The Three Interests An Advertisement Must Serve (My Life in Advertising: Chapter 16)

I don’t know about you, but I’m wary of ads that push the status quo. “Everything’s OK,” they say. “We’re the brand you know and trust.” Those brands aren’t working to keep our business.

Advertisements with selfish appeals don’t interest a reader. Advertising great Claude C. Hopkins stresses service in advertisement. It’s a theme throughout his book My Life in Advertising.

Hopkins applied this service outlook in his advertisements and his career. Hopkins’ great success comes from service to others, not to himself.

Chapter 16, “Reasons for Success,” focuses on the business of advertising.

The influential advertising person, you, must serve three interests.

Image "_MG_8515.jpg" by Tibor Kovacs, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Image “_MG_8515.jpg” by Tibor Kovacs, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

This is the 13th post in a series covering the current PRL book selection, Claude C Hopkins’ My Life in Advertising

The first of three interests is the publisher of ads, such as a newspaper. The agency may pay to have the ads appear in print, but it’s the success of those ads that pays the publisher and ad agency, including you.

By creating new advertising business where there was none before, Hopkins is able to increase his income and expand the field. The publishers have more ads to sell. They love this.

You must also serve the advertising agency, where you work to grow small accounts into large ones, taking calculated steps. Hopkins started working at Lord & Thomas for $1,000 per week, and quickly graduated to commission-based work for upwards of $185,000.

In the 1920s money, that’s an insane amount. It earned him ⅓ of his company’s total commission payments.

But Hopkins stresses that he only took what was fair. He declined many offers from his boss for more compensation. “Business is money-making, and associates will find a way to eliminate anyone who claims too large a share.” Tweet This

The third group an advertising person must represent is the vendor themselves, the company selling a product. Their initial business is generally small and more costly than their budget.

The risk is taken by the advertising agency when the early campaigns start. A failure hurts the agency worst, and success brings a lot of money to the product seller.

Publishers love more advertisements. Image "1414 Queen St. West" by Toronto History, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Publishers love more advertisements. Image “1414 Queen St. West” by Toronto History, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Hopkins says success requires that these three groups are met with profit. Your advertising must make that happen.

Start with small tests, trial and error. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Direct your appeals to “the simple folks around me who typify America. They are our customers. Their reactions are the only ones that count.”

Last month I saw a poster for the World’s Best Bloody Mary. We were in a small town in Wisconsin. I didn’t want to get into the weeds on what makes the best Bloody — I already know that the world’s best requires a level of Worcestershire that most bars won’t tolerate. The ad didn’t try to sell me on any other merits. I skipped the beverage.

Think back, do you recall any self-centered advertisements? Go ahead and tell us in the comments.