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Legitimate College Advertising
From an Address at the Exercises in Commemoration of the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Founding
of lowa College, Grinnell, lowa, May 16-21, 1907
By Marco Morrow T HE word “Advertising," I am generation, equal with the church and
afraid, suggests to many minds the home in developing national charan obtrusiveness so insistent and acter and in shaping national interests,
so persistent as to be offensive then it is not only the college's priviand obnoxious.
lege but its duty to go out into the And I suspect the very phrasing of highways and byways and gather them the subject on which I, as an advertising in; to be a missionary of a better, a man, have been asked to say a few higher and a fuller life: to become a words, “Legitimate College Advertis
propagandist of real education and to ing,” betrays somewhat the same atti
pursue its high calling with all the tude of mind towards this modern com
zealous fervor of a religious devotee. mercial factor.
And, gentlemen, I hope I shall not be Perhaps what your program commit
accused of special pleading or of that tee really had in mind is :
narrow prejudice which it is difficult "Can an institution of higher learn
for a specialist of any kind to avoid, ing legitimately, ethically and with all
when I say there is no way in which a due dignity, employ in advancing its in
college can do this so effectively and so terests, methods which are most usually
economically, as by employing in the associated with pink pills and circus
right way, judiciously and with dignity, parades?” The answer to this question, “Yes,"
those means which the modern business or "No," depends as much upon the
world groups under the classification, attitude the college is to take towards
“ADVERTISING." life and the college's concept of its
its In truth, there is no other way; befunction, as upon our understanding of
cause even in the technically commercial the nature of advertising
use of the word "advertise,” we embrace For. if the modern American college every dictionary meaning of the term. stands solely for an aristocracy of
Whatever in any way turns the minds brains. for Culture with a big "C.” and of the public towards a merchant, his a limited meaning: if its function is to wares and his business, is considered admake scholars instead of men and vertising. The business man's advertiswomen; if it teaches for teaching's sake
ing account does not include merely the and imparts learning for learning's sake moneys he spends for announcements in alone, its direct influence upon the life the public press or for the defacement of of its day must ever be limited, and it God's landscape, but in most cases it is can well afford to repose upon its dignity charged with an hundred other items and in self-conscious superiority wait, whose object is to make known his busias a modest maid awaits her lover, to ness to the public. be wooed and won only by those in So the college, either by its own efforts whose hearts burn an overpowering de- or by its loving friends, does advertise, sire for her favors.
in most cases legitimately even if not But if, on the other hand, the Ameri- always most effectively. can college is what I believe every one But can the scope of its advertising of you men and women believe it should be legitimately increased? Is it desirbe--the interpreter of life to the rising able that it should be increased ? To
what extent can straight commercial ad- Latin and Greek and Abstract Phivertising be employed by colleges ? losophy. And so we find many self
I can see no reason why the advertis- made men pointing with pride to their ing man should not approach this prob- own material achievements, and saying lem exactly as he approaches a commer- to the college : cial proposition. The modern advertis- “No doubt but ye are the people and ing man-if he understands his business wisdom shall die with you. But I have -is very wary of pronouncing the last understanding as well as you." word upon advertising. He knows no And understanding of a certain sort infallible rules. He will not say that they have--and Education, too. any certain method of advertising is. On the other hand we have an insist"best"-either in a general way or for a ent demand for a more "practical” eduspecific commodity, because he has cation-an education concerned with learned-at the expense of years and how rather than with why-an educadollars—that different men, different tion that deals with the coming man's commodities, different classes of cus- work, rather than with his life. tomers, different territories, all demand The American college has made cerwidely different methods of treatment, tain concessions to this demand, and yet in order to effect the desired end. the strictly technical schools, the normal
In other words, the advertising man schools, the “correspondence colleges," must diagnose the case before he pre- and institutions which educate "while scribes treatment—and it not infrequently you wait,” spring up and flourish. happens that he prescribes the "rest However beneficial they may be under cure," rather than a dose of advertising certain limitations, they can never take
I mean that I shall not attempt to say the place in our national life which the anything this afternoon which can be college should and must occupy, and it applied to the special needs of any spe- is the duty of the college to see to it that cial college—because each specific case the young men and young women of requires special study. Nevertheless, America know what it is that the colthere are certain fundamental principles lege offers them, and know that they which will guide us in determining cannot get it elsewhere. And the colwhether or not a college can legitimately lege itself must bring this knowledge to employ this modern force--and to what them. extent the force may be employed.
This may be missionary work, pure Primarily, and I think ultimately, the and simple, but the college owes its first object of all college advertising should duly to the community as a whole; the be this:
young men and the young women in To give the public the right concept your class-rooms are merely the m2of the mission and function of the col- terials the people have given you to lege.
work with. On the one hand we have a very Moreover, while educating the genprevalent idea-an idea which I fear the eral public to a fuller appreciation of higher institutions of learning have the function of the college may be missometimes unwittingly encouraged—that sionary work, like the missionary spirit Education is an end rather than a everywhere, it blesses him that gives means, and that therefore the boy who more than him that receiveth. No must equip himself for the hard knocks method will do more to attract to your of the world's work can under only school earnest young manhood and especially favorable circumstances afford womanhood--the material you most “to waste" four years in the study of desire.
But to be a little more concrete. advertising which will put it in touch Most educational advertising today is with the youth of its territory and then Simple Publicity--the mere announce- booklets and catalogues and circulars ment of the school, its standing and its and letters which will keep alive the physical advantages.
interest the advertising awakens. The Educational advertising that is strictly average college catalogue needs a thorcompetitive, that is, which seeks to build ough reformation. Today it is attractive up at the expense of another, can hardly enough, perhaps, but it is cold, dignified fail to be more or less obnoxious to the and formal. It may be just as dignified real educator. It unquestionably does without coldness, and may be made an savor too much of the methods of the “appeal-direct” without becoming gushgentlemen with the pink pills.
ing. The college must stretch forth its But because Publicity Advertising is hand and assure the youth of a welcome. not fully effective, and because Competi- Magazines and periodicals carry more tive Advertising is offensive, does not educational advertising every year-the argue that the higher form of advertis larger proportion of it, that of preparaing-Creative Advertising, will not be tory, "finishing" and technical schools; both legitimate and effective.
the larger "correspondence schools" As to methods, I have already said spend thousands and tens of thousands that each case requires specific treat for publicity, but the college properment, dependent upon the thousand and the institution to which the nation looks one special conditions surrounding each for its future leaders-is seldom found institution.
employing this legitimate means of Knowing colleges as well as you gen- reaching the youth of the land. tlemen do, you doubtless would select Is it not true that these schools have one institution for one boy and another advanced at the expense of the college? for another boy-because youth is vari- Is it not true that many a fond mother ous and colleges differ in methods and is sending her daughter for a smatterexcel in different lines. The college ad- ing of education to a fashionable "finishvertisement should pulsate with the in- ing school," when the girl needs the dividual spirit of that college, and should same training that would come from be directed to those persons whom that hard work under your guidance? Is it college can do the most good.
not true that many a young man who Most colleges are territorial in their could and should be in a real college is respective spheres of influence. It should spending his time and money in acquirbe the aim of the college to keep before ing a half-baked education? Has the the parents and youth of that territory a student body of our colleges increased strong, convincing statement that will in due proportion with the increase in lead the boy and girl to desire above alt population and increase in prosperity? things, the training for life that only a And, finally, gentlemen, in all courtesy college can give-not a perfunctory, but with perfect candor, has the college formal statement, but direct, heart-to- itself advanced in public esteem and in heart talks such as you would give your standing as it should? To this quesown son should he weary of school tion I have only the answer of numerous routine and long for the battle of life college professors who bewail in the before he is properly developed and public prints the decline of the college's equipped.
influence. The college needs what we call in As a layman, as an outside observer business a good "follow-up" system. It of matters educational, I deny that the needs good newspaper and periodical American college today is less efficient
than it ever was. I believe it has kept step with the times and that as able, as aggressive, as noble and as self-sacrificing men as ever before are devoting their talents and their lives to its work, but we cannot deny that it has not the hold upon the public that it once had.
And, gentlemen, “What's the good of unknown good ?”
Even the gospel of Eternal Life must be heralded incessantly the world around by countless missionaries of the Cross. Can we hope that a matter of lesser importance will take care of itself?
I asked you, in my presentation of facts as I saw them, not to consider me a "special pleader," but before I sit down I want to plead with every college here represented to make known to people what it stands for, and to stretch forth to as many youths as it can by any possibility reach, a persuasive, welcoming hand that urges him to develop to the full the possibilities that are within him.
And, gentlemen, you cannot do it, without the use of "straight advertising" in the public press.
Who Foots the Bills ? What Proportion of the Cost of Production Does the Subscription Income of a Farm Paper Bear? O LSEWHERE in this issue of 40 per cent of this cost. If this estimate K , AGRICULTURAL ADVERTISING it is is wrong in any way, it is too high,"
pointed out that both advertising
rates and subscription rates are "In a new agricultural publication the governed by the same laws which govern proportion of expense of production the prices of other commodities not con- necessarily falls heavily upon the subtrolled by monopoly—that is, by the law scription department—often from 75 per of supply and demand. Nevertheless, it cent to 90 per cent of the revenue com- . is interesting to publishers and adver- ing from that source and the balance tisers to note the proportion of expense in whole or in part going in as investof production of agricultural papers ment of capital. Later, the percentage borne by the subscriber and by the ad- declines and the proportion borne by vertiser.
advertising increases until the latter, in The opinions of a number of repre- the most prosperous farm journals, much sentative publishers follow :
exceeds the circulation receipts. I have "I sincerely believe the subscription no doubt that the gross advertising reincome of a farm paper ought to net 75 ceipts of certain farm publications are per cent of the actual cost of production. 80 per cent of their revenue and that the By cost of production I mean the white gross subscription receipts do not expaper, composition, printing, mailing and ceed 20 per cent. This is perhaps an paid matter which goes into the publica- extreme case of good, low-priced papers tion--leaving off everything except getting an extraordinary proportion of actual editorial work in the preparation their receipts from advertising. What of the matter for the compositor. I can the proportion ought to be, I would not not say that our subscription income pays venture to say, but on the average the that proportion, but it comes very near net subscription receipts do not bear to that percentage. I feel confident, more than 40 per cent of the expense of however, that from an experience of publication." twenty-five years with publishers of all kinds of papers, the subscription income “We have always considered that the does not on an average bear more than subscription price of a paper should
paper, but does not even produce a sufficient amount of money to pay the cost of the circulation department.”
carry the expense of the three items affected by the increased subscription. That is, white paper, press work and postage. On our own paper these three items cost us 80 per cent of our gross subscription price.”
"In the case of our paper, the receipts from subscriptions pay 80 per cent of the cost of the paper, printing and mailing, and our subscription price is only 75 cents a year. If it were $1 a year, as it ought to be, the subscription receipts would probably pay the entire cost of production. But if you mean by cost of production the entire expense of operating a publication business, including salaries, labor, editors and contributors, postage of all kinds, traveling and other expenses, stationery and printing, subscription work, etc., then our subscription receipts do not pay more than 40 per cent of this expense."
"I believe the receipts from subscriptions for any farm publication ought to pay at least one-half of the total expenses of publication, and that advertising ought to pay the other half. In our case, our subscription receipts pay about 40 per cent of the cost of running our business, exclusive, of course, of dividends. Consequently the advertising pays the other 60 per cent as well as any profit that there may be in the business for us.”
"The subscription income ought to bear as much as you can make it bear. In order to explain that this answer is not 'Begging the question, it is necessary to explain my personal view of the publisher's problem. It is first necessary to eliminate from the business basis of a publication any such consideration as political, philanthropic, or educational purposes. We must assume in looking at the publishing business as a business problem, that the sole motive is to conduct a permanently profitable business.
“This being the case. let us assume that the publisher is running a manufacturing plant, not for the purpose of producing papers, but for the purpose of manufacturing advertising space which will command the highest market price. In order to do this, he has various expenses, such as the mechanical, editorial and circulating expenses, in addition to the cost of raw material, such as paper and ink.
“Now, how are we to arrive at the cost of the product which he is producing? In order to do so, we must regard any income from circulation as an income from the sale of a by-product. Going ahead on this basis, suppose a publisher has produced during a given year 100,000 inches of space, for which he receives $2.00 per inch, or a total of $200,000.00. We will say that his expenses are $175,000.00. We will say that his income from the sale of his byproduct, viz., circulation, is $25,000.00. We will credit the income from the byproduct against the expense, making a net expense of $150,000.00, or an average cost per inch for the production of his product of $1.50.
"Now, let us see how this works out in a practical way. The publisher appreciates the fact that the more circulation he produces, the greater is the value of
"We believe that the subscription department ought to be charged with the cost of the paper stock only. We realize that this does not coincide with the opinion held by other publishers. Indeed, we think there are very few agricultural publications whose subscription receipts will more than pay for the amount it costs to get them, so that the subscription department, I venture to say, of at least 50 per cent of the agricultural papers not only does not stand any of the cost of the production of the