I know I said advertising gets narrative but this falls under the extreme category.
Cruising through the May 1916 edition of Popular Mechanics, I came across the ad headline:
Lest you feel a “carny” come-on, the copy strives to establish credibility from the get go:
Suppose men like Wilson, Rockefeller, Carnegie and Hill called on you, in your own home and confided to you the innermost secrets to their success!
This isn’t Michael Jordan hocking underwear. We’re talking the great minds of the era like Rockefeller and Carnegie paying you a virtual house call.
And what’s with the exclamation point?
The copy continues:
Suppose they stood at your side, constantly guiding you — could you possibly fail to get the things you want most in life? Well, that is what these men do for you through the Master Workers’ Book, written by them for your guidance.
Not even conversational language can save this story.
Now comes the game-changing benefit:
It is like a personal and permanent visit from them, full of ideas, plans and methods from cover to cover — and if you get only ONE HINT (all upper caps in the ad) from them it may change your entire life — may mean greater success for you than you even dreamed possible.
Very shrewd to address a person’s “entire life” as opposed to a person’s “life,” lest he or she feel short-sheeted.
But my favorite is how they package the value proposition.
As separate volumes, the four books which make up The Master Workers’ Book, sold for $6; but the recent strides in bookmaking have enabled us to put these four books into one splendid volume which we are able to give you for the cost of postage with a year’s subscription to World’s Work ($3), the one magazine which every ambitious person owes it to himself to read.
This is a version of the sales pitch to subscribe to Sports Illustrated and get the DVD of how the swimsuit issue was made at no additional charge … operators are standing by.
And while I’m impressed with their advances in bookmaking, I can’t help but wonder if an outsourced manufacturing model to Southeast Asia might have pummeled the price down to $1.50.
But here’s the real mystery in the ad that we’ll never know.
What are Wilson and Rockefeller and Carnegie and whatshisname doing schilling a self-help book for the proletarian? This would be like Warren Buffet morphing into Danny Bonaduce to sell stock tips on late night cable.
I guess finesse didn’t factor into ad storytelling in 1916.