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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

The Power of Advertising

page 75

The Power of Advertising.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Goschen, has in presenting his budget, given the newspapers of Great Britain a grand gratuitous advertisement. The sale of coffee had, he said, largely fallen off of late, owing to the persistent advertising of their wares by the dealers in cocoa, the result of which was the establishment of a tremendous trade in that commodity. No more significant statement, perhaps, was ever made by a finance minister. Here we are informed, on the highest authority, that continuous advertising had succeeded, in the course of a comparatively short period, in producing what is equivalent to a dietetic revolution in British society. No more emphatic tribute was ever paid to one of the most important functions of the newspaper and periodical press. There is nothing, probably, in the range of human habit on which it is more difficult to work a change than the articles of food to which daily use has accustomed a community. And of such articles there are none which, in the course of generations, have acquired such an undisputed right to their places on the British breakfast table as the tea-urn and the coffee-pot. If a law were passed prohibiting the use of tea or coffee to the British householder, he would be a wise or bold statesman who would answer for the consequences. Temperance reformers may contemplate with complacency the gradual creation of such a change in public sentiment that the British workman will no longer look upon his beer as an inalienable right. But they have not yet ventured to propose an interdict on the tea and coffee of the British millions. Yet, without the least agitation, without mass meetings, without the aid of either pulpit or platform, the thing has been brought to pass in thousands of homes, the inmates of which have consented to forego their habitual beverages. How was the marvel accomplished? Simply by the insertion in certain newspapers and magazines of a few business-like words recommending a rival commodity. This is an economic fact of some importance, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not have deemed it worth mentioning. But it has also a lesson of deep interest to all persons who have wares to sell. It reveals, in a most striking manner, the wondrous power of advertising, and it is worth while to make inquiry as to the kind of advertising which produced so remarkable a result. If a notice of anything—a meeting, an auction, some specialty in food and dress, or a house to let or sell—appears a single time in the columns of a journal in the ordinary way and is paid for—we call that an advertisement. But advertising, such as Mr Goschen had in his mind, was something more than that. It was persistent advertising. Only persistent advertising can have any effect on a busy, versatile, frivolous, and distraught public. What is seen once or twice fades from memory. To impel the public mind with determination in any direction, it is necessary to agitate, whatever the object, question, or cause, at stake may be. A single grave and lucid article, lecture, speech, or sermon, may suffice to inspire a few earnest minds with fervour of purpose strong enough to carry them to the goal of accomplishment. But the mass of mankind is hard to move, hard even to touch. The same truth, however obvious it may seem to the initiated, must be repeated over and over many times before it begins to make an impression on the many. It is the same with advertising. An advertisement may be seen a dozen times before it is even read. But gradually it wins its way to the inner consciousness, and then it is never forgotten. Such a maker's name is thenceforth associated with such a commodity, and quis separabit? There are articles which we could easily mention that it would be well nigh impossible to disconnect from certain names. Nor is there the least likelihood that the owners of those names ever regretted the outlay to which that association of ideas is due.