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Kimberly Flesch

ADV 411
New Techniques in Changing Times

Although advertising is a young industry, distinguished individuals have made it

credible and were catalysts for the tremendous progress the industry has seen in the past

century. With each new decade came distinct cultural forces and a different economic

need, thus challenging advertisers to relate to consumers by changing the way they send

messages to the public. Certain advertisers rose to the occasion and in the early-mid

twentieth century, two very different forms paved the way for post-modern advertising.

The idea of progression during the war years set up a consumer culture in which the hard

sell tactics of reason why led by Claude Hopkins and Rosser Reeves appealed to

consumers. Earlier however, the visual vernacular and rise of artistic innovation of the

1920s paved the way for image advertising headed by Theodore MacManus and Helen

Resor. Though the techniques are different, the advertisers influenced each other and

eventually reason why and image advertising blended together to become the creative and

complex ads in today’s society.

The 1940s are remembered as the war years typified by hard times in which

Americans prided themselves on technological advances. Advertisers told people to limit

their spending on only necessities and instructed people on how to help the war effort.

Wartime technology was important and therefore, science was a significant aspect of

society. Admen deciphered how to reach Americans in order to effectively sell products

and messages. Reason why advertising is characterized by logic and science appeals.

Quantitative research, measurements, and numbers are typically found in the form of long

copy, coupons, and samples. Zealotry and hard sell are key components of this
advertising method; in general, people were explicitly told what the product was, how to

use it, and why they needed it; much like war messages in which people were told what

the war meant to America, what they wanted to accomplish by entering, and what

Americans needed to do to help with the war effort. Advertising used the appeals of the

times to have their messages understood by the public and products sold, resulting in

reason why advertising.

John Powers was one of the first admen to pioneer the way for reason why

advertising. He was the first great copywriter and reason why adman because he sold the

truth in the item, evident in his copy. He used common sense in that it was the

importance of content, not the way which advertisers told their message that sold

products (Reason Why Advertising lecture). His ad for Scott’s Emulsion directly

informed consumers what the product was and did in just five sentences; the copy was

direct and a hard sell tactic.

Claude Hopkins was tremendously influenced by Powers. His work with Albert

Lasker paved the way for his incredible work with campaigns such as Quaker Oats and

Pepsodent. His Quaker Oats campaign was successful because it was built around a

single selling point leaving no room for other messages to weaken it. Hopkins’ single

selling point for this product was that the puffed wheat in Quaker Oats was “shot from

guns.” Though this message was not entirely truthful, which was how Hopkins differed

from Powers, it logically appealed to the consumers, which is a key part of reason why

advertising. The fact that it was “shot from guns” gave the product a distinctive quality

that a similar brand would not have; it was a convincing and appealing claim, which is

the definition of the hard sell method.
For Hopkins, it did not matter what was said about the product as long as it was

said first. James Twitchell explains Hopkins’ thinking in his book, 20 Ads That Shook

the World, “he never makes a joke, even though he is sometimes at the edge of the

ridiculous. What he is doing is claiming some aspect of the product that is not unique,

and then attempting to ‘own’ this aspect. What the audience may know, but does not

question, is that the proffered reason why obtains to all competitors” (Twitchell 51).

Distinguishing the brand from similar ones was the job of the advertiser and

accomplished through the reason why method, according do Hopkins. It was the

advertiser’s job to choose a quality about the product and own it so that no other brand

could use it. This, in effect, was the reason why consumers should purchase one product

over the next.

Rosser Reeves’ nature as an aggressive man made him a natural at reason why

advertising. His work with Colgate, Viceroy, Anacin, and M&Ms, all utilized his Unique

Selling Proposition (USP), and made him a renowned reason why advertiser. Reeves

believed that constant exposure increased attention (Rosser Reeves lecture). His USP

was based on informing consumers the benefit they would receive when they purchased

the particular product he was advertising; like Hopkins, Reeves emphasized one quality

about the product and drove that home to the public. The idea that a proposition must be

made to consumers that the competition either could not or did not offer was at the core

of the USP (Rosser Reeves lecture). Reeves directly told consumers that they needed the

product by promising a clear benefit. With his M&M campaign, Reeves promised the

chocolate candies “melt in your mouth, not in your hand.” In an interview with Denis

Higgins, Rosser Reeves said about this campaign, “‘…the idea of the campaign, that
these candies do not melt because of the sugar shell, was the easiest thing in the world

because it was inherent in the product’” (Higgins 99). The competing chocolate brands

could not say that about their products, therefore Reeves stressed this message in his ads.

He used heavy repetition in the M&M campaign to make its message memorable to


The United States was finally coming out of the Depression of the 1930s, in a

world war in the 1940s, and about to enter a decade where consumers would change their

purchase habits to accommodate for the new products of the 1950s when Rosser Reeves

penetrated people’s minds with his advertisements. People’s purchasing habits were

changing between decades, causing advertisers to find an effective means to reach

consumers, which proved to be reason why advertising. No matter what the economy

looked like, consumers were told why they needed products and how it would benefit

from them. Consumers were distracted by other significant events occurring in society,

so advertisers took to doing all the thinking for them and led by Rosser Reeves, simply

infiltrated their minds with advertisements.

Image advertising uses pictures, social and self-images, and art to create an

emotional appeal to relate to consumers. Imagery is a crucial element of this method of

advertising because it is a form of the visual vernacular, which is a form of language that

is widely used and characteristic of a period. Image writers assume consumers are

intelligent enough to understand their ads and thus do not explicitly break down their

messages. They do however use metaphorical language and strong story appeals as well

as emphasize the importance of originality and freshness in ads (Image Advertising

lecture). This method is referred to as soft sell or emotional advertising because it has an
aesthetic appeal and does not force the message on people. It thrives during good

economic times when consumers are willing to take financial risks because image

advertisers seek brand equity (Reason Why Advertising lecture). When advertisers first

started using this method, cosmetics, clothing, and cigarettes were common products used

by it because they were associated with people’s image.

The 1920s was the time when such advertising flourished due to the recognition

of females as the main consumers and the key issues for women occurring at the time,

such as suffrage, sexuality, and the equal rights amendment. However, at the turn of the

twentieth century, many illustrators such as Aubrey Beardsley, Edward Penfield,

Maxfield Parrish, and William Bradley gained celebrity status and their work was used in

ads for profound aesthetic appeals. From the 1920s to 1950s, artistic innovation was

peaking, requiring audiences to have enough intelligence to understand images, much

like image advertisers required their audiences to do. Famous campaigns and progressive

thinking advertisers emerged at the same time as modern artistic styles and the Art Deco

became popular; this interesting combination became the perfect foundation for image


Theodore MacManus was an image advertiser whose copy was honest and

mentally stimulating to build an image of quality and reliability. He strongly believed in

building brand equity one step at a time. Furthermore, he believed “that appeals should

be aimed at the virtuous character of the consumer because all were searching for truth

and goodness from advertising” (Image Advertising lecture). These philosophies led him

to father the image school of thought and create an incredibly successful advertisement

for Cadillac. Although his “The Penalty of Leadership” advertisement was only printed
once, it gained a lot of publicity due to its strong public response. Despite its long copy,

it is an example of an image ad because it appeals to social status and social means.

“Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy – but only

confirms once more the superiority of that which it strives to supplant. There is nothing

new in this.” These lines from the ad illustrate its appeal and how it is different from a

reason why advertisement. Rather than include facts and reasons why consumers should

purchase the product, MacManus related to the consumers on a more intelligent and

emotional level. By doing so, he created a long-term relationship between Cadillac and

consumers, which is instrumental in a successful advertising campaign.

Consumption in the 1920s marked a distinct difference between real life and life

in ads in that people’s abilities were limited to their capacity to sell and no longer

produce; more people were increasingly unable to achieve the life of consumption so

often depicted in ads (Helen Resor lecture). As a result, advertisers needed to relate to

their consumers in a different way, which the J. Walter Thompson agency figured out led

by Stanley Resor and his creative wife, Helen. Knowing that image advertising included

both the use of imagery and an aesthetic appeal to social or self-images, Helen Resor

conducted hands-on market research to effectively relate to women in a personal and

qualitative way (Helen Resor lecture). Due to the recent implementation of market

segmentation, she narrowed her target market and made sure her ads appealed to the

proper audience. She was a celebrated copywriter who worked closely with imagery and

product design, knowing that women were the primary consumers. One of her most

famous campaigns was Woodbury soap. She used sex appeal in her 1911 copy; the

words, “A Skin You’ll Love to Touch” were sensual and it was the first time sex was used
to sell a product to women. Resor’s ads resembled editorials in magazines, which made it

easy for people to relate to the copy. Her Woodbury Soap campaign is an example of

image advertising because though long copy was involved, like MacManus’ Cadillac ad,

it was aesthetically appealing. Resor set Woodbury soap apart from its competition in

different ways than promising one benefit like reason why ads did; she understood

women and what they desired from products, both of which were evident in her ads.

Advertising continues to change as the economy, people’s purchasing habits, and

American culture all change. Cultural forces play an instrumental role in influencing

techniques and great advertisers. Reason why advertising was successful because during

hard times, such as during the Depression and World War I, when money was tight and

technology increased product availability, Americans needed advertisers like John

Powers, Claude Hopkins, and Rosser Reeves to tell them why they needed products and

how products would benefit them. However, image advertising was the most effective at

the earlier part of the twentieth century when celebrated illustrators set up an artistic and

stylistic appreciation in American culture. People were regarded as more intelligent and

complex consumers in both art and ads. Advertisers such as Theodore MacManus and

Helen Resor created ads that connected to consumers on an emotional level. Through

these changes in techniques, advertising helped shape American culture, and thus became

a cultural force itself. These successful advertisers paved the way for a mélange of both

techniques used today. Market research and science are vital to understanding today’s

consumer, but consumers demand creative, complex, and aesthetically pleasing messages

in the ads they view.