Advertising is salesmanship

Weekly I/O#76

Advertising is salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are due to like causes. Thus, every advertising question should be answered by the salesperson's standards.

Book: Scientific Advertising

David Ogilvy, known as the Father of Advertising, once described the book Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins, "Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It has changed the course of my life."

In this book, Claude Hopkins emphasizes that to grasp the essence of advertising, one must start with this correct notion: "Advertising is salesmanship." Principles of advertising are principles of salesmanship. The only difference lies in scale. Advertising is multiplied salesmanship where the advertiser may appeal to thousands while the salesperson talks to one. In his words:

"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."

"A salesman's mistake may cost little. An advertiser's mistake may cost a thousand times that much. Be more cautious, more exacting, therefore. A mediocre salesman may affect a small part of your trade. Mediocre advertising affects all of your trade."

Therefore, a simple way to answer many advertising questions is to ask yourself, "Would it help a salesman sell the goods?" "Would it help me sell them if I met a buyer in person?" An honest answer to those questions can prevent numerous mistakes. For instance:

"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 in print."

"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."

Honestly, the latter example felt counterintuitive to me as I typically prefer concise content. Perhaps it's time to reconsider my approach to advertising.

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