Monday, June 26, 2006

The Space Age

In case you’re just joining us, we’ve been discussing the history of the advertising business in order to gain a historical perspective that will help us better understand the significant changes that are taking place in advertising today. We’ve discussed the “Media Era”, a period from 1841-1903 which saw the birth of the advertising industry from its startup by an entrepreneur, Volney B. Palmer, who saw an opportunity to profit in an expanding market by selling advertising space in newspapers. The first 60 years of advertising, the Media Era, was a period when the advertising business was a media buying business.

Then, in 1904, Albert Lasker met John E. Kennedy who told him that advertising was “salesmanship in print”. Before Kennedy, the consensus viewpoint was that advertising was about “keeping your name before the public”. Lasker seized upon this new definition of advertising and hired Kennedy on the spot for an astronomical amount of money. The advertising industry changed rapidly from a focus on media buying to a focus on advertising creative. The “Creative Era” of advertising was launched.

I call the 80-year period from 1841 – 1921, which crosses from the Media Era into the Creative Era, the “Space Age” of advertising, referring to the fact that it was a period of exclusively space-based media (i.e. print: newspapers, magazines, and outdoor).

The Space Age encompassed the formative years of advertising. It began chaotic and uncontrolled, and ended with organized practices, policies, procedures, and institutions that formed the bedrock of the advertising business, including among them:

-- establishment of the 15% commission

-- first media research: Rowell’s American Newspaper Directory

-- 1913, founding of Audit Bureau of Circulation

-- 1915, founding of Association of National Advertisers

-- 1917, founding of Amer. Assoc. of Advertising Agencies

-- 1919, founding of Standard Rate & Data Service (SRDS)

Claude Hopkins

In 1908, Albert Lasker hired Claude C. Hopkins who became one of the great copywriters of his time.

Hopkins shared Lasker's views of what advertising should be. In 1923, he wrote his famous book, Scientific Advertising, a publication which outlined the “laws of advertising” and explained how they were derived from countless testing, mostly by direct response advertising.

Here are some of Hopkins’ views on advertising:

-- the only purpose of advertising is to make sales….it is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people.

-- 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… forget they are salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause.

-- Any studied attempt to sell, if apparent, creates corresponding resistance.

Aren’t the views of Claude Hopkins as relevant today as they were then?

Hopkins wrote Scientific Advertising from the standpoint that advertising was conquered. “The time has come,” he said, “when advertising has reached the status of a science. It is based on fixed principles, and is reasonably exact. The causes and effects have been analyzed until they are well understood. The correct method of procedure have been proved and established. We know what is most effective, and we act on basic law.”

How ironic it is that Hopkins wrote his masterpiece on the science of advertising at the conclusion of the Space Age, just as the advertising business was about to enter into a new dimension.

(to be continued….)

Additional reading:

Claude C. Hopkins, Scientific Advertising

Send me an email if you would like to receive a free copy of this classic book, Scientific Advertising, in a pdf format.


Post a Comment

<< Home