News of Yore: Comic Strip Ads Ineffective? – 1952

Food Firm Says Comic Strip Ads Over-rated
By Victor A. Schlich (E&P, 6/14/52)

Portland, Me. — Comic strip advertising is highly over-rated as far as food manufacturers are concerned. That’s the opinion voiced by William Northgraves, advertising manager of the Burnham & Morrill Co. of Portland, in a speech before the New England Newspa­per Advertising Executives Associ­ation here June 10.

He backed up his contention by a case history of comic strip ads used for more than a year by Burnham & Morrill, one of the nation’s largest canners of baked beans and other foods.
“We found that the convention­al type ad has the nod in food advertising, advertising studies to the contrary,” he said.

B & M has found the best ad­vertising medium for its opera­tion to be widespread use of news­papers in conjunction with a con­tinuing campaign in the four ser­vice magazines distributed by food chain stores.

Mr. Northgraves told NENAEA that his firm was mapping out a program of extended newspaper advertising for next year. “We made quite a study of comics before we got into them, and the research certainly indica­ted they were a fertile field,” Mr. Northgraves reported.

What Happened in Test
These studies indicated that comics had a great appeal to all income levels; they got an average of 699 readers per dollar spent in advertising; that the comics page was the big high traffic page on daily newspapers which would carry comic ads; that Starch ra­tings showed that 80 per cent of the people who saw comic strip ads read them through.

“But we still were a little skep­tical after all that,” he said. “To test the worth of comics we ran a test in the New York Daily Mirror—certainly a high comic-reading paper.”

The test consisted of this: A comic strip ad containing a hidden offer. Elsewhere in the same pa­per, run of the paper, another con­ventional type ad was inserted. It was the same size, but different shape and made the same offer.

“The results of that test run in April 1952 amazed us,” said Mr. Northgraves. “And they got us out of the comics field.”

The hidden offer in the comic strip ad—which by all studies got highest readership—produced only 71 requests. The conventional ad pulled in 374 requests.

“Proof enough?” he asked.

He added that his firm was a firm believer in newspaper adver­tising, considered it “a bridge be­tween national magazine advertis­ing and the retail level.”

“Papers give us a steady, better relationship with the average con­sumer. She reads her magazines once or maybe twice. The papers are read every day,” he summed up.

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