Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Emotional War Copy

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Emotional War Copy


During World War II, there were different techniques that were created to help fund the war. One technique that was developed was the use of War bonds. War bonds were what the people could buy that would help with the expenses of the war. These too, like any other product, needed advertisements.

There was language used in many of these advertisements that could make one wonder whether the company was pushing the use of emotional language to get the attention of the reader. In EMOTIONAL WAR COPY (based on an interview by G. A. Nicolas with Clyde Bedell, sales manager, The Fair, Chicago), the author describes why the company used such language in their advertisements. “If emotional advertising copy is not very -good it is very bad. It either grabs right hold of the heart and impresses the mind – or is sickly, sloppy of mawkish” (EMOTIONAL WAR COPY).

An organization was created in Chicago to regulate the advertisements used in their media. They were called the Chicago Retail Merchants Association. They decided the type of language that should be used in these ads. They also decided the most effective set up for these advertisements. The ads would start off with a very moving story such as a letter from a soldier to his mother while he was away at war. This took up about ¾ of the page and then towards the bottom would be where they would ask for the support of the people. The Chicago Retail Merchants Association thought “readers who didn’t care to finish the copy after starting it, might logically, after wondering what it was all about, glance toward the bottom and see another starting point and thus get the burden of the message there.”

Clyde Bedell, who was the Chairman of the Chicago Retail Merchants Association, was also the author of How to Write Advertising That Sells. “After two advertisements had appeared, an agency principal saw Mr. Bedell at a country club and belligerently said the copy was entirely counter to all the theories expounded in his book” (EMOTIONAL WAR COPY).

Is it that the war causes the public to be viewed differently? Would everyone be moved by these sad emotional stories and would this lead them to automatically purchase these bonds? These advertisements were basically insulting the intelligence of the public. Bedell wrote a book on advertising so he knew how to approach the public, “It is far more important to know your prospect than your product. If you know human nature you can sell anywhere and almost anything” (Bedell, How to Write Advertising That Sells). However, he went against his beliefs to get a sale. Though the campaign was success there is no way to measure if it was because of these adds.

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