their own interests rather than the interests of those whom they are supposed to serve. We must usually have inferior men so long as we are merely willing to endorse the selection of others for us.
Likewise, we must recognize that our present commercial system has the same inherent weakness, as we, the buyers, have little or no direct choice of commodities. We must inevitably have inferior products so long as we are willing to merely endorse those selected for us by others. Before the advent of advertising our commercial system suffered from precisely the same condition as the political. The middleman chose our products for us on the basis of his own interest in profits rather than the consumer's interests in the goods.
In the day of primitive politics we might have met together in the town meeting, each directly nominating a candidate. In primitive commerce, also, each consumer might have selected the goods he wanted. But as society became complex we first delegated our political choice to the middleman, then neglected it altogether. Similarly in commerce, we early delegated our selection of goods to dealers; neglected to specify our preferences to them, until we not only lost the privilege of active choice but became almost indifferent to it.
And when we cannot find the grade of products we would like on the shelves of the stores, we meekly choose from the assortment the store keeper has chosen for us. We have not recognized that our commercial system has very readily lent itself to the presentation of inferior products.
And just as politically the people's control is being reëstablished by direct primaries and direct election, so commercially the consumer is regaining the right of selecting his products through the medium of advertising. And precisely as direct nominations and direct primaries are bringing out better men in politics, so our commercial direct choice is bringing forth some of our very best present day commodities.
For, under the conditions which have been portrayed in previous articles, good products stood no fair chance of being presented by dealers in some quarters. Time after time a superior product could not get on the dealer's shelves, for while it was better for people to eat, or wear, or use, it was not better for the dealer to make profits on in selling it to customers.
By advertising, the manufacturer of quality product can place his merits before the people. He gets enough people to ask for his product to force the dealers to put it on their shelves. And the consumer, selecting the product he wants out of the many that are put before him through advertising, can establish it even against the preference of the house that supplies it. The pure foods, the superior clothing, the stronger shoes, and the better grades in a hundred lines have been presented to the consumer and maintained through the advertising appeal to the people direct. I do not mean that all superior products have been or must be so introduced—that no unadvertised goods have quality; any more than that no good leaders have come up in politics under the old methods. But our selection of goods presented directly to us through the choice of advertising brings us a greater percentage of best products.
Now the manufacturer is using the direct primaries of advertising. It remains for the people to take the final step—to use this advertising in order to make the most intelligent and advantageous selection for themselves.
Advertised products are the field for the consumer's selection, because they present their merits and are willing to stand on them. Determining the qualities he wants, the consumer buys the products; the dealer supplies them.
How Advertising Expenditure Re-acts Against Misrepresentation.
But suppose he finds that their claims are not actual? In the long run and in most cases advertising itself precludes that, for extensive advertising means an investment whose returns are accumulated and spread over a long period. Advertising expenditure, therefore, stands as a practical bond or forfeit for misrepresentation. The sale of the product must be lost if its claims of quality are not substantiated. And underlying even this is the surety that the article is presented to you by direct advertising because the manufacturer does not wish to compete with those making the inducement to the dealer the basis of their sales. It means that he had immediately in mind you, the person who is to use his article, rather than the person who would merely sell it again. It means that the article is not one which can best be sold by trading upon your ignorance of it, but one which he thinks will gain from your fullest knowledge of it.
The Demands of the People as Factors in Producing the Best.
The advertiser does not try to make the poorest which can be sold. He is in precisely the opposite position. He is trying to make the people demand the best and make only what should be demanded.
The advertisement is the link between the maker and the user which not only (1) bridges the distance between them and (2) closes the mental gap between the man who progressed in making and the man who has not yet learned to use; but (3) it directly links the maker with the consumer in his responsibility for and identity with the goods which are made and used.
In America we believe that the people should select. And advertising is the direct primary of the people. Through advertising the people need not take the selections others make for them; they can take into their own hands the choice and determination of our commodities.
Sometimes of course the people will select poorly; but by exercising selection—intelligent, educated selection more and more—they will certainly arrive at selecting better goods for themselves than anyone could select for them. And exercising their prerogative of directly selecting, they will develop, through our advertising, not only the highest type of products, but also the best class of consumers.