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Truths You Need To Know About Advertising

Updated on May 27, 2011

I can, through my imagination, look back into the time of the caveman. And cavewoman. Life was rough. Survival was top order of the day. Suddenly, after many time measurements (no years existed then) one cave dweller, one good old boy, a bit wiser than his colleagues, had his first idea. He thought of how to spread the word about his collection of fine hides and skins that he wanted to barter for food, firewood, and maybe a possible female mate.

The wise caveman didn't enjoy having his feet cut and bruised by the sharp terrain where he lived and he wasn't that big into leaving his spacious cave each day to peddle what few hides he might be able to carry to distant tribes for bartering purposes, so he sat down one evening by the fire in his cave, and designed a perfect way to spread the word about his products: Advertising. Yes, even in cavemen days, advertising was a means to survive. This industrious caveman wrote on a piece of polar bear skin--white in color to show his markings, his message, "Hides For Bartering. See XXXXX" Catchy name, XXXXX, that stands for "Stan."

When "Stan" had finished with his polar bear sigh, he captured a pre-historic Condor, feed it to tame it, and while the Condor was feasting on seeds, "Stan" gently tied his polar bear skin ad to the condor's legs. Then "Stan" frightened the condor into taking off in flight and soon, many caveman customers came to "Stan's" cave to barter firewood, food, and a few good-looking cavewomen who would serve as "Stan's" wife. Advertising pays big dividends.

The picture you see at the top of my story proves my point. You first see the artwork, then read the message, and then make up your mind as to whether or not you want the product. Simple formula: present your product in picture or artwork, tell a simple and truthful message and hopefully, you will be on your way to accepting "Merchant of The Year Award" for the most sales.

How do I know about advertising? I worked in various forms of advertising beginning in 1975, when I got a job with our local newspaper (free plug) THE JOURNAL RECORD, Hamilton, Alabma, as an ad salesman. Prior to this job, I had only worked in factories so I was what you call, "green" or "wet behind the ears." I had lots to learn.

But with the mentoring of my first publisher, Roger Quinn, who now publishes The Gadsden Times, in Gadsden, Alabama, and Joy then-Wilemon, I got my first glimpse of what ads can do for an advertising entity such as newspaper, television, radio, and billboards. I have to admit, newspaper ads are much easier to sell than radio ads. Where I live, people want to actually SEE what they are about to buy, not just hear about it over the airways. Blame it on the background of my part of the country: Northwest Alabama, not anywhere near the size of Birmingham where the Birmingham News and hordes of FM radio stations jockey for position for that day's ad quota. Advertising could be referred to lovingly as a "rat race." I never saw it as that.

My love of the ad was to design my ads to fit the customer's need. Most of my customers knew what they wanted and didn't have time for me to show them my brilliant designs. They were simple merchants who sold simple products. And paid for simple ads.

But if you think about advertising on a broader scale, advertising actually rules the world. True. Advertising and a big bank roll, can elect candidates to the highest office in the land: The Presidency. Or advertising with a big bank roll, can defeat a candidate before one vote is cast. Advertising is a sharp and powerful tool. And in the right hands, and honorable hands, can make a fortune for the right ad agency, newspaper, radio, television or billboard company. I am thankful for the "truth in advertising" law that states that a company must be upfront about their claims in selling their cars, homes, clothes or pets. And even the famous endorser of said product must use the product and not just get paid to talk about it. I like that.

Advertising has so many avenues that they are hard to track. There is really no one certain stage of advertising. It has many tools and ways to get words to the potential customers. Remember the earliest form of advertising, years after "Stan" our caveman, with a cafe owner named "Joe," simply putting "Eat At Joe's" on a piece of poster paper and nailing it to telephone poles and fences? That worked for Joe. Simple and easy. It suggest to the customer what to do: EAT, and where to eat, JOE'S. And whamo! Joe had a packed cafe from just a few posters that cost him around $3.00 (back in Joe's day).

Remember "Sandwich Signs?" In the mid-50's, merchants would pay someone who needed some dough, to walk up and down the sidewalk in front of his store with two huge signs--on his back and one on his front telling about the merchant's store and what specials they might be publicizing. That too worked. For a while. Then entered the television to American living rooms and without missing a step, the founders of early television networks saw the value and importance of thousands of eyes being on thousands of televisions in homes making a perfect sales stage for high-powered advertisers such as: General Motors; Campbell's Soup; Ivory Soap; Geritol; Chestefield, Lucky Strike, and Winston cigarettes and you name it. It was advertised on early television as it is today. As I speak, there is an expensive television ad running somewhere on someone's television in my town.

But soon, viewers grew weary of the same ol' same ol' style of ads--dancing girls like the Rockettes dancing around a New Studebaker and a man dressed in a tux smiling from ear to ear, telling Mr. and Mrs. Working America, that "this luxury car can be YOURS for very little down," and that was the "hook" or gimmick that sold thousands of Studebakers. But overnight, something strange happened. Viewers were so engrossed in their television shows--The Jack Benny Show, Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and more, that the viewers hated to see ads interrupt their shows. The ad agencies had a problem on thier drawingboards. What to do to remedy this irritation by television ads? Eureka! Make the ads as interesting--maybe more interesting than the show and that principle is carried over to 2011. Many television shows (that I won't name) are not as interesting as the ads that sponsor them. I like that.

Now advertising and truth in advertising can have a drawback: Be careful about what you say to sell a product. This is a true story. Years ago when the Volkswagen car was being introduced to America, one clever ad agency ran millions of dollars worth of ads nationwide with a salesperson saying this to the television audience: "For 100,00 bananas, this VW can be yours!" Lo and behond, in walked a crafty individual with a truck parked outside a VW dealership with exactly 100,000 bananas. The VW dealer tried to laugh it off and make the guy leave. He didn't leave. But politely told he dealer that he had consulted with an attorney. Long story short, with numerous meetings with VW Corporate Offices, the local dealer and banana man, it was decided that the guy was only following that the VW ad had promised. And got the car. Needless and sad to say, the bananas ad was pulled, the ad agency fired, and the VW dealer lost more than one car by the oldest form of advertising: Word-of-Mouth as the winning car customer surely told his pals and family how reluctant the folks at VW were thus making more customers for Ford and Chevrolet. This was before the Truth In Advertising Law.

In closing. I have always had this reoccuring dream. If I were the CEO of a powerful and famous car company, phameceutical firm or clothing line, I'd spend several million dollars on MY idea of what an ad should be like. Let' say I run the GM Motors Corporation and want to run MY pefect televison ad that could be easily used in newspaper full-pages, radio, billboard and possibly on Facebook.

Anway. There would be NO attention-compellers such as scantily-clad young women dancing suggestively and pompus orchestra music blaring. No room full of bright lights. Just a simple wooden desk and ME, dressed in casual clothing, rising up to sit on the front of my desk and say, "Hi. This is Kenneth Avery, CEO of General Motors. You know us by the vehicles we sell. Our new line of cars and trucks are coming out tomorrow and I gotta be honest. We know that our cars and trucks, even though our workers are some of the best, have flaws. And we are not going to say WE ARE the ONLY car company in the world. If you can buy a better car or truck, I urge you to do so. I believe in Chevrolet. I own one. And I paid for it. It was't given to me as a corporate perk. I am doing this because we feel that you, the consumer, are more intelligent than you have been given credit for. You don't need me or any of our dealers driving Chevrolet down your throat. Check our prices, reliability of our vehicles, and gas mileage also, and if Chevrolet is the car or truck you want. Great. If not, give us a try later on. Thank you."

What a storm that would create on Madison Avenue, New York, the hub of advertising agencies in America. What? Honest ads? Whoever does that? Might be what people say in local coffeehouses. But I think that if MY ad were done, there would be a lot of customers flock to my company simply because of one thing; The Truth.

This story is not an ad for me, Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama. I just wanted to share some truths about advertising to give you something different to read.

And I do "Eat At Joe's" except it's our local Huddle House, off of I-22, Hamilton, Alabama. And my wife drives a Chevrolet AEVO that she is paying for in payments, not bananas.

Contact me, if you like, at

Peace . . .!


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    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      7 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear FRIEND Austinstar . . .

      I not only APPRECIATE your lively comments. But your Electric sense of humor. Steve Martin and Stephen Wright would love the monologues you could write for them. That idea about the car dealer WOULD work, unless he placed small print in the ad as a disclaimer...once I challenged a dealership in Birmingham, Alabama, believe it or not, a Kia dealer, who ran ads all of the time..."99.00 down, only $99.00 a month, so I called them. Talked, or tried to talk, to three different salespersons....who promised to call me back about my question, "does the $99/motn apply to everyone?" Found out that they were doing this to lure in people with little or no income. They are not in business today. And Im still waiting for my call. After me sternly saying that I COULD afford $99 down and $99 month. Maybe they didnt want my business, huh?

      And yes . . .later.


    • Austinstar profile image


      7 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      Loved it. I have a degree in Journalism/PR and I couldn't have said it better myself.

      Loved the part about the bananas! I wish I could have seen that!

      Also, my ex used to own several Studebakers and a Packard that he made me drive. My son still drives his Stude Pickup and belongs to the club.

      We have a Kia dealer here that advertises that "If I can't beat a new car deal in Austin, I'm just going to give it to you." So I think I should go down there and make the best deal he can offer then make him make me an even BETTER deal or give me the car! So all I have to do is talk to an attorney first, huh?

      All righty then.


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