Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Claude Hopkins (or 'To not know your history is to remain a child forever')

Horribly misquoted from the great man's seminal text, but it makes the point.

Advertising seems to be the only industry where history is ignored - for example, way before Second Life, HHCL were pioneering online technology. Yet there is a massive fuss made that time round.

Garland Compton, CDP, BMP.. these are agencies which have irrevocably shaped how we see advertising today. And we try and deny it, constantly moving on and ignoring some of the lessons of the past.

I think it's fair to see that as advertising is, to a certain extent, like an extended magic trick (got to amaze and show 'em something they've not seen before), it predicates this problem of forgetting what you were.

Indeed, as certain clients seem to have a circular model of not really passing knowledge down (I wonder how many of my readers have heard 'ah, Aroma! That's what the modern x is after these days' from a few generations of the same client), it doesn't help either.

Well, sod it. I think if we knew our history, we could be proud of our heritage, and what advertising has done for modern culture.

So in this spirit (and you may already have this), I give you Claude Hopkins' seminal text 'Scientific Advertising'. Yes, it predates David Ogilvy; real 'old skool' advertising thinking.

It's in the sidebar, but if you can't be arsed to click on it, go here. Yes, you have to sign up. But you should.

Here endeth my history lesson (and God - read E H Carr's book.. well worth it)


Charles Frith said...

Well said. Remind me to talk about this next time we meet. I'll be in town Wed and Fri.

Will said...

I'm free any time past 11 or so on Wed. Buzz me on my mobile (I think it I gave it to you?). If not, email me for it..

Dan said...

I'll be honest with you, Will - I think you're generalising a little. I'm sure you can point at a number of people within the industry who are so wrapped up in tomorrow that they've never given yesterday a second thought - I can find you a dozen bloggers who don't think blogging is self-indulgent, but that doesn't make it so...

Facetiousness aside, a lot of this depends on how you've been taught - from that point of view, what you've expressed here is admirable, to a certain extent. However, predictably, I think there are two sides to this.

Sure, disregarding what's gone before is often a dangerous game - at the very least, you risk wasting a lot of time re-making old mistakes. But dear God, don't let it weigh you down. There's often a wonderful ingenuousness that comes from not knowing what's gone before - quite simply it means you don't worry about it, and you don't make it the yardstick by which you judge everything you do or think. It shouldn't necessarily matter if someone else has thought what you're thinking before - as Borges tells us, the fact that you're thinking it and not them makes it an inherently different proposition anyway. What's trite to them might be rocket fuel to you.

Of course, the ideal is someone who can be aware of everything that's gone before, but isn't afraid to just fucking do it when it feels right. As Curtis Armstrong puts it in Risky Business, "Sometimes you've just go to say, 'What the fuck?'"

Dan said...

Apologies - I fear that's come across as anonymous, which wasn't the intention. To clarify the facetiousness of the 'self-indulgent' comment, you can check out my self-indulgence at www.theloveofsport.blogspot.com


Will said...


Ah, a voice on the advertising blogosphere who I've met (in real life and everything) - nice to hear from you mate.

I personally think history is a wonderful thing, and should be known.

As you quite rightly point out - to let it weigh you down is folly (and I'm sure Stephen King would be turning in his grave if he read some of my propositions).

But, as I was hoping that post was received, to recognise you are a part of something bigger - that's key. It stops this snivelling, apologetic advertising BS which is sort of creeping into the industry. If I could stamp it out, I would.

And yes, yes - all my posts are overstated, generalised and far too often about Stoke City. It's the nature of my blogging (and it'll happen to you....).

I'm all for saying 'fuck it'. I just value history a great deal (and no, I haven't got every ad book under the sun, either).

As for your blogging; I liked the music blog as well - good call on CSS. If you are keen to come to watch the FA Cup final (are there tickets left?), let me know.

np said...

Well said Dan, well said.

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