OTTAWA MAKES A DISCOVERY

WILLIAM BYRON January 1 1919

OTTAWA MAKES A DISCOVERY

WILLIAM BYRON January 1 1919

It was during the last annual meeting of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association at Montreal that two men of quite considerable prominence in the world of industry stood together in the rotunda of one of the large hotels.

“The war has had some remarkable effects,” said one of them. “It has thrown business into a new stride and I question if we’ll ever drop back into our old jog trot.”

“You’re right,” said the other. “Now, for instance, take advertising. I mention advertising because I’m especially interested in it. I follow our advertising closely and I’ve really studied the subject as intently as a man in my position can. It’s a tremendous force— and a strange one, too. Full of all sorts of possibilities.

“Well, the war which started out as though it would put advertising into its grave—a temporary grave, perhaps, but deep and cold nevertheless—ended by demonstrating the power of advertising as nothing else could have done. A few days after war was declared, the advertising agent who handles our account, came to me to discuss what we meant to do about it. He looked like a ghost but, when I told him we believed in business as usual and would go right ahead with the campaign he had planned for us, he chirped up a bit and even smiled. ‘The best news I’ve had since this awful business started,' he said. ‘A week of war and seventy-five per cent, of our business gone! Yes, it’s as bad as that. Every mail has brought cancellations. I’m afraid to answer the telephone any more’.”

“Were things really so bad?” queried the first speaker.

“They got worse,” asserted the other. “Some" agencies lost as much as ninety per cent, of their business. Publishers were deluged with cancellations. It took a long time for things to come back.”

“But I don’t understand what you mean about the war demonstrating the power of advertising.”

“Do you realize that the British army was raised two million strong—on advertising?” said the other. “Do you realize that the Canadian Government has used advertising as the lever to direct the activities of the whole country? That the Victory Loan campaigns were, in reality, glorified advertising stunts? That whenever anything needed to be done it has always been done in the one way—by advertising?”

“You’re right,”, said the first manufacturer. “I knew all that, of course, but I had never given it any thought—not just in that way.”

Raising Kitchener’s Army

THIS statement of claim on behalf of advertising may be a little flamboyant but it strikes closely along the lines of actual fact. Advertising received a body blow in August, 1914, but, as the war progressed, opportunities soon arose to show how truly potent a force advertising is. War created the need for close organization in all belligerent countries. The Central Powers were already organized with every man, woman and child at the beck and call of constituted authority. On the other hand, the service of the British citizen to the state had to be voluntary and so the various British Governments faced the necessity of educating people to what was needed of them. This education had to be sharp and effective; and it inevitably worked down to one factor—advertising.

The earliest, and outstanding, instance was the campaign that raised Kitchener’s army. The first Expeditionary Force had been sadly depleted in the gallant rear guard action from Mons to the Marne before the people at home realized that a huge citizen army would be expected of Britain. There was never any talk at that time of conscription. Every man who came to the colors would come of his own free will as a free man should. But persuasive force was necessary and Kitchener, utilizing the brilliant services of Sir Hedley le Bas, an advertising expert, caused Britain to blossom out into bill-boards that preached patriotism. The story of that most remarkable of all advertising campaigns has often been told. It is an old story now, but it serves as a firm foundation on which to build a story of what has happened in Canada.

With reference to Canada, it must first be made clear that the Dominion Government had never done any advertising. The more or less large sums that had been spent each year for insertion of calls for tenders and statutory notices of one kind and another had never been regarded as advertising. It was done for either one of two purposes—compliance with regulations or the distribution of patronage. That the day would come when the Government would actually plan a campaign to get a certain idea home to the people, had never entered the minds of any of the more or less exalted personages who made up the Government.

The first move came early in the fall of 1914. The apple crop was particularly heavy that year, but with export trade absolutely cut off and business conditions bad in the extreme, the market sagged and the price of apples fell to a point where it held little inducement for the farmer to even pick his crop. A study in contrast loomed up—people suffering for food in the cities and a grand crop of apples rotting on the trees.

An official of the Canadian Press Association—a rather powerful body made up of the publishers of the country and representing their interests—conceived the idea of having a special writer prepare a series of articles on the apple situation to be published in newspapers all over the country—articles that would serve the double purpose of stirring up the farmers to the task of bringing the apples to market and then of creating a demand for them when they got there.

The plan was rather slow in working out and, before it had progressed very far, the official in question had thought of a better plan. Why shouldn’t the Government put on an advertising campaign? He could see just exactly how it would be done—big, smashing advertisements in every publication from one end of Canada to the other, pointing the people of Canada to the picking and consuming of apples as a patriotic duty. The fact that the Government had never done such a thing before did not daunt him. He prepared a plan and went down to Ottawa to sell it.

The Minister Was Enthusiastic

 AND then a curious thing happened. Cabinet ministers as a general rule are hard to get started, especially on anything new. The rules of diplomacy are against quick decisions. And then there is the time-honored political custom of “passing the buck”—shunting the visitor from one department to another and then back and forth between officials and so on. There may have been something of this at first in this case, but the decision came fast as soon as. the right parties got together. The Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Martin Burrell, was the responsible party in this case and, when the facts had been laid before him, he quickly visioned the possibilities of the idea.

“I’ll do it,” he declared emphatically. “The department has never attempted anything of the kind before. As a matter of fact, we have no appropriation to cover this. But it is war time and food must be conserved. We’ll do it.”

And then another thought struck him.

“This is a case where quick action is necessary,” he said. “Apples are rotting on the trees now. Let me see, to-day is Thursday. Let’s start this campaign on Saturday. There’s not a moment to be lost.”

The Association man, who knew all about the difficulties and delays of writing copy, making and shipping plates, catching forms and so forth, gasped. He started in to explain. Advertising took time. It had to be done right. Drawings couldn't be made over night and the engravers would need at least a day for the simplest plates. But the now thoroughly enthused Minister of Agriculture was not to be held of! by purely technical difficulties.

“Let’s get started,” he said. “We can’t let those apples rot on the trees while your ad. writers polish up their phrases. We’ll have to break some records.”

So a long distance telephone message went through inside of ten minutes to an advertising agency in Toronto and the head of the agency himself took train that night for Ottawa surrounded by a staff of copy writers and artists. They were given a room in the department next morning and told to get started on the copy.

Preparing copy for papers of all kinds from one end of Canada to the other is a task of considerable magnitude. It means writing at least half a hundred advertisements, from various angles. It means providing “lay-outs” for them, making drawings, having plates made from the drawings, having the type set around the plates and finally having “mats” made from the perfected advertisements to be sent out to the various papers. Ordinarily this procedure takes several weeks. The first ads. in the Government Apple Campaign appeared on the following Monday!

That initial campaign was not only done rapidly but it was done well. It consisted primarily of vigorously worded appeals to the farmer to market his apples and to the consumer to buy them. Backing up the heavy artillery of the big-space appeal, was a steady barrage of practical suggestion which took the form of readers and booklets on the uses of apples.

The campaign was a success. It had perhaps never occurred to the farmer that the marketing of his apple crop was anything but a commercial matter and a purely personal one, at that. That it was his patriotic duty to sell apples was a new thought. It was at least equally novel to the city family to be told that they could help win the war by eating apples. But the appeal “went over”—both ways. It is impossible to state in figures just how many million bushels were sold as a result of the prompt Government action but there were instant evidences of an apple boom. The farmers picked them and the city folks ate them and a grave economic loss was avoided.

The Government Had Discovered Advertising

THE success of the scheme was sufficiently great to implant a new thought at Ottawa: The Government could make advertising profitable just as well as any industrial concern. It had found a new way to exert any desired influence on the people as a whole. The Government had discovered advertising!

There followed a series of campaigns of one kind and another. They were all aimed to achieve the one purpose—the education of the people of Canada. In many cases the advertising was backed up by, editorial support—that is, the newspapers and periodicals called upon the public in their editorial columns to respond—but it would be a complete mistake to assume that any of the advertising was done as a “sop” to the press. Each campaign was planned on exactly the same lines as any private advertising enterprise.

The advertisements were sent to certain classes of papers on a commercial basis. Any support that these papers saw fit to give was purely voluntary. Refusal to co-operate was never accepted as a reason for cutting any publication off the list.

Discussing this point the other day an advertising agency man remarked that he had been surprised at the businesslike way in which the Government had handled the various campaigns.

“The heads of the departments showed a remarkable degree of business capacity,” he said. “They went into things as thoroughly as the president or advertising manager of any private concern would do. I’m convinced that they were just as anxious to get full value for the Government as any private business man.”

There can be no doubt that the various departments at Ottawa began to take advertising very seriously. It was soon discovered that the old system of advertising was all wrong. It had been conducted on the basis that advertising was just a form of patronage. The newspaper which had fought the good fight and had kept the faith deserved a “bit”; and so advertisements were sent out in the form of calls for tenders, homesteading regulations and so on — announces which could be set in the smallest and sloppiest of type and put in any old place at all, in fact used as “filler.” Well, the Government discovered this and when, in the spring of 1916, it was decided to do some national advertising to inculcate the ideas of Production and Thrift, the King’s Printer was put in charge and he proceeded to improve methods. Party considerations were not allowed to enter.

This point is mentioned as an evidence of the fact that the Government had be! gun to accept advertising as a matter of business and to recognize the necessity of handling it in a thoroughly businesslike way.

IT was early in 1917, however, that advertising was accepted by the Government as a great war-winning force and utilized to the utmost. A rapid succession of campaigns was put on. The first was inaugurated by the Department of Naval Defence and Marine to encourage the enlistment of Canadians in the naval forces. The second was an important campaign launched in March by the Militia Department to stimulate recruiting. The situation at that time with reference to recruiting was critical. Men were not coming forward as freely as the need demanded and it was beginning to look as though the voluntary system had nearly run its course. At the same time the word “Conscription” was one that could be uttered only behind closed doors. Nevertheless it was seen in official circles that the time was coming when the dreaded plunge would have to be taken.

The idea of advertising was presented to the Militia Department and accepted by the heads as a last resort.

“Sooner or later,” it was pointed out to them, “you will have to resort to Conscription. But are you justified in taking this drastic step until you have adopted every measure and tried everything that might avert that necessity? When the time comes for putting the Military Service Act into force, it must be possible to say to the people of Canada that every stone has been turned.” 

So a campaign was put on to encourage enlistment in the Canadian Defence Forces, so that overseas forces might be released for service abroad. It was effectively done and unquestionably helped to fill up the ranks. There was no way that results could be checked but the situation was relieved until the time when Conscription finally went into force in the fall of that year.

It is not intended to relate in full the object behind each of the various campaigns inaugurated since that time. In April 1917 the National Service Board undertook a campaign to increase the sale of War Saving Certificates; in September the Military Service Campaign was put on; in November came the first Victory Loan campaign; in March 1918 the Finance Department explained the War Income Tax through a series of advertisements; in March and April the Food Controller did some , valuable educational propaganda work; in May the Canada Registration Board explained the conditions of the registration act through a series of advertisements; in October and November the second Victory Loan campaign was carried on. There was other propaganda work done in the form of advertising, but the more important have I been listed. It is almost superfluous to say that the results in all cases justified the measures taken. The public realized this. It was readily seen that this new method was getting the desired idea into the public mind more rapidly than it could have been done in any other way.

Here is a case in point. In the fall of 1917, the Department of Agriculture found itself facing the problem of producing more pork during 1918, to be shipped overseas for our Allies. Hon. T. A. Crerar had just taken over the reins in that department and, being a farmer himself, he was a strong believer in consulting the men who would be called upon to produce the increased supply. So a conference was quietly arranged and representative farmers from all parts of Canada were summoned to Ottawa to “sit in.” They came—hard-headed, practical farmers who had made agriculture a business and who knew just what could be done, and what could not.

Well, it was a satisfactory, albeit, a lively meeting. The farmers agreed that the necessary increase could be secured, but they wanted a guaranteed price from the Government. This could rot be given, but finally it was settled that the farmers would undertake to raise more hogs and, patriotically, take whatever risk might be involved.

“Now,” said one farmer from the West, “it’s all right for us fellows to get together here and say that we’ll raise more hogs, but how about the men who’ve got to actually undertake this? There will have to be about five hundred thousand farmers throughout the country just as enthusiastic as we are if this thing is to go through.”

“We have a plan to do some advertising,” said the Minister. “Do you think it would be necessary?”

“I certainly do,” replied the man from the West. "Make it clear that every farmer from Lands End to jump Off has got to be in on this. Hammer it home good and hard.”

This was the tenor of the whole conference. These men believed it would be necessary to use the trip-hammer force of printers’ ink to get the necessary enthusiasm stirred up throughout the country. It was a striking evidence of the innate public belief in the value of advertising.

A campaign accordingly was instituted in the agricultural press. At first it was thought advisable to include the country weekly newspapers as well but in the end the scope of the campaign was not broadened. More than a year has now passed and it is possible to state that the. campaign was a complete success, for the increased demand from overseas was met during 1918.

The Victory Loan campaigns were, in the final analysis, wonderfully well organized advertising propositions. It is true that it was the patriotic sentiment of the people of Canada that made the great success of the loans possible; but advertising was the furnace in which that sentiment was worked up to a white-heat pitch. Some people have said that the same results could have been obtained without so much effort being put into the publicity end of it. They little understand the psychology of the public.

During the last day of the campaign last fall in a small Ontario town a widow walked into headquarters and spoke to one of the dishevelled committee men in charge.

“I want to buy a thousand dollars worth of these Victory bonds,” she said. “I didn’t know I could buy bonds from the Government until I read it in the paper last night.”

The committee man was astonished.

“Didn’t you know this campaign was on before?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” replied the widow, “I had seen and heard about it. But I didn’t think it had anything to do with me.”

This case, one of countless others by the way, demonstrates the truth that publicity efforts had to be raised to the nth degree in order to drive the lesson home to everyone. Remember this, that the Victory Loan had to be sold to hundreds of thousands of people who had never bought bonds before, many of whom did not know just what bonds were and nearly all of whom had at least one good excuse for considering themselves exempt. A course of education that ordinarily would have taken a generation had to be crammed into the short space of two months. 

The moral of it all is that since Ottawa has made a discovery, the truth should be put into application in the present and future. If a national advertising was found to be an important factor in solving the problems of war time, the same force should be utilized to help in the equally trying and equally important problems of Peace and Reconstruction. If national consciousness could be spurred to the great sacrifices that were necessary to win the war, the same response can be secured now in regard to a proper handling of peace problems. The Government faces a number of very big problems to-day, some of which may be enumerated as follows :

1. The Repatriation of our Overseas Soldiers.

2. The maintenance of employment and the finding of work for returned men.

3. The building up of Canadian export trade.

4. The encouragement of immigration from abroad.

All of these problems, clearly, are such that the co-operation of the public is required. If the repatriation of the soldiers is to be carried out with the least possible upsetting of business conditions, if the returned men ore to be given a fair chance, the chance they have more than earned, the public must be tuned to a certain viewpoint. The co-operation of the manufacturer, the merchant and the farmer must be obtained. Employers must be prepared to fall in with such plans as are found necessary. Employees must also be prepared to accept such conditions as are laid down to make room for the returned soldiers. All of this will require a great deal of readjustment. There is plenty of dry tinder in the situation and class antagonisms might very easily burst into flame. A thorough understanding, running all through society from the capitalist to the day laborer, is needed. The Government has in its hands a weapon that has been thoroughly tested and proved in the heat of war—education by advertising. Let it be used.

That such will be done seems already assured. The Government has been “Sold” on advertising, sold to this extent that a few weeks ago a member of the Cabinet—and an influential member too—sought out some men prominent in publishing circles and asked their cooperation in handling certain extensive advertising campaigns. The Government Mahomet does not wait for the publicity mountain to come to him any more—he goes to the mountain.

It is possible to say also—and very gratifying it is too to be able to say it— that business men throughout the country have learned this lesson just as thoroughly as the legislators at Ottawa. Business was frankly panicky when war broke out. Before the term “Business as Usual” had been coined, or the sentiment underneath it had become general, business staggered and wobbled. To-day, with just as grave a period of reconstruction facing us, Business is serenely confident. Business has sensed its strength. Likewise, there has been no flurry of cancellations of advertising contracts. Business has learned the tremendous value of that weapon which it has always had at its disposal but perhaps never before fully appreciated.

Support the Salvation Army

THE Salvation Army which has taken a magnificent part in all war efforts, is launching a Million-Dollar Dominion-Wide Demobilization and Reconstruction Campaign. The exact purpose of this campaign can perhaps best be set forth by quoting from an official explanation that has been issued: “The Salvation Army realizes the immense problem facing the Government at this critical time. It desires to co-operate with every department of the Government to the utmost extent, in meeting the urgent needs of the returned soldiers, their families, and the working classes, during the reconstruction period, and especially during the coming winter.

“The purposes of the Campaign will therefore be:—

(1) To establish hospitals for returned soldiers who are discharged and in need, until re-absorbed into industrial life.

(2) To provide emergency receiving and maternity homes for soldiers’ wives, widows, and dependent children in need.

(3) To continue, during the demobilization period, in England and France, the equipments and comforts already provided by the Salvation Army for the Canadian soldiers overseas.”