Advertising by Radio Cannot Be Done; It Would Ruin the Radio Business, for Nobody Would Stand for It. Mr. McQuiston in this Article, Explains Why.
THE full possibilities of the radiophone are not yet known. The popular reception given to it during the past year has been sufficient to stir the whole of our population. Radio now takes the place of both the weather and health as the chief subject of conversation. It is no wonder that just as soon as the public recognized the use of radio, advertisers gave consideration to this wonderful agency for spreading selling information. The experience that has been gained in the short time that the radiophone has been rendering service to the general public may even now give us a fair idea of some important limitations to this wonderful medium.
Whatever statements, however, that are now made are based wholly upon the possibilities of the present development of radio sending and receiving apparatus. Of course, what may follow no one can tell, but even with the present limitations the radiophone, as a means of broadcasting from a central point to great distances, will prove a wonderful benefit to mankind.
By way of preface, I wish to say that radio broadcasting will not, in my opinion, supplant, or interfere with newspapers as a medium of disseminating news, nor with concerts, churches, theatres or movies, as entertainment features.
On the contrary, it has been proved that the broadcasting of news bulletins by radio, and the publication of radio programs have increased materially the circulation of newspapers. I will risk the statement that since radio broadcasting was begun, the total circulation of all newspapers has been considerably enlarged, and I believe the publishing of radio broadcasting programs and other features pertaining to radio by the newspapers have been responsible in a very large measure for this increase.
Churches that have broadcasted their services have actually found that the attendance of services has increased rather than diminished; and although it is true that some few members of the church may prefer to hear the services while lying in bed, there are hundreds who never go to church and who, hearing the appeal of the pastors, are not satisfied to receive all their sermons by radio, but will respond to that natural desire to hear direct, and to see the speaker.
The same thing is true with reference to amusements. Certain amusement houses have had connection with our radio service for over a year and they are very glad, indeed, to continue the service because the hearing of artists by radio simply intensifies the desire to actually be present in the theater to witness the performance.
In the sporting field, the hearing of the reports from the baseball diamond; play by play, and inning by inning, will not keep people away from the game. On occasions they will take their reports in this fashion, particularly, if confined in a hospital, or at home, indisposed, or too far away to get to the ball grounds. However, the listening by radio will intensify a desire to be present at another time. I might go on to enumerate, but I think it is unnecessary to do so. It is clear enough, I think, that the radiophone will simply supplement the newspaper work, and entertainment work of all kinds, and is not an agency to fear, but rather one to make use of in the right way.
Amusement promoters, singers and other artists were alarmed when the phonograph was introduced. However, as we all know, there was no need for alarm because the phonograph has actually stimulated business for the theatres and other entertainment enterprises.
People, hearing the reproduction of voice on the phonograph, are impelled, when they can, to go to hear and see the artist.
We now arrive at the most important point of our discussion. If radio broadcasting is an agency that is rendering, and can continue to render, valuable service to the people, it must be protected. You remember the old song:
"Everybody's doing it,
Everybody's doing it,
Everybody's doing it now."
When there were few stations broadcasting from widely separated centers, the reception was satisfying; at least, there was little to disturb outside of the natural static conditions. However, quickly one sending station after another has been started and today there are all over the country pretty close to 100 stations putting out programs, if not nightly, occasionally.
It is clear, I think, that since all these stations are on the same wave-length, 360 meters, there is bound to be increasing confusion and that a Government regulation of wave-lengths is positively imperative to maintain the efficient service of radio broadcasting. This control of the use of radio is in the hands of the Department of Commerce, now giving careful consideration to the general subject, and there is now recommended a band of wave-lengths for radio broadcasting for the purpose of avoiding experiences of recent months of three and four stations broadcasting simultaneously.
However, irrespective of all this, let us come to the real subject of advertising by radio. Can it be done, and should it be done? Already the conference that has been in session in Washington to consider the proper regulation of radio broadcasting has recommended the prohibiting of advertising by radio. It is perfectly natural that this ruling should be made at this time, because if advertising were permitted, it goes without saying that all the good work that has been done in giving valuable information and pleasant entertainment for the people would be destroyed. This action of the committee is at this time very necessary, and those who have been enjoying radiophone service will surely appreciate the necessity for such action.
Let us think of the billboard for a few minutes. Why is it that the billboard has always had trouble? From the beginning there have been those who would remove it from the face of the earth. I think the answer is that somehow or another the billboard has been offensive to the people, and even though billboard promoters have raised the art to an exceedingly high standard, even in the face of this, billboard sign work is always in trouble with local and state associations.
We all know how persistently the advertising man has worked to get free advertising through the movies, and we know that it is pretty generally true that he hasn't secured it.
The reason is well known. The public will not stand for direct advertising when they go to see high class moving pictures.
Let me ask you whether the public will wish advertising to come to them through the agency of radio broadcasting. Remember that this advertising will go right into the home. It will invade the place where the family is enjoying the full benefits of privacy and detachment from business cares. The broadcasting to thousands of homes of advertising information concerning, say: "Things for women and things for men," probably the butcher with his meats; the baker with his bread; the tailor with his clothes, and the grocer with his crackers and cheese--what kind of a home will it be anyhow? You may say you can turn it on at will and turn it off when you want to, but even so, who will want it? How valuable will be the media if the public will not support it? Personally, I don't think they will support it.
Advertising must ride on some service, and in riding on that service it must not destroy the service. The editorial page of a publication pretty generally determines the quality and extent of the circulation. Therefore the value of a medium for advertising must play second fiddle to the editorial and written pages. It is, therefore, true that advertising must "stand by" until it finds a way to associate itself with radio broadcasting without, in any way, destroying the refinement and enjoyment and general satisfaction that comes from receiving news bulletins, baseball scores, lectures, sermons, bedtime stories, concerts, etc., etc.
Has advertising been tried by radio? In our own case, at the beginning of our broadcasting work we mentioned, for a short time, heating appliances and those things made by us that generally appeal to the public. We very soon found out that the people revolted at this sort of thing. They felt that we were cheapening something that was well worth while. This came to us so forcibly that we quickly dropped it and we have not been advertising anything, not even our radio apparatus, in connection with our broadcasting work.
I recall one experience that came to me shortly after trying out advertising by radio. One day last year when I visited Indianapolis and met a number of business men there, I was quizzed a great deal about radio broadcasting, and I told them something of the starting up of the "mother" station, KDKA, at Pittsburgh as a regular broadcasting station. One of the business men present asked for the privilege of telling of the experience he had had, and this being granted, he described a visit he had made to Chicago to buy a Westinghouse receiving set with all supplemental equipment. He pictured his return home and the work entailed in putting up the aerial and connecting up the battery, and that sort of thing. Then he explained that the first thing he heard was: "Electrify your home and make it modern for good housekeeping. Use electric ranges, coffee percolators, toaster stoves, and electric irons. If you are interested in a standard of quality, ask for Westinghouse.
"Now," said the speaker, "for all of this I went to Chicago and spent several hundred dollars and a great deal of my time to install it, only to get some advertising matter."
Of course, my friend told this half in jest and half in earnest, and yet it proved to me that advertising was the thing that would not easily find a welcome in the radiophone program, and our company, since that time, has omitted advertising from its broadcasting program.
There is a kind of advertising, however, which for want of a better term may be called "collective and educational," which, if properly censored, may be made a part of radio broadcasting programs; for example, talks on styles for women, the well dressed man, sanitation, the value of a photograph, etc. Addresses of this kind, not inspired by any particular institution, but given out unselfishly, naturally develop an increase of business. Some work of this kind has been done and I believe the public will support this sort of thing.
In closing, I give as my opinion that advertising must be inoffensive to the public and any advertising that enters the home must be welcome. If it is in any sense an intruder, it will fail just as an agent at the door is turned away if his appearance or manner is objectionable.
*Manager. Dept. of Publicity, Westinghouse Co.