Classic Ads: McGraw Hill – salesmanship in print

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In 1905, John E. Kennedy, then a relatively unknown copywriter, described advertising as ‘salesmanship in print‘. He later joined Lord & Thomas (which is present day DraftFCB) and went on to become a hugely successful copywriter of his time. Those 3 words, ‘salesmanship in print’ have been used to describe advertising for over a century now – with new ‘media’ being added to the definition.

That sharp definition of advertising was brought alive in a classic print ad, created for McGraw-Hill Magazines, in the late 1950s. This ad went on to become a legendary business-to-business ad; it is also cited often to quote the power of print advertising. In today’s advertising world professors, seniors of a certain vintage and some curious minds may be aware of it.

The ad surely touches a chord with corporate advertisers, frontline salesmen in such companies and of course the print media itself. It was written from the ‘customer’ perspective – the customer being the CEO of a B2B company. Such CEOs are hard-nosed businessmen and are likely to find their counterparts in other businesses equally hard-nosed about money.

In today’s context, it perhaps takes a lot more than a print campaign to get a ‘foot in the door’ for B2B companies – both in terms of what the company says and does. It could mean an active web presence (company website, search engine optimisation, relevant social media activity) or a multi-media campaign. Or it could be something that a B2B business does which captures the imagination of media and helps create visibility through PR. Nevertheless, the McGraw Hill ad brought alive the power of print advertising through great strategy and creative.

What are your views on what constitutes advertising and salesmanship today?

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