If every one who reads a newspaper read all of the advertisements carefully, the benefits of advertising would be multiplied many times. Unfortunately for the advertiser, this is not the case. Many readers give but scant attention to the advertising columns and others ignore them altogether. A great many ways have been devised by ingenious merchants to attract attention to their advertisements.
To accomplish this end, one merchant conceived the idea of marking his ads with a blue pencil. By arrangement with the publishers of the paper, he had a boy to encircle his ad with a blue pencil mark in each copy of the paper as it came from the press. The plan worked very well for the first few times as every one thought the advertisement was marked especially for him. Of course this scheme could not be used with a paper which has a large circulation nor could it be used a great number of times.
In the same way another advertiser had bright red posters stuck in a blank space in the middle of his ad. The brilliant spot of color caught the reader's eye immediately, but this scheme also would be found impracticable except with a paper of small circulation.
The weather indications printed regularly in an advertisement will influence many readers to turn to that particular ad and some merchants print the daily base ball scores, which answers the same purpose.
For a number of years an Eastern merchant drew attention to his advertisements in an unusual way. Each day there appeared at the top of his ad a humorous observation on some current event of national or local importance. These "squibs" were always bright and witty and after a while they came to be looked for regularly by almost every one who read the papers in which they appeared. They were written by a newspaper man who was probably paid a good price for them. It would be difficult to say whether the advertiser derived any real benefit from this scheme, but it is probable that he did. At any rate he got quite a bit of general advertising.
A grocer set apart a small space in one corner of his advertisement in which he published daily a cooking receipt. The receipts were carefully selected and were always seasonable. This would no doubt appeal to the housewife. Another advertiser published a conundrum daily with the answer in the following day. The conundrums were for the most part originated by himself or were old ones twisted about to suit his purpose. All of them were made in some way to apply to the store, and as most people are more or less interested in riddles, these furnished considerable amusement and talk. They probably served very well the purpose for which they were intended.
Another plan that has been used frequently is to offer a reward to the first person who discovers and reports a misspelled word or typographical error appearing in an advertisement. To add to the interest of this scheme, words are sometimes misspelled purposely. A scheme that is popular just now is to offer prizes for the best rhymes or jingles written about the store.
In fact there is no end to the variety of schemes employed to induce the attention of the reading public. On the other hand, many advertisers will have nothing to do with devices of this sort. They consider such methods as undignified and outside the pale of legitimate advertising. We are disinclined to agree with them in that respect.
Of course dignity in advertising is all well enough, but it can be easily overdone. Many advertisements which the writer fondly believes to be dignified are, as a matter of fact, most commonplace and prosy. Advertising is a matter of business, not of sentiment, and the best advertising is that which yields the best returns in dollars and cents. Any straightforward, honest scheme which serves to draw attention to an advertisement is legitimate and permissible.