Scientific Advertising: Art in Advertising

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Scientific Advertising


Art in Advertising

Pictures in advertising are very expensive. Not in the cost of good art work alone, but in the cost of space. From one-third to one-half of an advertising campaign is often staked on the power of the pictures.

Anything expensive must be effective, else it involves much waste. So art in advertising is a study of paramount importance.

Pictures should not be used merely because they are interesting. Or to attract attention. Or to decorate an ad. We have covered these points elsewhere. Ads are not written to interest, please or amuse. You are not writing to please the hoi-polloi. You are writing on a serious subject-the subject of money-spending. And you address a restricted minority.

Use pictures only to attract those who may profit you. Use them only when they form a better selling argument than the same amount of space set in type.

Mail order advertisers, as we have said, have pictures down to a science. Some use large pictures, some use small, some omit pictures entirely. A noticeable fact is that none of them uses expensive art work. Be sure that all these things are done for reasons made apparent by results.

Any other advertiser should apply the same principles. Or, if none exist which apply to his line, he should work out his own by tests. It is certainly unwise to spend large sums on a dubious adventure.

Pictures in many lines form a major factor. Omitting the lines where the article itself should be pictures. In some lines, like Arrow Collars and in clothing advertising, pictures have proved most convincing. Not only in picturing the collar or the clothes, but in picturing men whom others envy, in surroundings which others covet. The pictures subtly suggest that these articles of apparel will aid men to those desired positions.

So with correspondence schools. Theirs is traced advertising. Picturing men in high positions or taking upward steps forms a very convincing argument.

So with beauty articles. Picturing beautiful women, admired and attractive, is a supreme inducement. But there is a great advantage in including a fascinated man. Women desire beauty largely because of men. Then show them using their beauty, as women do use it, to gain maximum effect.

Advertising pictures should not be eccentric. Don’t treat your subject lightly. Don’t lessen respect for yourself or your article by any attempt at frivolity. People do not patronize a clown. There are two things about which men should never joke. One is business, one is home.

An eccentric picture may do you serious damage. One may gain attention by wearing a fool’s cap. But he would ruin his selling prospects.

Then a picture which is eccentric or unique takes attention from your subject. You cannot afford to do that. Your main appeal lies in your headline. Over-shadow that and you kill it. Don’t, to gain general and useless attention, sacrifice the attention that you want.

Don’t be like a salesman who wears conspicuous clothes. The small percentage he appeals to are not usually good buyers. The great majority of the sane and thrifty heartily despise him. Be normal in everything you do when you are seeking confidence and conviction.

Generalities cannot well be applied to art. There are seeming exceptions to most statements. Each line must be studied by itself.

But the picture must help sell the goods. It should help more than anything else could do in like space, else use that something else.

Many pictures tell a story better than type can do. In the advertising of Puffed Grains the pictures of the grains were found to be most effective. They awake curiosity. No figure drawings in that case compare in results with these grains.

Other pictures form a total loss. We have cited cases of that kind. The only way to know, as is with most other questions, is by compared results.

There are disputed questions in art work which we will cite without expressing opinions. They seem to be answered both ways, according to the line which is advertised.

Does it pay better to use fine art work or ordinary? Some advertisers pay up to $2,000 per drawing. They figure that the space is expensive. The art cost is small in comparison. So they consider the best worth its cost.

Others argue that few people have art education. The art judges form a percentage too small to consider. They bring out their ideas, and bring them out well, at a fraction of the cost. Mail order advertisers are generally in this class.

The question is one of small moment. Certainly good art pays as well as mediocre. And the cost of preparing ads is very small compared with the cost of insertion.

Should every ad have a new picture? Or may a picture be repeated? Both viewpoints have many supporters. The probability is that repetition is an economy. We are after new customers always. It is not probable that they remember a picture we have used before. If they do, repetition does not detract.

Do color pictures pay better than black and white? Not generally, according to the evidence we have gathered to date. Yet there are exceptions. Certain food dishes look far better in colors. Tests on lines like oranges, desserts, etc. show that color pays. Color comes close to placing the products on actual exhibition.

But color used to amuse or to gain attention is like anything else that we use for that purpose. It may attract many times as many people, yet not secure a hearing from as many whom we want.

The general rule applies. Do nothing to merely interest, amuse, or attract. That is not your province. Do only that which wins the people you are after in the cheapest possible way.

But these are minor questions. They are mere economies, not largely affecting the results of a campaign.

Some things you do may cut all your results in two. Other things can be done which multiply those results. Minor costs are insignificant when compared with basic principles. One many may do business in a shed, another in a palace. That is immaterial. The great question is, one’s power to get the maximum results.

Did you pick up on this line… “But the picture must help sell the goods. It should help more than anything else could do in like space, else use that something else.”  If the picture doesn’t help sell, don’t use it!


1.  Do you currently use pictures in your advertising?

2.  Are you pictures selling or just taking up space?

Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below!

Now go take action!


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