Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865-1920

By James D. Norris | Go to book overview
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"Advertising doesn't cost!--It Pays" (quote from empty billboard on Highway 51 near DeKalb, Illinois)

Readers of magazines in the last decade of the nineteenth century found what must have seemed, compared to only a few short years earlier, an incredible array of goods advertised. Interestingly, however, with only a few exceptions, the appeal of the advertisements had not kept pace with the assortment of goods and remained essentially unaltered. Only a few venturesome companies had followed the lead of the patent medicine and soap industry and patterned their advertising campaigns after either the direct and plain-spoken appeal advocated by John Powers or the flamboyant schemes of Artemus Ward. Certainly fewer still, if any, advertisers had anticipated Walter Dill Scott's stress on the power of emotional appeals in advertising. "Man has been called a reasoning animal," Scott wrote, "but he could with greater truthfulness be called the creature of suggestion."1 Scott argued that advertisers should use the power of suggestion from external sources as opposed to internal reasoning to evoke the desired behavior--namely buying. Pictures or illustrations that provided examples of the use of the product, direct commands to buy, to return coupons, or to copy, or illustrations that produced emotions attached to use of the product were most influential. Actually, as Daniel Pope has argued, while the emotional and non-rational approach of Scott seemed directly contradictory to the "reason-why" approach of Powers, "it soon became clear that the distinction was slight." Indeed, "reason-why," as Pope concluded, also quickly became a method of persuasion designed to convince consumers to purchase a particular brand or product; the reason, however, did not necessarily need to be logical or real; it could easily be emotional.2


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Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865-1920


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