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John MacKintosh
Chapter IV - Scientific Advertising


There is a science of advertising as there is an art of speech. It demands a wide know.- ledge of human nature and the ability to see things from the average man's point of view. Referring to an advertisement in which it was proposed to introduce a slang sea-term, Mr. Mackintosh wrote to his advertising agent to the following effect:- "The term used, I fear, will not be understood by ninety-five out of a hundred of those who read it, and I never think it is good advertising to mystify the crowd in order to prove oneself smart to a handful of people. I never heard the term used in that connection, and I am sure I am one of a great crowd."

He saw the advertisement from the view-point of the man in the street, and he resolutely eliminated everything that might confuse or mislead.

The various schemes and novel methods of advertising previously recorded, having served their purpose, gave way to more solid and scientific publicity. The trade announcements of few men have appeared more constantly in the British press ; the press was his pulpit, the world was his parish, and his text was ever the same, "A pure and wholesome article." He was best known and will be longest remembered as a great Press advertiser on a national scale. He always gave his personal attention to the drafting of his advertisements, and one cannot do this for thirty years without one's personality being seen through them, any more than the novelist can continue writing without his or her personality appearing.

Mr. Mackintosh's advertisements, like the man himself, were direct and honest, with natural and homely appeals by picture and text. He disliked advertisements which were mere displays of cleverness. " When I read a fancy phrase" said he " I know it is just put there to tickle my mind, and I discount it accordingly." Natural shrewdness, allied as it was in him to great human kindness, always led him along right lines. He believed that a straight story was the only lasting form of advertisement. He did not regard the general public in the mass, but rather as individuals who might become real friends. This was a prominent trait in his character, and many of his announcements were addressed to "Lovers of Toffee de Luxe," in whose friendliness he had a general belief. He created the "De Luxe Family." He was not content with one member of the household to typify his public, but created the whole family from 'Grandpa' to 'Babs truly a wide appeal, since all humanity is included in the family circle.

Discussions on plans to be adopted were invariably prefaced by this remark from Mr. Mackintosh "Now let us talk round the subject for a bit, before we open out these schemes." The papers were left unread until the policy to be adopted had been settled. The draft schemes were considered, and modified, if necessary, by what had been learnt in the  talk round the subject.'

He had ideas in abundance. Little time was lost in searching for them; much time was spent in deciding which of several was the best. On one occasion he and his advertising agent were going over some advertising material, and were searching in their minds for a suitable reply to the question, "If you cannot get 'Mackintosh's Toffee' in your neighbourhood, what should you do? "The solution came from Mr. Mackintosh with his usual clearness and directness, "Leave. the neighbourhood!" There was a pleasing touch of humour in the answer which made it very effective.

Shackleton hadjust returned from his exped- ition to the South Pole, and the great explorer had taken a case of "Mackintosh's Toffee" with him on that perilous journey. A pictorial representation of Shackleton's expedition was at once issued. It represented the crew with their sledges and dogs in front of the Pole, on which was fastened a notice, "If you cannot get 'Mackintosh's Toffee' in the neighbourhood, leave the neighbourhood." Two excited penguins were flapping their wings and responding "Jolly good advice, too."

On the other hand, there must be some similitude between the means used to advertise and the article advertised. Mr. Mackintosh declined an advertisement which made a tin of toffee into a tank. "There is no connection," said he, "between 'Tanks' and shooting and 'Toffee de Luxe,' and everybody knows it is a fake or make-believe."

He habitually used the full-page pictorial advertisement in the daily press, particularly the front page of the "Daily Mail" and other London daily papers. His views of this form of advertisement were set forth in a series of " Talks to the Trade," that is, to the tens of thousands of shopkeepers with whom he did business. Here is his own candid statement of the comparative cost of newspaper advertisement, and of the same amount of publicity obtained by private means.

"The whole front-page of this newspaper is one of the most expensive advertising spaces in England to-day, if you look at it in the wrong way ; but it is the cheapest way of sending you our message if you look at it in the right way. The net sales of this paper to-day are, say, 1,000,000 copies, and the advertisement rate for a front page is £350 [this was pre-war—Ed.] To post a similar number of copies of this advertisement to both trade and public would cost:

Printing, cost of envelopes, addressing, despatching, &c. £1,700
Postage at one halfpenny each ... ... £2,500
Total ... £4,200

So you see we are going the cheapest as well as the quickest way to work."

The newspaper proprietors were so greatly impressed with this plain statement of fact that they spent thousands of pounds in reproducing the page, coupled with an announcement of their own. It appeared in almost every newspaper in the United Kingdom during the following week. This is a fair example of his directness and honesty of purpose, which won for him, in the end, the confidence of both tradesmen and the general public.

During the Great War the Mackintosh advertisements were naturally of a topical character, and were amongst the best that were issued in those dark days. He had powerful drawings of scenes from the front executed by clever draughtsmen, showing how "Mackintosh's Toffee" helped along "the weary hours with leaden feet," which moved so slowly in the muddy trenches or on the stormy and treacherous seas. Innumerable suggestions for advertisements were sent to Mr. Mackintosh across the seas from our men on the various battle fronts. The work helped to pass many a tedious hour, and all these efforts depicted the many good and varied uses to which the fight- ing men put both the toffee and the tins.

In the autumn of the year 1914, when the first hundred thousand of our heroic soldiers, the "Old Contemptibles," were fighting with matchless courage, resisting the German invasion of Belgium and France, a full-page advertisement was issued which was very effective. The Kaiser is standing astride the maps of Belgium and France and staring with angry eyes across the Channel to the British Isles, on which rests a monster tin of "Mackintosh's Toffee." The title gives the explanation, "So that is what makes them fight so well".

One of the Halifax soldiers on being asked to describe his sensations when he first went over the top, replied that "All he could remember was that he was eating 'Mackintosh's Toffee.'

A few days before Mr. Mackintosh died, one of the periodic round table conferences was held to consider advertisement plans. The founder of the firm had written its history, and the rough draft was typical of the man, full of homely touches and genuine good nature. It was a plain story and an honest one, with his individuality stamped on every line. Within a few days the last call came, and that " copy" became a self- written obituary.

In the advertising world it has become historical. It is his final message, and it was printed in almost every daily paper in the United Kingdom; the papers chosen being these which he was accustomed to use for advertising purposes. Probably never before has anything been attempted on the lines of this memorial page, and it involved a question of some delicacy. Only the fact that Mr. Mackintosh had written it himself for advertisement purposes immediately before he passed away, and that it had the particularly friendly and personal touch to which the public to whom he appealed had become accustomed, made the publication possible. It violated no canon of good taste, and it was fitting that the great advertiser should deliver his last message after his lips were silent for ever. "He being dead yet speaketh."

We reprint, by the kind permission of the Editor of "The Daily News," an article contributed to that paper on his experiences as an advertiser :-

"When I hear anyone speak of business opportunities my mind goes back to early days, for if the long road of business effort has led to success, it is pleasant to go back and ponder over the faint and doubtful footpath in which it began. There is a lesson in it somewhere for other young business men; and in my case I think the lesson is the importance of small beginnings. If they are right beginnings, they are valuable as gold-dust; if they are wrong they lead to certain disaster.

I thought in those early days the people wanted something else than the rather ordinary sweetmeats common at that period, and presently the first business opportunity revealed itself to me in the shape of an idea that toffee, made of ingredients that should be scrupulously good and pure, was one of the things that the public would take to. So I began to make it.

"Having made it I lost no time in advertising it. In those days, to advertise a simple thing like toffee was considered very adventurous, even presumptuous, but there is nothing so simple that it is not worth advertising so long as it is good. Thus out of the first business opportunity represented by the little advertisement in the local paper his grown up a national industry in a national sweetmeat. That little advertisement was a right beginning, which has landed us on the high road to success.

"We nibbled at space at first. Then we found our sales increasing, and we took larger spaces. Always the sales grew with the advertising, until we were able not infrequently to employ what is perhaps the most expensive, as it is certainly the most remunerative advertising in the world—full pages in the London daily newspapers.

"The young man in business may possibly sigh when he reads about such spaces as these, and regard them as things beyond his dreams; but experience suggests that if one could live one's business life over again it would be better to get into one's advertising stride as soon as possible.

"The Art of Advertising can only be learnt slowly over a number of years. It is best to begin in a very small way using advertisements put together yourself. I would rather make a mistake now and again, and do it myself, than I would take blindly the suggestions of even the greatest expert in advertising, because if one is going to advertise properly and profitably one must do it for a lifetime. And therefore, to get even the best out of the expert, one must have real first-hand personal knowledge. And I don't say this to belittle the Advertising Expert. The best of them will agree, I know, when I say, no better advertising can be planned than that which has received careful and intelligent criticism from the man who is at the head of the business whose special goods are to be advertised, after the necessary knowledge has been gained by the issuing of one's own advertisements. Then if you can afford it, call in the 'Advertising Agent,' and put your heads together, and things should improve all round. Sometimes when my agent makes a really good suggestion, I let him work it out without much interference, for a man's a fool, however much he knows about advertising, if he gets it into his head that no one else can ever have a better idea than his own.

"The question is, how just to carry one's personality into one's advertising, without other people discovering the individual in it. The biggest mistake I ever made in my advertising was through taking the advice of an expert before I had myself had sufficient personal experience to know if the advice was sound.

"But these are problems that come later. The important thing is to begin well, and the great principle for beginners is to get a thorough grip, of the value of small profits and quick returns. In our early days we found that a thousand retail shops selling our toffee, gave us a better return in profits than a much larger margin on the sales at our single shop. It would puzzle a mathematician to worry out the microscopic profit we receive from the weekly purchases of Mackintosh's toffee by any one retail confectioner. But there are thousands and thousands of these retailers throughout the length and breadth of this and other lands, and this multitude of small decimal profits, quickly gathered in week by week, makes business remunerative.

That is the secret of most of the things which one sees advertised day after day. Those businesses have been built up on the basis of small profits and quick returns, which advertising makes possible.

"I attach such importance to advertising that when I have once adopted a medium for my appeals I very seldom drop it. Having gathered round him a public, which is what the consistent advertiser does, he should never neglect it. That is why you find our advertisements month after month and year after year, in times of peace and in times of war. We know we have a clientele amongst our readers because they write and tell us so. Nearly every time we insert a more than usually striking advertisement, readers write complimenting us upon it, sometimes offering friendly suggestions how it might be improved. I could fill a column with extracts from such letters—from doctors, ministers, business men, workmen, teachers, and school-children, all voluntarily written.

"Only the other day a schoolmaster in the South of England wrote us saying he had given one of our full-page advertisements to his class as a drawing lesson. He forwarded half-a-dozen copies of the boys' work.

"These things are worth mentioning, because the extraordinary scepticism of small traders, and some big ones too, about the value of advertisements is one of those factors in British commercial life which pull it back. Every large advertiser has facts such as I have given, proving incontestably that advertisements are studied and responded to with marvellous swiftness and volume. Little incidents like the schoolmaster's letter are valuable because each one stands for an immense number of others which occur silently. One man who writes represents hundreds, upon whom the same impression is made, who do not write.

"So, if I were asked what is the best business opportunity the trader, great or small, can have, I should point to the advertising. This secures more customers at a stroke than any other means open to him; and every customer thus secured, provided the article advertised is a good one, becomes a missionary for it. He has proved that what the advertisement said about it is true. He has come to believe in the advertiser and trust him; and just as he will go out of his way to say a good word for a friend whom he has learned to believe and trust in, so he will be glad to do the same for the subject of the advertisement that has gained his confidence."


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