So clever are these methods of advertising and so successful are they in reaching great numbers of people, that if reputable physicians would take lessons of them, they might conduct a health crusade that would exterminate tuberculosis, diminish the use of alcohol and tobacco, and save thousands of babies that die unnecessarily. The theory of patent-medicine advertising is sound. It emphasizes the joys of health, the beauty of health, the earning power of health. It adapts its message to season, event, and need. It offers testimonials of real persons cured. It is all-appealing, promising, convincing,—a fearful menace to health when the remedies offered are dishonest, a universal opportunity for promoting health if the cure is genuine.
A classic example of health advertising that promotes health is Sapolio. The various hygiene lessons that have promoted Sapolio have done much to raise the standard of living in the United States. Few eminent physicians have done so much for public health as the "Poor M.D. of Spotless Town who scoured the country for miles around, but the only case he could find was a case of Sapolio."
Recent press discussions about furnishing free eyeglasses to the children in the public schools have so enlightened people as to the need for expert examination of their eyes that opticians will be forced to employ competent oculists to make the preliminary examination and to see that the glasses are properly adjusted. In spite of the long mis-education by makers of corsets, the persistent advertising of "good health" and "common-sense" waists has gained an increasing number of recruits from the ranks of the self-persecuting. It is only a matter of time when the term "stylish" will be transferred to the advocates of health, because advertisers who tell the truth will, if persistent, gain a larger patronage than advertisers of falsehoods; there is profit in retaining old customers. The advertisement of a window device for "Fresh air while you sleep" will make prevention of tuberculosis more profitable than "sure cures" that lie and kill.
A man deserves profit who sends this message to millions of readers:
There are three kinds of cleanliness:
First, the ordinary soap-and-water cleanliness. Second, the so-called "beauty" cleanliness. Third, prophylactic cleanliness, or the cleanliness that "guards against disease."
But the man who sells soap ought to be the one to use this advertisement, not a man who sells toothwash that, when pure, is little better than water, that is seldom pure, and that always hurts the teeth. Many children and adults are being cured of flat foot by men who make money by selling shoes designed to strengthen the arch of the foot. Millions would never know how to discover the evil effects upon themselves of coffee and alcohol except for money-making advertisements. Little Jo's Smile taught a nation that the majority of crippled children are victims of neglect on the part of adult consumptives.
Certain it is that advertising is an art promoted by the severest competition of the cleverest brains. It is a force which we cannot afford to ignore. If we can harness it to the promotion of aids to health, it will do more good than all the hygiene books ever written. To this end we must educate ourselves to distinguish between goods which do what they profess to do and those which do not. A good eye opener would be to keep for a week clippings from a high-priced daily paper, a penny daily paper, and one or two representative magazines, including a religious paper. Teachers and parents can very easily interest children in such clippings. Moreover, they can use the bulletin method, the stereopticon exhibit, the cumulative illustration of a fact, which is the essence of successful advertising. Boards of health can use all the typographical aids to clear understanding,—cuts, diagrams, interesting anecdotes. In New York both the health board and the school board have issued circulars and given illustrated lectures, some of them being in school and some on public squares. Medical and sanitary societies and other educators can be induced to follow what a successful business man has called the three cardinal rules of advertising:
First, put your advertisement where it will be seen. (Tell your story where it will be heard.)
Second, write it so that people will read it. (Tell it so that people will understand it.)
Third, tell the truth, so that people will believe it.