The books tell us that a good advertisement will do four things: (1) attract attention; (2) arouse an interest; (3) create a desire; (4) move to action. These four progressive steps are referred to as the "AIDA" of advertising—Attract, Interest, Desire, Action. The principle applies irrespective of what the advertising medium may be. For the purposes of this article, we shall discuss only one of the many kinds of advertising—printed display. This could be a handbill, a newspaper advertisement, or a window card.
Every minister recognizes that how he speaks is often more important than what he says. Textbooks on public speaking are largely devoted to methods of presentation. If this be true in public speaking, where one can watch his audience and abruptly change his method of delivery, should he find that he is not holding the attention, how much more is it true in the case of printed display where we have only the cold, black-and-white diction, plus the manner in which it is displayed, to create an impression !
Men who sell potatoes, shoes, or farm machinery, are more keenly aware of these truths than some who have the vastly more important everlasting gospel to sell. And sell it we must. We have, in times past, been strangely apathetic to the principles of display, and have therefore wasted precious time, effort, and thousands of dollars in ill-advised and poorly projected handbills, newspaper advertisements, posters, and window cards. But it is heartening to see some of our evangelists taking a keener interest in this important phase of their work. By giving it more study, they are getting better results.
It is not surprising that many of our evangelists have been lacking in this matter. Its importance has not been sufficiently understood or emphasized in our colleges, and little has been done to give our young ministers in school any adequate preparation to meet their advertising problems when they get out into the field. In too many cases they have had to learn by experimentation—a costly and sometimes disastrous means.
Some have been able to take their problems to advertising agencies, but more often than not this is impossible because of location or limited budgets. At times, not realizing the importance of the matter, the evangelist has determined who his printer would be, on the basis Of price competition alone. Such a decision has often resulted in the work's being done by untrained, ill-equipped printers of which there are, unfortunately, many. Often an evangelist makes the error of blindly following Elder So-and-so's advertising methods, and wonders why he meets with indifferent success. But he fails to realize that Elder So-and-So may have been working under entirely different conditions, and furthermore (as is sometimes the case), the good evangelist he is copying has perhaps succeeded in spite of his advertising rather than because of it !
Although it is not the purpose of this article to discuss at length what should be said in a display advertisement, we would like, in passing, to make a few suggestions.
I. Cut down the amount of copy used to the smallest number of words that will express the essential ideas. Many evangelists have made a mistake in attempting to crowd the greatest number of words possible into a given space. This simply results in the advertisement's being so poorly constructed that few, if any, will take time to read it. In order for the display to be successful, the barest essentials of who, what, when, and where should be included. It is generally under the item of "what" that we extend our copy to such length that it becomes an impossible monstrosity from the viewpoint of attractive display. Boil it down!
2. Study well the habits of the people of the community to which you are making an appeal. Human beings are gregarious creatures, and gather themselves into communities of similar habits and tastes. A little study here will bring large returns to the gospel advertiser.
3. Study the various psychic avenues through which you can make your advertising reach the attention and hearts of your community. Some of these psychic appeals are : the maternal instinct, the gregarious instinct, the danger of death, and the appeal of life, power, popularity, wealth, ease, and comfort. Use as many of these appeals as you wish, but be sure that they are used in a way to attract people to your ideals. Strive to lead them from the known to the unknown. To illustrate aptitude in using these psychic appeals : a minister once gained quick attention in a small city by advertising his first sermon (which happened to be on the subject of the new earth) as "A City Where No Child Is Ever Run Down by an Automobile." The small son of a prominent merchant had recently been killed that way. Of course he got attention.
Much more might be said on the subject of preparing the copy, but our main concern in this article is to set forth some workable suggestions on how we may project these ideas mechanically so as to make them most appealing.
Principles and Laws of Art
Thoughtful printers understand the laws of art, which we know as balance, proportion, shape, harmony, subject harmony, tone and color harmony, and the proper use of contrasts. Since it is not always possible for the evangelist to find a printer who understands these principles and, furthermore, since very few of even the thoughtful printers have any adequate idea or understanding of the strange commodity we call the "gospel," it is well for the minister to understand some of these principles and how to apply them. It is also true that a mutual understanding of the principles of display will help the printer understand the minister, and the minister in turn to understand him. They will then be better able to co-operate in using the right kind of advertising. Perhaps a brief explanation of the meaning of a few of these principles in printers' language would be in order.
Balance.—This has to do with the placing of material on the page so that it seems to be comfortably at rest. Sometimes we deliberately violate this principle of balance in order to give the composition the feel of youth, activity, motion. We speak of this as modernism in display, because only in recent years has this idea been revived, although the principle is really very old. Balance is of two kinds—vertical and symmetrical. Vertical balance has to do with placing material in such a position on the page that on the principle of first-class levers, familiarly illustrated by the seesaw, the parts will seem to have equal weight. (Figure 1)
The "optical center" of a sheet of paper is a point slightly above the actual geometric center of an area. This is shown by the dotted horizontal line in Figures 2, 3, and 4. It is around this optical center line that the best arrangements for design may be placed.
If two masses of equal weight are to be balanced, however, they should be placed at equal distances above and below this line of balance. (Figure 4.) Three, four, and even five groups of material may be balanced on a page if the simple rules of first-class lever are remembered. (Figure 5.)
The matter of symmetry has to do with placing an equal amount of weight on either side of a line drawn vertically through the center of the page. This may be accompanied by equal areas, or by balancing of tone values.
Proportion.—The next vital point is good proportion. Although this has to do primarily with the relation of the length of the page to its width, it involves many other things, for good proportion is defined as "a pleasing dissimilarity between the parts of a design." Because of the laws of proportion, we must give careful attention to the relation of the length to the width. We should avoid obvious relationships for this reason. A square, which is plainly the same length as its width, is unpleasant because, instead of having a pleasing dissimilarity, we have monotony. While the ratio of two to one is sometimes used, it is less pleasing than other proportion ratios, because this, too, is quite obvious and therefore monotonous.
As far as length and width are concerned, the relation of to 1.6 (the width being i and the length 1.6 times that) is generally considered one of the best proportions. There are several other acceptable ones, however (Figure 6), I to 1.5 being known as the regular oblong, while the printer's oblong is i to 1.7. We may also use what is known as the hypotenuse oblong, where the ratio is I to 1.41. This proportion has the advantage of being constant. This simply means that a folder will be in the same proportion no matter how many times it is folded, if made in the hypotenuse oblong. This is not true of any of the other proportions.
As a general thing we should not print our advertising as in Figure 7, because the eye tires of reading long lines. Better proportion can be had, as in Figure 8. We have only to notice how few boos are made "album style," to realize that long lines are hard to read.
As a general thing, the longer oblongs are most useful in small sizes. For example, the ratio of i to 2 might profitably be used for a folder the size of an ordinary business envelope, but it would be extremely objectionable in a window card 14 inches wide.
Subject Harmony.—Of all the other plans of type display, the most important one to the gospel advertiser is the planning of subject harmony, or fitness. It is generally recognized by printers that type has character. It is true that this character in type is a matter of association, just as it is in human beings. For example, we see a man with a red nose, he staggers, and when he speaks, he has difficulty with his "s's," because his tongue is thick. In short, he is drunk. We do not have to get close enough to him to smell his breath to know that. This is due to our association of the cause with the result.
Type character to the printer, and more or less to everyone, is just as definite. Large, bold, block letter type, such as often used in posters, is crude, harsh, and rough in character. Its use in gospel advertising is therefore questionable. The various styles of roman (lightface) type also have varying characteristics. Some of them have great dignity, but are extremely weak otherwise. Some have plenty of contrast and therefore attract attention—but in the same way that a clown in a pulpit would, which is obviously not what we want in advertising the gospel.
The character of our display should fit the subject. The gospel is dignified, solemn, and sacred. There are type faces that express this character in their form and tone value. These things are well known to advertising men and typographers everywhere, but have often been ignored by the evangelists who do a thing a certain way because Elder So-and-So did it. We have said as much to some of our ministers, and they have been quick to respond with some such statement as, "I know, but we must attract attention ; we must use the type we can get." It is perhaps true that there may be occasions when we cannot get suitable type faces, but more often if we look carefully enough and really want to earnestly enough, we can find dignified roman and text type, as well as some of the more conservative cursive faces that do not lack punch or emphasis.
Generally speaking, the bold black letter, or so-called "Gothic" type, and the square letters with serifs, especially in the bold types, are not appropriate for gospel advertising. That does not mean that we have to use anemic type to have dignity, or that we cannot have excellent contrast with sincerity. But it does mean that we should be very careful in selecting our printer, that we may be sure he is able to supply the kind of letters necessary to give the right character to our typography. It is quite possible for the printer to make the advertising say almost exactly the opposite of what the copy actually says. Or to put it mildly, he may greatly detract from the message by inept, unsympathetic typography.
Although it is not our desire to advertise any particular type as suitable, or any other as unsuitable, we feel that it would not be out of place to mention some kinds of type which are satisfactory for display lines in gospel advertising. The Cloister old-style series, in regular and bold-faced type, make satisfactory display lines, as do the Garamond, Goudy, Cochin, and Bernhard roman, as well as the Cooper series. There are several good cursives, which if used sparingly do not detract from the gospel message.
The type most likely to suggest the idea of religion, as it is popularly understood, is the text letters, sometimes spoken of as "Old English ;" hut, unfortunately, these letters are very illegible, and if used at all should be in only one or two words. Even then, one must be careful to choose the most legible of these types.
A study of advertising types, with these points in mind, will be helpful. There are many fine books on the subject. We recommend "Modern Type Display" by J. L. Frazier, which is to be found in most public libraries.
Care in Selection of Illustrations
The last point we should like to discuss is that of illustrations and cuts. While it is true that "one picture speaks as loudly as ten thousand words," gospel advertisers have often overlooked the fact that pictures speak a definite language ! If there must be a choice, it would be better to do without the potency of the "ten thousand words" than to use a picture of a nature detrimental to our cause. It is my opinion that many of the "horror pictures" and crude cartoons that have at times been used to illustrate gospel advertising, have turned more people away from our meetings than they have attracted to them. It is heartening to see the attention that is now being given by Christian artists to the production of illustrations which will actually attract the attention of people to our message.
In summary, there is much more to the business of printed advertising than merely sitting down, dashing off something, and handing it to the printer. We must know what we are going to do, and why we are doing it. We must plan to attract attention, to arouse interest, to create a desire, and, if possible, to move to action—that action being in most cases attendance at the lecture.
We should remember to go to the public with our message rather than try to make them come to us. We must minimize our copy on any one display so that we emphasize only one thing, and display not over three, on any given page. We must select a printer who will pay due respect to principles of balance, proportion, subject harmony, and the use of proper illustration.
Even in this lengthy article it has been impossible to go into detail. We recommend a careful study of the book previously mentioned—"Modern Type Display" by J. L. Frazier, Inland Printer Company, New York, or Job Series No. 2 and No. 4 of "International Typographic Union Lessons for Printers," I. T. U. of Educational Department, Indianapolis, Indiana.