Copywriting Trends in 1901

Advertising, Kennedy told Lasker, is ‘salesmanship on paper.’ Instead of merely drawing customers to the store, Kennedy now asserted, an ad should say in print precisely what a good salesman would say face-to-face to a customer. Instead of general claims, pretty pictures or jingles, an ad should offer a concrete reason why the product was worth buying. Not charming or amusing or necessarily even pleasing to the eye, a good eye was a rational, unadorned instrument of selling: ‘True “Reason Why” Copy is logic, plus persuasion, plus conviction all woven into a certain simplicity of thought—pre-digested for the average mind, so that it is easier to understand it than to misunderstand it.’ Like Bates, Kennedy warned against aiming copy to high for the public to grasp. The average person, he urged, was uneducated but not stupid, with a shrewd but persuadable openness to appeals made by sensible arguments. Advertising needed to find a delicate middle ground, high enough for rational dialogue but not over the public’s head.”

Stephen Fox on Advertising in 1901