Wednesday 13 October 2010

Face Bleach and 'advertising big'

Following my post last month on the interesting life of Anna Ruppert, I'm pleased to receive further information from Kristin Huston, a postgraduate student at University of Missouri-Kansas City, who found a fascinating interview for me (below), which suggests that Mrs. Ruppert's business continued in America after her alleged death in Missouri, and gives a good deal more background to how it got started. It also throws a lot of light on the early advertising industry in the US, for good measure:

"Mr.L.L.Hill, the advertising manager of Madame Anna Ruppert, the complexion specialist, has the reputation of being an enthusiast on advertising, with an experience of fifteen years to his credit, and as that experiene is said to be both vast and varied, a PRINTER'S INK representative waited upon him at his offices, 6 East Fourteenth street, the other day with a view to drawing our Mr. Hill upon advertising matters and getting an interesting story from him. Mr. Hill is not partial to interviews and does not care about publicity. But, succumbing to the blandishments of th representative of the Little Schoolmaster, he expressed himself as ready to talk. The reporter asked
    "When was the Face Bleach put on the market Mr. Hill, and where?"
    "In 1883, in Chicago. Madame Ruppert tested the Bleach repeatedly in private before introducing it to the public. When thoroughly satisfied as to its merits, it was decided to place it on the market. Our first ad was a full page in the old Chicago Times."
    "Did its results justify you in continuing?"
    "Yes, it exceeded our anticipations, and we then began advertising in the other Chicago papers. Madame Ruppert and myself believed in advertising big, if at all. Consequently, we have always used large spaces. If you want to strike the crowd, strike them heavy; give them an ad that can be seen, heard and felt, so to speak."
    "Then you don't believe in small ads?"
    "No, sir. I have always found that, other things considered, the bigger the ad, the bigger the results. What's the use of catching one fish with a little net, when a bigger one will catch a hundred?"
    "But the cost is proportionately greater?"
    "No, it isn't. In the majority of instances, the bigger the space I buy the lower the rate I pay. Besides, the public admire enterprise in an advertiser, and if he makes an imposing show people are more apt to be interested than if he made a timid bid for publicity in a few lines."
    "When did you open the New York office?"
    "Ten years ago. We first advertised in the New York papers in 1888. We used the World and the Press, and the ads wre placed for us by Mrs. Macdonald, then connected with the advertising end of some of the New York daillies. The lady is now in the Klondike, I believe."
    "Did you expect to do a better business in New York?"
    "Naturally. Besides, our coming here was part of a plan Madame Ruppert had and which we immediately carried out. This was to reach the very best New York society, which, of course, means the best in America. In order to do this we sent out thosands of dainty circulars to the names in the Elite Directory. These were followed by beautifully engraved cards of invitation to hear Madame Ruppert lecture on the 'Complexion' at the Fifth Avenue Theater. The theater was crowded with a large and ultra-fashionable audience that manifested the greatest interest in what the lecturer said. Those lectures, afterwards repeated by special request, made us many friends in New York and induced Madame Ruppert to lecture later at the Tremont Temple in Boston, and the Chestnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, at both of which places her New York success was duplicated. Many steady customers of the best society in New York, Boston and Philadelphia are still on our books as a result of those lectures nine years ago."
    "When you came to New York, you enlarged your advertising territory?"
    "Yes, we gradually extended all over the country, establishing branch offices in large cities and advertising in the newspapers by half and whole pages."
    "You found that this paid you?"
    "We kept at it until it did pay us. It is of no use to fire a shot and run away. We stood to our guns and kept on firing until we had captured the place. We knew the value of our goods, and that a single trial would mean a regular customer. Hence we bent all our energies to secure that single trial."
    "Does your Face Bleach really help the complexion, Mr. Hill?"
    "Well, I suppose most advertisers have to answer similar qusetions about their goods, and yet they are irritating questions. The best way to answer yours is by asking you another. Do you suppose that well-known society people, representing both the wealth and brains of this city, would keep on sending their checks year after year for the Face Bleach if they did not derive actual benefit from it? You may look at the letters yourself, but remember the names are not for publication."
    Mr.Hill here handed from a file a number of letters than unquestionably came from the Fifth avenue houses of many of New York's multi-millionaires, and he showed the reporter several checks that bore the signatures of well-known society women.
    This prompted the question:
    "Which New York paper have you found best for your business, Mr. Hill?"
    "The Mail and Express has, perhaps, yielded us the best returns. It goes to a good class of people, the class we want, and it is a paper that really reaches the homes - there is no doubt of it."
    "Do you get your society patrons from that paper?"
    "Possibly - some, but as I told you before, many of our fashionable New York customers came to us through the lectures. Then again, we have used the Herald, and that goes to a good class of people too."
    "You have used the magazines also?"
    "Oh, yes, largely, all of them, and also many of the illustrated weeklies."
    "Which of the magazines yielded you the best returns?"
    "Even if I knew it would not be fair for me to answer the question. If you should quote me as saying that any particular magazine had been better than another, my words might lead other advertisers astray."
    "In what way?"
    "You can't judge either magazines or newspapers indiscriminately in that way. Mediums that are really good for your business - which, you should remember, is a peculiar one - might be utterly worthless to other advertisers. The newspapers and magazines that have paid us might not pay others, and those that have been useless to us might yield big returns to some advertisers. You know a great deal depends on what is advertised, no matter what medium you are considering."
    "Do you prepare your own ads, Mr. Hill?"
    "Mostly, yes. I have tried some of the so-called experts, but their work has never brought in the results that we have obtained from my own work. Possibly this is because my entire attention is given to the subject and I concentrate all my efforts on producing successful ads."
    "Your sales like your advertising are subject to seasons, I presume?"
    "Yes. Spring and summer are our best seasons. They constitute two thirds of our business year, and experience has taught me that advertising in fall and winter does not produce the desired results."
    "Have you ever done outdoor advertising?"
    "No, and we don't intend to. I can not be made to believe that either paint or posters are good for our business. We aim almost exclusively at reaching the better classes of the fair sex, and I do not think that wall and fence advertising appeals to them. Besides, we have a story to tell in each ad we put out, and outside advertising must be brief to be successful. Understand, I am not decrying outdoor advertising, except as it relates to my business. I believe it is a very good thing for many advertisers, but, as I said before, in choosing the medium, the thing to be advertised must be considered."
    "What is your idea of giving or sending samples of your goods?"
    "I think it is a very good plan. In the first place it conveys the idea that you have an honest confidence in your own goods. Secondly, it secures a trial of your goods, whjich, if meritorious, is certain to lead to future custom, and thirdly, it impresses the public with your generosity, and removes the popular impression that all advertisers are "graballs." Again, it is but fair to the public that it should first try a strange article that you want it to buy. Sampling is a costly process, but it pays, and pays well, provided, of course, that your goods are all right."
    "Do you use many country newspapers?"
    "Quite a number, yet in spite of their low rates it would surprise you to learn that they do not pay us so well, proportionately, as the city papers. The bulk of our trade, in fact, is among the society ladies of the big cities throughout the country."
    "I presume that druggists generally handle your goods?"
    "Yes, and department stores also, and the latter sell ten times as much as the former. Nevertheless, we sell a vast quantity of goods by mail. Ladies prefer to deal with us direct, even though they can buy our goods at cut rates in some of the stores. They are, perhaps, somewhat timid about asking in person for the Face Bleach. It is a much easier matter to send for it by mail, in spite of the extra cost."
   "I must thank you, Mr. Hill, for the courtesy of this interview."
    "PRINTER'S INK is welcome to know what I know about the advertising of our goods. Kindly give my regards to the Little Schoolmaster."
Printer's Ink : A Journal for Advertisers, June 22, 1898

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