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Communications of an Advertising Man






Burnett L. Communications of an Advertising Man – Chicago : Privately printed, 1961. – 351 p.







Part One . . . Burnett Speeches

What is this "thing" called "advertising"?

Keep listening to that wee, small voice

The slide film that was never shown

Some of my best friends are art directors

Creating client interest in television

Where’s that branding iron, Pardner?

This is our opportunity

The friendliness quotient in advertising

Finally somebody has to get out an ad

Finally somebody has to OK an ad

The new opportunity for house publications

Somewhere west of New Jersey

"Share of mind" as a factor in advertising strategy

What every copywriter should know

“What do they think of us?"

What would you say to a son who says he wants to go into advertising?

Magazine advertising as a fundamental sales force in 1950

The mission of magazines

A way to flatten that critic of advertising

Responsibilities and opportunities of the advertising agency at the retail level

The advertiser's right to toot his own horn

“Tinder words"



“In this speech Leo Burnett shows himself a major champion and spokesman for the advertising business – although he does not completely whitewash it. He delivered the talk before the Los Angeles Advertising Club on February 7, 1961. The nature of the subject and its breadth assured important coverage by the public, as well as the advertising press.


What is this "thing" called "advertising"


I read the other day that "the human mind is a wonderful device which starts working the minute you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak".

I have tried to anticipate this hazard by writing out what I have to say.

At about the time I accepted the invitation to speak at this meeting. I saw an article in the New York Times reporting on the eastern conference of the 4-A's. It said, "Forty-one speeches were made in New York yesterday in connection with advertising".

I couldn't help wondering if that wasn't about 40 too many, but anyway, here we go again.

* * *

I salute this venerable but lively club, which I understand last month lacked only one year of celebrating its Golden Anniversary.

And I am glad to add what thoughts I can to Advertising Week which, as I understand it, is an occasion when our business speaks up for itself, with no holds barred.

Given this latitude, first I want to get off my chest a little of my pent-up feeling about some of the generalized criticism of advertising –criticism by people who ought to know better.

Then, I want to point out a few things I think we can do to tidy up our business and thereby earn more of the respect which I feel it deserves.

Finally, I want to go way, way up on the mountain to paint a picture of our new opportunity and responsibility as I see it.

What is this "thing" called "advertising"? When our critics fire their blind blasts at us, what is it they think they're shooting at?

Surely no politician will ever seek office on a platform advocating a lower standard of living, or declaring that advertising as an arm of selling should be subjected to a punitive tax. Yet, to quote from an editorial in Printers' Ink last summer, certain of our economists say in effect, "Public needs are in direct opposition to private wants. Thus advertising is evil–it stimulates private wants. Advertising is a 'thing– so let's tax it".

Speaking of private wants, I have been stimulated by a recent book entitled Advertising–a New Approach, by Walter Taplin, a British economist and writer. I recommend it to all students of advertising.

Rather than rehashing the familiar arguments about advertising pro and con, Mr. Taplin steps back a few paces and takes a look at what he describes as "the basic human situation which makes the activities of advertisers conceivable, possible, real and important".

In the first chapter Mr. Taplin deals specifically with human wants.

Although the virtues of the simple life have been a cornerstone of many philosophies and religious teachings, he points out that it is practically impossible today to live such a life in any industrialized society. As he puts it,

"Fresh food is out of the question unless much of it is kept fresh artificially. We could not afford to let everybody walk to work–or even to do the sort of work that could be walked to. If you want bread thai has not been chemically treated, wrapped and sliced, you can of course get it. You can also dress in the simplest tweed, never eat canned food, live away from the noise and petrol fumes of modern life and drink pure water as it bubbles from the spring. But to do all that you have to be very rich. That is the biggest barrier of all. To be simple, to have few wants, costs money. It is more than the vast majority can afford.

"Attempts to make contact with particular wants, or to suggest particular ways of meeting general wants, are the business of all who produce goods and services for the market.

"You can either rejoice that human beings have wants, and that other human beings are trying to satisfy them and be paid for their trouble; or you can deplore the nature of humanity/'

What is this "thing" called "advertising," anyway?

My first childhood awareness of advertising was the name of the leading local dry goods store on the colored umbrella over the driver of the sprinkler wagon which plied up and down unpaved Clinton Avenue on dusty summer days in the little town in Michigan where I grew up.

Since those days I've come to look on advertising a s a controlled means of communication which takes many and smithy hum-,.

I have come to feel that practitioners of advertising can range the way from the fellow who carries a sandwich board to the vice president in charge of marketing of one of our largest corporation.

So what is this "thing" called "advertising"*? What's under fire? I am sure the generalizing critics of advertising do not mean the classified sections of the newspapers or the ads by local merchants which give the housewife information about everything from a sack of potatoes to mink coats. (Incidentally, I understand that the greatest of all users of classified advertising are farmers, and that they depend on it as a primary means of doing business.)

Certainly the critics can't be directing their fire at the advertising in farm magazines, religious or business publications, educational and technical journals or news magazines.

Neither does it seem possible that generalized criticism, which brands this "thing" called "advertising" wasteful, evil and even taxable, could be considered to apply to ads in the specialized service magazines which, like the editorial matter, help women cook better food, make their homes more attractive, and raise their children better; or ads in magazines which enable people to make better use of their leisure time.

I am doubly sure that the criticism does not apply to advertising in any medium sponsored by The Advertising Council, which promotes better schools, the purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds, greater highway safety and many other public service causes. I hardly believe that the most severe critics have anything against Smokey Bear.

Maybe they are referring strictly to TV and radio commercials, or to advertising in our great general circulation magazines such as Life, Saturday Evening Post, Look or Reader's Digest.

This hardly seems possible, however, because I have before me tirades against advertising by such men as Stuart Chase, F. J. Schlink and Arthur Kallet which were written when Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., presumably was in kindergarten; before the first commercial radio; when the circulation of The Saturday Evening Post was around 2,000,000 instead of the present 6,200,000 and a decade before either Life or Look was born.

The arguments ran just about the same. Advertising was depicted as a menace to the economy and to the civilization of mankind…"


The full text of the book can be found at bookstores, e-bookstores and libraries.


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See also:

Radio Advertising

Profitable Newspaper Advertising

Newspaper Advertising Sales

Books on Advertising

Books on PR

Books on Mass Media