My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising
By Claude C. Hopkins
by Michael C. Gray
May 30, 2003
Claude Hopkins was one of the founding fathers of modern advertising. We are fortunate that he left a trail from his experience in these two books, which I bought in a combined volume. Scientific Advertising was originally published in 1923 and My Life in Advertising in 1927. There are few books that contain the condensed advertising wisdom that these books do.
Even if businesspersons aren't interested in writing advertising themselves, they need to be able to recognize the characteristics of good advertising and how to evaluate its effectiveness. These books are invaluable references for this information.
David Ogilvy, a great advertising man who recently passed away, gave Scientific Advertising the highest praise. "Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life." When you consider that Scientific Advertising only has 106 large-type pages, this doesn't seem to be an unreasonable requirement.
Claude Hopkins largely credited his Scotch mother for his success in advertising. She taught him the value of thrift - of getting value for your money. Hopkins was devoted to assuring that his customers got value for their money by developing advertising campaigns that could be proven to more than pay for themselves. He developed ways to measure the effectiveness of advertising in dollars and cents, including coupons and keyed test advertisements. Developing ways to measure advertising effectiveness helped to minimize waste of the investment in advertising and maximize returns.
Hopkins was a workaholic who routinely worked from morning until late at night on his projects. He said if he knew more about advertising than anyone else, it was because he spent more than twice as much time as anyone else working at it.
His big successes were the household names of his day, many of which are still around today: the Bissell carpet sweeper, Schlitz beer, Pepsodent toothpaste, Quaker Puffed Rice, Quaker Puffed Wheat, Quick Quaker Oats, Palmolive soap, Van Camp baked beans and many more.
Hopkins was very clear about the role of advertising. It wasn't to "create an image" or "keep the company's name in front of the customer." It was simply to sell more goods and services. Advertising is multiplied salesmanship. To be successful in advertising requires understanding sales principles more than grammar skills.
According to Hopkins, the best marketing research for consumer products is to go visit several households and find out what appeals to customers about your product or service. Then translate those appeals to your advertising media.
His prediction that all advertising would eventually be of his "scientific" style was wrong. Haven't you often watched a television commercial or read a magazine ad and wondered, "What are they selling?" I believe the reason is the advertising companies have found they can make excellent income by appealing to their clients' "corporate egos" and providing what their customers think advertising "should look like." The advertising companies would rather be evaluated by winning subjective awards than by objective sales results.
Be sure to include My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising on your reading list of business classics.
Buy it on Amazon: My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising (Advertising Age Classics Library).
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