The Horse that Drew the Load

October 13, 2011  |   Advertising and Marketing   |     |   0 Comment

Another classic short story about advertising from The Clock that Had no Hands And Nineteen Other Essays About Advertising By Herbert Kaufman

A moving van came rolling down the street the other day with a big spirited Percheron in the center and two wretched nags on either side. The Percheron was doing all the work, and it seemed that he would have got along far better in single harness, than he managed with his inferior mates retarding his speed.

The advertiser who selects a group of newspapers usually harnesses two lame propositions to every pulling newspaper on his list, and just as the van driver probably dealt out an equal portion of feed to each of his animals, just so many a merchant is paying practically the same rate to a weak daily, that he is allowing the sturdy profitable sheet.

Unfortunately the accepted custom of inserting the same advertisement in every paper acts to the distinct disadvantage of the meritorious medium. The advertiser charges the sum total of his expense against the sum total of his returns, and thereby does himself and the best puller an injustice, by crediting the less productive sheets with results that they have not earned.

It’s the pulling power of the newspaper as well as the horse that proves its value, and if advertisers were as level headed as they should be, they would take the trouble to put every daily in which they advertise on trial for at least a month and advertise a different department or article in each, carefully tabulating the returns. If this were done, fifty per cent of the advertising now carried in weaker newspapers would be withdrawn and the patronage of the stronger sheets would advance in that proportion.

There are newspapers in many a city that are, single handed, able to build up businesses. Their circulation is solid muscle and sinew—all pull. It isn’t the number of copies printed but the number of copies that reach the hands of buyers—it isn’t the number of readers but the number of readers with money to spend—it isn’t the bulk of a circulation but the amount of the circulation which is available to the advertiser—it isn’t fat but brawn—that tell in the long run.

There are certain earmarks that indicate these strengths and weaknesses. They are as plain to the observing eye as the signs of the woods are significant to the trapper. The news columns tell you what you can expect out of the advertising columns. A newspaper always finds the class of readers to which it is edited. When its mental tone is low and its moral tone is careless depend upon it—the readers match the medium.

No gun can hit a target outside of its range. No newspaper can aim its policy in one direction and score in another. No advertiser can find a different class of men and women than the publisher has found for himself. He is judged by the company he keeps. If he lies down with dogs he will arise with fleas.

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