During the last few years the reaction through which the world
has been passing has been evident in many different ways. Not
only in politics, but in industry and the arts, there has been a reaction
against experiment, theory, and method not based on strictly
realistic principles. Advertising has shared in this general ten
dency. It has lost some of the rosy hopes and enthusiasms which,
in the era of prosperity, made it experimental and adventurous.
It has come back to a practical outlook. The basic fact has
been firmly reiterated that advertising must sell goods, that it is no
use if it does not sell goods, and that there is no excuse for it,
however otherwise attractive, if it does not.
This movement has taken several forms. First there has been
a development of Research. More and more deliberate and con
scious efforts have been made to find out what the public is, what
it wants, what it can understand, what it cannot or does not want
to understand. Statistics have been compiled to discover the
reaction to various forms of appeal in defined grades of income,
occupation and sex. This scientific or quasi-scientific approach
has its value though the difficulties of ensuring accuracy (as with
all statistics) must not be underestimated. It is regrettable that
the facts gleaned in these investigations are not usually made
available, for much useful matter might be brought to light. It is
true at the same time that science has its limitations. Sometimes
it painstakingly discovers the obvious as, for example, members of
scientific bodies have been known to discover that those who eat
good healthy food tend to be more healthy than those who do not.
In a similar fashion there are advertising men who have found (by
dint of research) that the human race is actuated by the hope of
gain, a fear of illness, an interest in the opposite sex and by energetic
contrasts to the monotonous routine of its daily life.
A return to the obvious has its own value. It is a reminder that
advertising is dealing with simple human nature, that it must not
overreach itself by losing contact with the common interests of
all. This, however, has been carried to the pitch of exaggeration.
The new realism of outlook was accompanied for a while by a
new vogue for sensationalism. The scare type of advertisement
acquired a sinister prominence. It is to the credit of the business