Anatomy of Humbug Part 1 – By @Orla27Marie

Orla O'Connor

By Orla O’Connor


Anatomy of Humbug Part 1


I was told to read this book by Marc I my first year and I honestly didn’t think I had time to.  But I was later given a copy of it at 18 Feet and Rising and thought well 2 people telling me to read it is definitely a sign.  It’s pretty good it’s effectively a breakdown on the history of advertising.  I found it helpful to see it all in a linear structure. End of ramble here are my takeaways part 1:

When looking at advertisements history there are 3 narratives that you call fall into.  

  1. The Enlightened Narrative – the past was primitive, and now we are enlightened.  So largely speaking we don’t have to pay attention to advertising history.  But Feldwick argues “we don’t get better by expecting too much from the latest craze while ignoring everything that’s been achieved in the past” [p8] I am inclined to agree with him.  
  2. The Golden Age Narrative – is best summed up by a survey of 500 UK ad execs in Campaign, 70% of them believed that the best years of advertising is behind them.  I find this incredibly negative and if it’s true dear Lord am I f****d.
  3. The Year Zero Narrative – this is the idea the world has forever changed and the old rules do not apply.  This is similar to enlightened narrative but “here the the change has been primarily dictated by external forces, rather than author’s new discovery” [p13].

John E. Kennedy famously stated to Mr Lasker that “Advertising is this: salesmanship in print”.  And the reason salesmanship sells is because it gives people a reason to buy.  E. St Elmo Lewis famously invented AIDA to explain the stages of salesmanship.

A – attention

I – interest

D – desire

A – action

Claude Hopkins a successful copywriter at Lord and Thomas designed a method of procedure which was built directly off this concept of salesmanship in print.  

  1. An ad that exists for no other reason but to sell should be evaluated on how many sales this ad makes.
  2. A headline should hail only a few people.  Not everyone is a prospect for your product it should talk to only those that are, it should make no attempt to speak to everyone.  
  3. Copy sells.  Use as many words as many facts as possible. Those who are interested in your product will take the time to read it.  (not sure I fully agree with this point, there are some very successful ads with little to no copy)
  4. A good salesman is serious and respectable and gives you information.  He does not need to dress as a clown, tell jokes or use humor.  (again massively disagree)
  5. Pictures should only be used if they can give information more concisely than words can.  

Though Hopkin’s based these rules on only one form of advertising he called it mail order ads, we tend to call it direct response ads, where he could measure the coupon response rate.  

Elements of these concept have lasted the test of time:

  • Attention – the quest for the prospects attention is still largely central to many campaigns in ad land.  
  • Rational persuasion – this idea has developed and linked to memory in ads.  We may refer to it as a proposition, a benefit, a message, or a reason why; it is what we are trying to say.  
  • Rules – there are not really any there is no ad formula we experiment and measure.  John Wanamaker – I know half my advertising budget is wasted, but no-one can tell me what half.

Daniel Starch then built on AIDA and stated that ads have more than one selling process there are 3:

  1. It reduces sales resistance
  2. It develops a readiness to accept a product
  3. It creates desire or demand for the product

Starch went on to define 5 function of ads:

  • To secure attention
  • To arouse interest
  • To bring about conviction
  • To produce action
  • To impress memory

The addition of memory into what is effectively the AIDA model helps apply it to “situations where action cannot be taken immediately – the conviction must stay in the mind until the purchase situation present itself” [p51].  There is more on this in the book Positioning from the SCA reading list this claims that your product need to find a way up the ladder of your category in the prospects mind.  The first rig on the ladder is usually the first product to advertise to that prospect.  Well worth a read.  

Tune in next SCAB for the rest of the Anatomy of Humbug notes.  Cheers.

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