Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Scientific advertising

I came across an interesting document, entitled 'Scientific Advertising' (shout out to Clix marketing for repackaging it). It serves as an instructive take on principles of advertising in a pay for performance (i.e., pay per click, pay per transaction, direct response) online model. The curious part is that it was written in 1898!

From the document (which you can download here):

"Advertising was a gamble, a speculation of the rashest sort. One man's guess on the proper course was as likely to be as good as anothers'. "

"It [advertising] 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 wrong."

"The advertisement is read only by interested people who, by their own volition, study what we have to say."

The document covers everything from headline writing (the purpose of which is to pick out people you can interest) to psychology (it being unchanging and largely driven by curiosity) to the value of being specific (platitudes and generalities not generally creating understanding) among other topics. And throughout, a reiteration of the value of testing ideas (especially as enabled by response-generating approaches).

More than a century after its publication, many of the ideas seem eerily relevant today. What sometimes seems necessary is that we remember what those before us have learned so that we can distinguish between what is truly new and what is merely new to us.

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