Uneeda-lot of... [brand name here]:
The Language of Advertising
Early newspaper or journal advertisements looked essentially like want-ads. Type tended to be simple, of uniform size, and there were few if any illustrations. Besides these physical characteristics, early ads had a basic function: to inform consumers about a product's availability, cost, and character. The quantity of ads was also very low relative to what would come later: in the early 1870s magazines like Harper's Weekly and Leslie's Illustrated Weekly Newspaper would contain only 4 or 5 pages of ads that stayed separate from the content of the magazine, usually in the back. The advertising found therein was relatively simple and was geared to markets for which demand already existed without much appeal to class, status, or to increased consumption.1 Many businesses actually shied away from only the most basic type of ads. Making outrageous claims was the hallmark of the patent medicine industry and was not looked upon favorably.
|Harper's Weekly: December 23, 18712 p. 1206 p. 1207 p. 1208|
A New Crop of Magazines
Technological improvements in the last two decades of the century allowed for faster and lower cost printing; this combined with reduced paper prices, favorable postage rates, and new advertising dollars favored a wider and larger distribution of low-cost popular newspapers, magazines, and journals.3 While older, more established literary magazines hesitated to incorporate all but the most limited advertising into their serious minded output, in the 1880s a new crop of magazines emerged whose outright objective was to make their money from advertising. These magazines, in particular Ladies' Home Journal, McClure's, Cosmopolitan and Munsey's, catered their content toward the growing urban middle class, the class with the money to buy the goods being advertised.4 Each issue of Ladies' Home Journal contained articles of interest to middle class women: "advice on how to dress, cook, feed their families, decorate their homes, care for their health, and raise their children." 5 Of course, there were stories by popular writers like Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain. But as Cyrus Curtis said, explaining to an audience of manufacturers why he published the LHJ:
The editor thinks it is for the benefit of American women. That is an illusion, but a very proper one for him to have. But I will tell you; the real reason, the publisher's reason, is to give you people who manufacture things that American women want and buy a chance to tell them about your products. 6And tell them they did. By the turn of the century advertising in popular magazines often exceeded a hundred pages an issue. It comes as no surprise then that as advertising became more accepted, advertising itself became its own industry with its own scientific methods and cost benefit analysis. In time, advertising agencies would use the ads they created for clients to promote themselves and their proven sales abilities. As early as 1888, there was a trade magazine for advertisers (Printer's Ink) - and by the turn of the century there would be a dozen more7 - as well as countless manuals and guides to making the most effective ads.
The Products Speak:
1 James D. Norris, Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865-1920 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990), p. 26.
3 Norris, 31.
4 Ibid., 35.
5 Ibid., 36.
6 Ibid., 36.
7 Ibid., 42.