The history of a picture's worth

The two advertisements which gave rise to the popular phrase "One picture is worth ten thousand words" appeared in the advertising trade journal then called Printers' Ink (now known as Marketing/Communications).

Various histories of the quotation exist in print. Despite early evidence to the contrary, its continued attribution as a Chinese proverb is still quite prevalent.

The phrase has endured to become an American proverb, appearing on page 465 of A Dictionary of American Proverbs, edited by Mieder, Kingsbury, and Harder and published by the Oxford University Press in 1992.

"One Look is Worth a Thousand Words"

here for a larger image)

So said a famous Japanese philosopher, and he was right -- nearly everyone likes to "read" pictures.

"Buttersweet is Good to Eat" is a very short phrase but it will sell more goods if presented, with an appetizing picture of the product, to many people morning, noon and night, every day in the year than a thousand word advertisement placed before the same number of people only a limited number of times during the year.

Good advertising for a trade marked product is nothing more nor less than the delivery of favorable impressions for it, and it does not make any difference whether they are delivered through newspaper, magazine or street car advertising.

No man or woman ever picks up a newspaper or magazine or enters a street car wondering what Heinz, Postum, Campbell, or Cream of Wheat is offering -- all the national advertiser can hope for is that his advertisement will be bumped into accidentally.

It is simply the preponderance of favorable impressions for a meritorious product that reminds the consumer to buy it again and again.

We deliver many millions of advertising impressions every day. The cars on our list carry more than 10,000,000,000 passengers a year.

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"One Picture is Worth Ten Thousand Words"

here for a larger image)

"Make a Cake for Bobby"

-- that's what this car card said every day to many millions of women. It reminded all mothers every day of a sure way to give a treat to their own children. And hundreds of thousands got an extra thrill with their next cake making because of the happy expression of the boy on the car card.

The moral of the story is that the same influence could not be created even with the same picture in any other advertising medium.

In the magazines, the reminder would not be often enough to change the average housewife's baking habit. In the newspapers, with no color, there would be no appetite appeal. On a twenty-four sheet poster, seen only for a few seconds at a time, the great appeal of the expression on the boy's face would be lost.

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