Fine Ads, Until He Craved His Golden Eggs at Once …
“A man advertised an incubator to be sold by mail ... he increased his space 50 percent to add a row of chickens in silhouette. It did make a striking ad, but his cost per reply was increased by exactly that 50 percent. The new ad, costing one-half more for every insertion, brought not one added sale. The man learned that incubator buyers were practical people. They were looking for attractive offers, not for pictures."
Here’s a similar ad to the one Hopkins describes above. Do you think it would grab buyers without the illustration? Likely, and for two reasons. One: The chickens don’t add to my understanding of the product. Two: The offer is alluring enough: “Live Chicken. Have it Killed …” I’m reading that.
Why Mead Is Perfect
Compare the chickens to this Mead Bicycle ad. The pictures give me useful and arresting information, because these are the exact bicycles I could own. This ad happens to be from 1923, the date Scientific Advertising was published, and Hopkins spoke with Mead himself:
“Mr. Mead told the writer that not for $10,000 would he change a single word in his ads. For many years he compared one ad with the other. And the ads you see today are the final results of all those experiments. Note the picture he uses, the headlines, the economy of space, the small type. Those ads are as near perfect for their purpose as an ad can be.”
I think we can infer, based on Hopkins’ rule that well-used space converts, if the bicycles hadn’t been shown, Mr. Mead would have gotten about half the response - because the bicycles provide us useful information. (What works better: These unique, hand drawn bicycles from 1923, or a guy in a suit from Shutterstock drawing on glass?)