An Advertising Correspondence Course from 1939

The More Things Change ...

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A friend of mine (who isn't in advertising) recently gave me a book about advertising as a gift. This book is actually a compilation of correspondence course lessons for advertising written in 1939. It is one of the most fascinating documents about advertising I've ever read. It's about four inches thick and weighs at least 10 pounds.

Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
Much of the book is obviously out of sync with advertising today. But surprisingly, there is quite a bit of good advice for those who are thinking about entering the industry. I thought I'd share a few excerpts for those out there who are in or are thinking of entering our industry. The excerpts are taken verbatim so don't write about my lack of grammatical skills if it's in italics. If it's non-italic, have fun.

"You have made a most momentous decision in choosing Advertising as a means of advancement -- and you are to be congratulated on your choice. Advertising is a most fascinating study, and the profession itself is one of tremendous opportunities."

See what I mean? It's exactly the same way in this business almost 70 years later. Who would argue that going into advertising is not a momentous decision?

"Nearly all business men think that Advertising is some secret mystery known only to a chosen few with brains specially endowed for Advertising."

I agree with Page-Davis that you have to have a brain specially endowed for advertising. Unfortunately I think all those businessmen that Page-Davis refers to are now dead.

"Advertising is supposed to be an everyday affair, and the exception cannot occur everyday. We must, therefore, adopt a policy that is sane and safe in the process of Advertising Building for everyday use."

I believe we can all agree that this "sane and safe" policy is still in use today. The "exception," meaning innovative thinking by my reading, is indeed a very unusual thing.


"In general contact with business men the student of Advertising will meet hundreds of ordinary suggestions which, superficially, seem reasonable and unless the pitfalls have been brought to your attention and their flimsy existence proven to your satisfaction, they may be a source of great annoyance."

I don't know about you but this happens to me everyday.


"The Advertising man has a splendid opportunity to make his copy individual. In fact, he can actually become known by the 'style' of his copy."

Ever pick out the agency simply by seeing the work? Is that a good thing? Page-Davis says it is. A lot of people in our business today seem to agree.


"You may have your heart set upon a connection with an important advertising agency, but do not feel you must necessarily make your start there."

Now this is great advice! Forget about Crispin, Fallon and Goodby. Start at a small agency that will set your feet on the pathway to future glory at these icons of the ad kingdom. Get more times at the plate. Get more of the cherry assignments. Avoid the layers of approvals, group CD's taking credit for your ideas and senior people taking your ideas away from you.

"Be confident that with your training in Advertising, regardless of the nature of the first position you secure in an advertising agency, you will be prepared to advance. Eventually you will 'come into your own' in a position where you will be able to utilize your best efforts to your full advantage. Anyone who has had the training that you have had is far more able to advance rapidly than those without it."

Page-Davis is dead-on again. Of course, since I probably am the only person possessing a copy of the Page-Davis Correspondence Course for Advertising, you might want to try some of our fine advertising schools to get some training. Then take that job in traffic and soon enough you will be a CD.

I think it's now obvious that though we've made many changes in the way we do advertising over the last 70 years, we still, at the core, are pretty much doing the same thing they did in 1939. I wonder why.
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