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Logic, Emotion, and Why It’s Really about Understanding Context Spend a few hours watching television, and

any advertising student will find it simple to differentiate between “reason why” and “image” advertising. At the first mention of horsepower, traction, or zero percent APR financing, one will immediately recognize a “reason why” ad. When an upbeat song starts playing, and figurines with headphones in their ears begin dancing against multicolored backgrounds, it is clear that the techniques of “image” advertising are being employed. Even in today’s, post-Creative Revolution world of advertising, both the “reason why” and the “image” styles have their places in the modern media. As witnessed in many of the classic campaigns we’ve studied, different situations-- different products, publics, and economic periods-- call for different approaches to advertising. So much of the effectiveness of advertising depends on how well the author can gauge their audience. While some the most famous ad men and women have represented both the “image” and “reason why” schools of advertising, what they’ve all had in common was an understanding of society and of their public, and an ability to deliver advertising that met their needs and demands. In the advertising of today, this principle stands true: for any type of advertising to be effective, the context in which it is presented must be well-understood. Ads classified as “reason why” contain rational appeals. As the name suggests, ads of this variety give the consumer logical reasons why the product being advertised is the best of its kind. As the United States industrialized, mass production of goods increased. Clothing was sewn on machines. Soap was milled in factories. Products that were once originals became parity goods. Where there was a Campbell’s canned tomato soup, there was a Heinz that looked and tasted almost identical. To combat the effect that mass production had on the integrity of


products and their makers, advertising had to sell something different about the brand. “Reason why” advertising was quite successful in achieving this. The tenet at the forefront of “reason why” advertising is making the “hard sell.” The style of choice in times of economic depression, “reason why” ads contain, in general, evidence of scientific (or pseudoscientific) research, measurements, numbers, and long copy. In periods when the general public couldn’t spare the change to buy milk, let alone French-milled soap, advertisers needed to provide clear, rational reasons why their product was an expense worth making. Depression is no time to introduce a new product onto the market, so “reason why” advertisers used coupons, samples, and giveaways to put themselves on the consumers’ radar. Claude Hopkins, who produced some of his greatest work during the 1920’s, was a master of “reason why” advertising. Hopkins viewed advertising as a science; that there were fixed principles and fundamental laws of creating effective ads. He worked to persuade what was becoming a discerning audience- one that relied on strong evidence rather than intuition to make purchasing decisions. Because of the abundance of parity goods, advertisers found it difficult to differentiate their product from the competition. Hopkins had a fresh counter to this problem. He was the first to use the “preemptive claim” – a reason to buy the product that had little to do with the product, and was often a characteristic of competitors’ products. Famous “preemptive claims” made by Hopkins included Quaker’s Puffed Wheat, which he stated was “shot from guns,” Schlitz beer, in which the bottles were “washed with live steam,” and Pepsodent, which he claimed would remove “that dingy film” from your teeth. Claude Hopkins understood his audience as well as any. He knew that people are impressionable; that when a solid claim has been planted in the minds of the public, it spreads, and gains acceptance throughout. He was a strong believer in samples, coupons, and demonstrations, and that there


was no stronger form of advertising than word-of-mouth. Allowing people to try the product before buying it was a surefire way to get people talking about the product. Rosser Reeves was known as the heir to “reason why” advertising. Creating most of his work during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Reeves, like Hopkins, believed there was a formula to creating effective advertising. He tried to understand the people as well, especially when it came to measuring their recall of the ads and their usage of the product. He theorized that repetition was the key to recall. The more the “sell” was drilled into the minds of consumers, the more likely they’d be to remember the ad and buy the product. One of Reeves’ most famous campaigns was for Anacin pain reliever. While the ad was labeled by many critics one of the most painful to watch, the sheer fact that it was memorable deemed it a success in Reeves’ book. The commercials for Anacin involved an animation of a headache – a hammer banging on the inside of the skull. The “sell” – Anacin as “the pain reliever doctors recommend most” – was repeated time after time, to assure that consumers would remember the name when they went to the drugstore for aspirin. Reeves’ philosophy was similar to Hopkins’ – that, in order to have good “reason why” advertising, you had to give reasons why that were so different from your competition that they set the product apart. Reeves branded this concept the Universal Selling Proposition. The USP of a product informed the consumers that they would be receiving unique benefits only through the use of the product. The proposition had had to offer something so different and so vital to consumers that they would choose the product over its competitors. Some other “reason why” techniques employed by Reeves and utilized in many other ad campaigns at the time were the demonstration, the use of serious experts, and the torture test. Many of these techniques were made possible by changes in technology and changes in the attitudes of people. Reeves understood that the public was becoming more and more skeptical of


advertising. With the advent of television advertising, “reason why” authors at the time were able to use this new medium to truly display the effectiveness of the product. Side-by-side demos and torture tests proved effective to the point where they’re still used today. In contrast to “reason why”, where advertising uses the features of the product (whether real or contrived) to sell the product, “image” advertising uses emotions, aesthetics, and people’s “image” of the product itself to promote sales. The use of pictures, music, and strong emotional appeals are characteristic of “image” advertising. Whereas “reason why” was the style most often employed during hard economic times, it was easier to use “image” advertising during times of prosperity. “Image” advertising was most effective when used to sell products with personality – clothing, cosmetics, and cigarettes. However, great image writers were generally more concerned with the memorability of their work as creative genius within the advertising world rather than simply as a tool for sales. As Raymond Rubican said, “The best identification of a great ad is that its public is not only strongly sold by it, but that both the public and the ad world remember it for a long time as an admirable piece of work.” Some of the earliest works of “image” advertising involved the use of illustration in ads. Around the turn of the twentieth century, many advertisers employed famous illustrators of the time to do commercial work for them. Artists such as Maxfield Parrish and J.C. Leyendecker obliged. They infused their personal styles onto ads, giving a trademark style to well-known brands. Parrish was well-known for his other-worldly, gold and turquoise paintings, as well as for his “exaggerated fairy-tale” style of art. When he applied this style to an ad he did for a canned meat company, in which a stylized Jack Sprat and his wife were pictured eating the product, the brand was immediately given an image. Leyendecker was renowned for his portraits, with the signature shine on the people’s faces. He applied these techniques to the Santa


Claus campaign for Coca-Cola, and thus, a memorable image was born: an image that we will forever associate with the brand. However, it was not only illustrators who gained fame through image advertising. Theodore MacManus was an artist in his own right. His “Penalty of Leadership” one-shot ad for Cadillac was almost one hundred percent copy, yet it was in every way, “image” advertising. The writing in the ad perfectly demonstrated Cadillac’s philosophy- that, as a leader in the automobile industry, they carried the burden of scrutiny by consumers, but they would continue to thrive and to exceed customers’ expectations. Never once in the ad was an appeal to logicnever a mention of power, safety, or even comfort. Even the Cadillac logo was small on the page in comparison to the short essay that comprised the copy. Still, the ad was effective and, more importantly in the “image” world, memorable. MacManus was a strong believer in building brand image, rather than making claims intended at achieving the fast sale. Of course, advertising can only be successful if the context in which its set is wellunderstood. Helen Resor, a great “image” author, understood the importance of market segmentation. During the 1920’s, three distinct social classes of women existed in the United States: the aristocracy, the middle-class housewives, and the “working girls.” Resor, in her marketing of personal hygiene products such as Woodbury Soap, recognized that these different segments had different needs and desires. As seen in her advertisements, she positioned her products as a means for upward social mobility for the “working girls.” Bill Bernbach, the frontrunner of the Creative Revolution was best known for his use of irony, wit, self-deprecation, and a personal direct-address voice in classic campaigns such as Avis and Volkswagen. He believed strongly that creativity, as well as appeals to the logical, could sell. “I am absolutely appalled,” he said, “by the suggestion, indeed the policy, of some agencies


that once the selling proposition has been determined, the job is done.” While Bernbach is known as a creative pioneer, his work would not have been near as effective had he not had a great knowledge of 1960’s society. He knew the audience was one that was becoming savvier to advertising, and his campaigns, never filled with the outright claims or the repetition characteristic of some “reason why” authors, honored their intelligence. He was incredibly in tune to the subculture of consumers – how else would one intuit that Volkswagen, a car with roots in Nazi Germany, would become popular with hippies? Clearly, the philosophies of “reason why” advertising and “image” advertising come from opposite ends of the spectrum. While “reason why” employs rational, scientific appeals and “image” preaches aesthetics, emotion, and brand equity, the truth is- the motives behind the use of either school lie in the context in which the ad is being presented. It’s been proven that “image” advertising works better during prosperous economic times and “reason why” is more effective at making its “hard sell” during depression. Certain products, also, can dictate which type of advertising will be more effective. However, what made the greatest authors and the greatest ads so successful was an understanding of their surroundings – of their audience’s morals, intelligence, and desires. The key to great advertising is a great knowledge of the hereand-now, and, regardless of their style of work, the most well-respected ad men and women were products of their times.