I ciarlatani della pubblicità

Molti detrattori della modernità finiscono per identificarla con il consumismo e i ciarlatani della pubblicità. Ma la storia della pubblicità non è una storia di nefandezze, per fare questa scoperta vale la pena di leggere Ralph Harris, Arthur Seldon e Christopher Snowdon, in particolare il loro saggio “The need for advertising”.

La pubblicità spinge verso certe scelte, in questo senso presuppone una società libera, una società dove le scelte si possano compiere. Benedetto il paese con la pubblicità, allora.

… The earliest advertisements took the form of notices about books, theatres, lotteries, wigs, medical remedies, and servants, as well as guidance about property, ships, coaches, schools and charities. There was a growing volume of the lost and found type of advertisement, which, to judge from the papyri in the Cairo museum, is among the most ancient of all forms of public announcements…

Dalla pubblicità possiamo difenderci ignorandola. A volte è lei stessa che si auto-annulla. Già nel 1759 il dr. Samuel Johnson poteva dire: “…c’è tanta di quella pubblicità che non ci si fa più caso…”.

Con la rivoluzione industriale arrivò anche il commercio estero, le quantità dei prodotti in circolazione si gonfiarono e fu allora che molte cose cambiarono nel marketing dei prodotti.

Prima venditore e consumatore avevano un rapporto personale ma ora i grandi produttori dovevano farsi conoscere da anonimi consumatori al fine che la loro enorme produzione non restasse senza sbocchi.

… If the manufacturer were to keep his factory running so as to make the best use of his specialised men and machines, he was driven to tap wider circles of custom and maintain a regular flow of trade outwards to ever more distant markets…

Il costo della pubblicità fu una novità, prima non c’era. Molti critici la interpretarono come uno spreco.

Un sentimento “contro il commercio” cominciò ad elevarsi: troppi intermediari, troppi costi inutili.

Ma le grandi produzioni realizzavano economie di scala che si traducevano in prezzi bassi. operazione impossibile senza intermediari e pubblicità…

… Marshall conceded that there might be too many traders (as there might be too many workers employed in a factory), but he suggested that, instead of reviving mediaeval attacks on trade, writers should attack ‘the imperfect organisation of trade, particularly of retail trade’… Distribution costs must therefore offset, in some degree, the economies reaped by mass production…

Per la prima volta un certo “lusso” era disponibile anche per la massa dei lavoratori…

… From higher wages, families had money to spare for other than basic physical necessities, and during the second half of the nineteenth century a growing number of new products began competing for a place in the mass market. Processed foods such as condensed milk, cocoa, meat extracts and margarine appeared alongside chocolates and sweets marked with the name of national suppliers such as Cadbury, Fry and Maynard…

I grandi produttori avevano due business plan: aprire delle loro catene di distribuzione o far conoscere i loro prodotti con una pubblicità massiccia…

… To win access to the developing mass market, manufacturers could establish their own outlets for selling directly to the public, set up their own wholesaling organisation, or alternatively they could advertise over the heads of retailer and wholesaler in the effort to stimulate public demand for their goods… Examples of the first method during the closing decades of the century were seen in chemists’ goods (Boot’s, Timothy White’s), groceries (Lipton’s, Home & Colonial, Maypole, Pearks), sweets (Maynard’s), footwear (Freeman, Hardy & Willis) and in beer with the extension of tied houses)…

Il secondo metodo fu quello privilegiato, per esempio, nel campo dei medicinali.

C’è uno stretto legame tra pubblicità e stampa libera: senza la prima difficilmente nascerà mai la seconda, tanto è vero che bastò una tassa sulla pubblicità per metterla in pericolo…

… When, in 1712, a tax of one shilling was imposed on published advertisements, the politicians were deliberately aiming to curb the growth of an independent press. The fact that this was swiftly followed by many failures, including that of The Spectator, proves that, despite limited circulation and high prices, papers had already come to rely upon advertising as a source of revenue… of the nine daily papers circulating in London five were ‘primarily advertising sheets’ whilst the remainder devoted at least half their space to advertising…

I giornali nati precedentemente godevano di sussidi governativi, con relativa sudditanza…

… When The Times was established in 1785 it relied, like most other serious papers of the period, upon a direct subsidy from the politicians… ‘the daily press would never have come into existence as a force in public and social life if it had not been for the need of men of commerce to advertise. Only through the growth of advertising did the press achieve independence’…

L’abolizione della tassa sulla pubblicità fece fiorire la stampa indipendente rendendola più economica e quindi accessibile al grande pubblico, oltre a moltiplicare le scelte sulle fonti di informazione…

… Shortly afterwards, the stamp duty and paper tax were also swept away, and the 640 papers of 1855 grew to above 3,000 by the end of the century. Prices dropped, circulations moved steadily upwards, and new papers were launched, starting in the 1850s with the Daily News and the Daily Telegraph, both sold for the unheard of price of one penny… in 1896 Alfred Harmsworth started the Daily Mail, which sold at a half-penny and achieved a sale verging on one million, four years later… Because advertising was the chief source of revenue for the cheap press, the bid for circulation took the form of competitions, prizes, gifts and every kind of promotion…

Con la pubblicità arrivarono le marche e un’altra accusa verso la pubblicità: differenziare merci che non sono differenti è uno spreco di risorse…

… It was the development of a national network for press and poster advertising that enabled manufacturers to launch their branded products into widening markets. This has led some economists to blame advertising for ‘product differentiation’… The ideal of a perfect market with a homogeneous product traded by numerous suppliers none of which could get more than the ruling price was contrasted with an ‘imperfect’ market broken up into spheres of influence, each dominated by a large-scale producer selling an exclusive brand at an allegedly arbitrary price…

Ma la pubblicità, oltre a differenziare il prodotto, lubrificava i canali attraverso i quali la merce scorreva dal produttore al consumatore: un’efficienza che però dava fastidio a molti, specie agli operatori di commercio tradizionali…

… it is not true that an orderly and efficient system of competition had prevailed before the advent of mass advertising. Even when trade was still confined to simple agricultural produce, difficulties of transport and communication prevented the establishment of wide, open markets in which a single price ruled for uniform products, irrespective of the particular supplier… As the distance between producer and consumer widened, the brand-name (or some other evidence of origin) provided a convenient bridge between them. For the producer it was a way of building up goodwill and establishing a more dependable market for the products of his fixed plant and equipment. For customers, the brand enabled them to buy again those things which had previously given satisfaction as well as to avoid wasting more money on those which did not…  branding is essentially a grading device which helps the public to identify a particular product and to associate it with an expected quality…

La differenziazione del prodotto non è comunque un’esclusiva dei mercati moderni, esisteva anche nel medioevo dove gli artigiani firmavano regolarmente i propri manufatti

… From the days of mediaeval guilds, craftsmen made a practice of fixing their name or mark to their own product, as much from a feeling of pride as from the acceptance of responsibility to the purchaser…

Inevitabilmente branding e pubblicità rivoluzionarono il sistema distributivo

Prima il prodotto esclusivo e differenziato era riservato ai ricchi, ora il branding lo metteva alla portata della massa…

… We have seen that the early shops had sprung up to cater primarily for the convenience of the monied minority. Their pace was leisurely; elaborate service was the essence of their personal relationship and customers were charged accordingly…

Il branding e la differenziazione di prodotto furono la risposta ad una domanda indotta dall’innalzamento dei salari…

… It was neither the shopkeepers themselves nor even the advertisers who started the movement towards more efficient methods of retailing which spread swiftly during the later decades of the last century. As Mr Basil Yamey (1954a,b) has pointed out, the initiative came from new classes of customers, seeking better outlets for their growing purchasing power. More enterprising retailers were quick to take advantage of wider public demand for less elaborate service and keener prices…

Le catene commerciali e la pubblicità massiccia segnarono l’esclusione delle cooperative commerciali e dei negozi tradizionali…

…  in Mr Yamey’s judgement: ‘By the end of the century the department stores, multiples and vigorous small or medium scale private traders had displaced the co-operative societies as the pacemakers of change and of competition in the retail trades.’…

La merce pubblicizzata, omologata e uniformata spiazzava la fornitura particolare del piccolo commerciante. Sigarette e medicine (per la prima volta confezionate) fecero da apri-pista…

… This streamlining of retail trade was helped by the spread of advertised, branded and packaged merchandise which not only speeded the turnover of stocks but also made for easier handling by less skilled shop assistants, so that grocers, for example, could sell cigarettes, confectionery and patent medicines…

La protesta per questa invasione di pubblicità, merce a basso costo e servizi distributivi a catena fu veemente…

… Inevitably there were protests from traders’ associations against this disturbing trend towards what amounted to pre-selling goods… lower prices to compensate for less service

Avete notato: pubblicità e merce a basso costo. Un binomio che si presenterà ripetutamente nella storia…

Con la pubblicità arrivarono i ciarlatani, specie in campo sanitario dove le “cure miracolose” abbondavano…

… Prominent amongst the companies which, before 1914, were described as having been ‘built by advertising’ were medicine vendors and soap makers. Health and cleanliness could be sold to everyone, and, while low unit prices carried these products within reach of the mass market, repeat sales in millions of homes brought large profits which afforded the resources for lavish advertising campaigns… only the ignorant (or ill) could have regarded many of the claims as other than frivolous and fanciful…

L’unguento universale del ‘Professor’ Thomas Holloway era reclamizzato così…

… ‘it will mend the legs of men and tables equally well and will be found an excellent article for frying fish in’…

Il caveat emptor era la regola del mercato…

… A barely literate public was expected to be on its guard against false pretences; caveat emptor was the ruling doctrine and the customer might secure redress in the courts only when an advertiser was so incautious as to go beyond vague promises and offer a ‘guarantee’ which lawyers might accept as a part of the contract of sale…

Giusto chi dava garanzie senza attenersi ad una vaga promessa rischiava qualcosa…

Le pubblicità rozza e massiccia ottenne un risultato: la diffusione capillare del sapone. La guerra del sapone fu una delle battaglie commerciali più note del primo novecento. Fu l’avvento di saponi generici ed economici a scatenare branding, pubblicità aggressiva e ribasso dei prezzi…

… The fourfold increase in the sale of soap during the fifty years following the repeal of the duty in 1853 owed a great deal to W. H. Lever (the first Lord Leverhulme), who graduated from his father’s grocery business in Lancashire to become the leading manufacturer of soap in Britain… The very success of these companies attracted a multitude of small producers who found that soap of a sort could be made quite simply and supplied in anonymous yellow bars… Such competition drove the leading companies to use fiercer methods of promotion and more aggressive advertising… encourage ‘brand loyalty’, offered prizes based on the collection of wrappers… as a result, soap was transformed in quality and greatly reduced in price…

L’avvento delle sigarette americane in Inghilterra scatenò un’altra guerra pubblicitaria con paginate di pubblicità avversa…

… the really spectacular period of cigarette advertising occurred in 1901, when a concerted attack on the British market was threatened by the American Tobacco Company… Godfrey Phillips, having been refused all eight pages of a London paper in return for ‘a fabulous sum’, made do with four pages which he used to attack foreign goods (especially those of ‘Yankee trusts’) and urge the public to buy its own British cigarettes (then selling at five for one penny)…

Per realizzare la pace fu necessario introdurre forme di monopolio. Ecco un’altra bella coppia: pubblicità => concorrenza; mancanza di pubblicità=>monopolio. Forse il nesso causale non è quello ma ci siamo capiti…

… Stability came in December when the Imperial Tobacco Company was formed by a dozen rival firms which retained a large measure of autonomy in marketing their separate brands…

La pubblicità creò la sua domanda in molti settori ma francamente questo non sembra un inconveniente così grave, anzi…

… Consumer durables provided early proof of the serious use of advertising in building up demand for such new products as sewing machines, typewriters, cameras, bicycles and motor cars…

Quanto più la pubblicità era aggressiva, tanto più la concorrenza era forte, il che induceva prezzi bassi. Moti prodotti una volta riservati ai benestanti si resero disponibili a tutti, magari in una versione meno raffinata ma non meno funzionale. La pubblicità ebbe un ruolo nel vincere il pregiudizio contro i prezzi bassi…

… When in 1905 Ingersoll advertised his five-shilling watch, jewellers were not enthusiastic about stocking such a cheap line until advertising began to tap fresh layers of customers… When, in 1905, Gillette brought his first safety razor to Britain it cost one guinea… Advertising, employed to overcome public prejudice against all such novelties, had the effect of extending sales, stimulating competition and reducing prices…

A cavallo tra 800 e 900 la pubblicità era rozzissima, non pensiamo alle raffinatezze di oggi…

… advertisements that were ‘crude, meretricious, vulgar and dishonest’…

Era fatta de persone incompetenti e non aveva alcun valore artistico…

… training, qualifications and codes of conduct were unheard of; advertisers lacked experience, and every phase of their business lacked method and measurement; and just as the claims made in advertisements lacked moderation, their presentation lacked artistry…

Anche se a volte coinvolgeva eminenti personalità…

… From the field of literature, Agatha Christie, J. B. Priestley and W. H. Auden have written copy for advertisers, as Lamb and Byron are reputed to have done…

Tutta fondata sul sensazionalismo a volte sconfinava nell’inganno.

Veniva realizzata in modo intuitivo, senza nessun dato su cui basarsi…

… Neither data nor statistical tools existed to measure press circulation, readership, buying habits, market penetration and other records of systematic selling…

Eppure, sempre meglio ricordarlo, anche in questa versione rozza ebbe molti meriti: 1) finanziò la libera stampa 2) favorì la concorrenza e i prezzi bassi 3) allargò la produzione rendendo disponibili alle masse molti prodotti prima riservati ai ceti elevati. E’ bene sempre ricordarlo a chi invoca regole: andateci piano se non volete rompere il giochino.

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