The Liberty Gazette
September 29, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: In the days of the old Wild West, when only birds, bats, insects, and tempers flew, advertising was accomplished by means of handbills, posters, and dramatic presentations. When shady ad agents learned how easy the money came, honesty and trust were not their motivators, as the nation’s spending on advertising went from $3.5 million during the Civil War era to $75 million by the turn of the century.
But because all dark motives come to light, the trust that was lacking in those early days finally came out clean when the agency for Pear’s soap began creating ads that sold trust, more so than soap. The popular Reverend Henry Ward Beecher spoke on the virtues of Pear’s, and sales really bubbled. A few decades later Woodbury’s soap jumped in with a new idea: imply that customers would be sexier and live better lives when bathing with their product.
Printing, though, gave advertising a big boost; print was a life-changer. Before printing, people would buy from local shopkeepers who lived in their communities. With printing came opportunities to advertise and sell longer distances. With these opportunities came the problems of inventory, shipping, and other challenges, not the least of which was literacy.
By the early 20th century General Mills made a desperate attempt to save one of its products from extinction when, on Christmas Eve, 1926, on a radio station in Minneapolis, the first ad with song was aired. Sales of their cereal, Wheaties, skyrocketed, and so did the use of jingles.
The history of advertising has some notables, such as the nephew of Dr. Sigmund Freud, and "the father of spin", Ed Bernays, who convinced women to light their "torches of freedom" (and later claimed he did not know that smoking was dangerous); and Michael Levine, among whose 1,500-plus jingles was the longest-running ever - for Kit-Kat candy. He wrote that one while going up in an elevator just two floors.
When Werner Von Bron and Walt Disney teamed up to promote space exploration, consumer goods found new life by associating with NASA and soon we all drank to be like astronauts and ate Trix cereal promoted by an astro-bunny.
Mike: By the time aviation was ready for advertising, the trend was on focusing on consumer experience rather than the product itself. Airlines began promoting comfort, exotic destinations and speed. In the 1930s Braniff International Airlines advertised its Lockheed Vegas in New York as "The fastest way to the Gulf Coast, only one day." Braniff stayed with this theme as they were the only U.S. carrier to offer trips on the Concorde, albeit for a short time. Airlines advertised heavily on TV with all those sweeping shots of winged steel tubes cruising effortlessly into sunsets. Those advertisements were filmed from a specially outfitted Learjet.
When I was a kid, my cousin would drive me to Santa Ana airport to look at the airplanes on "the lot" where I would dream of one day walking up and buying one. They even had some in a showroom. Brochures for Piper Aircraft showed smiling people waiving at friends as they landed at airports in the Bahamas.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s current campaign, "You Can Fly" has sponsored television shows and documentaries. One of the most successful General Aviation airplane ad campaigns has been that of Cirrus Aircraft, whose message to nervous middle-aged non-pilot wives builds trust in safety via their ballistic parachute. The plane with a chute, "just in case," has certainly done more for sales than convincing buyers they'll look good in a Cirrus.