The man who whispers down a well,

About the goods he has to sell,

Won’t reap as many golden dollars

As he who climbs a tree and hollers.

~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague

Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.

~Author unknown, early 1900s

With no ads, who would pay for the media? The good fairy?

~Samuel A. Thurm (1918–2006)

Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.

~Mark Twain

What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public.

~Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879–1962)

I think that I shall never see

A billboard lovely as a tree.

Indeed, unless the billboards fall

I’ll never see a tree at all.

~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), “Song of the Open Road”

When a man throws an empty cigarette package from an automobile in California, he is liable to a fine of $50. When a man throws a billboard across a view, he is liable to be richly rewarded.

~Edmund G. Brown (1905–1996)

How can you put on a meaningful drama or documentary that is adult, incisive, probing, when every fifteen minutes the proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper?

~Rod Serling, speech at Ithaca College (New York), quoted in The Reader’s Digest, 1982

Altogether too many retailers look upon advertising as some sort of magic, which when properly handled, will bring the customer out… And they regard the advertising man as a sort of modernized and de luxe edition of the Pied Piper, who has only to play the right tune to fill the store with customers and the cash drawer with money. Now if these conceptions were the proper ones, business success would be the simplest thing in the world.

~Walter E. Weld, 1918

And there is no question but that you can’t sustain a mood, a dramatic mood of any particular kind, when at the end of the climactic moment of the scene, out come a couple of dancing rabbits with toilet paper.

~Rod Serling, quoted in Alan B. Howes, Teaching Literature to Adolescents: Plays, 1968

Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it. It is carried on by means of printed notices, signboards, placards and above all, owing to the simplicity of the human mind, by pictures.

~Stephen Leacock, “The Perfect Salesman: A Complete Guide to Business — The Whole Art of Advertising,” The Garden of Folly, 1924

Such verbal litter is to language as Muzak is to music. As advertising blather becomes the nation’s normal idiom, language becomes printed noise.

~George F. Will, 1977

Whatever you promise the public in your advertising, or whatever you lead the public to expect, even though not explicitly stated, is what the public gets sore about if it isn’t delivered, and the explosion of a grouch is heard much farther than the gentle hum of satisfaction. It’s better by far to deliver more than you promise than to promise more than you can deliver.

~Walter E. Weld, 1918

Advertising… will twist and adulterate any words it lays pen or tongue to for public consumption (free, meaning “if you buy something else”; instant, meaning “ten minutes of fast stirring”; optional, “it costs more”; giant economy size, meaning “spill what you save”)…

~Leonard Louis Levinson, Webster’s Unafraid Dictionary, 1967

Simply stated, advertising is the means taken to attract attention to an article or service that is for sale. By this we mean not the false and dishonest methods of unprincipled men and companies that have marked publicity… but the fair and honest statements put forth by those who are selling reliable merchandise to an intelligent and thinking public.

~Frederick J. Allen, “The Growth of Advertising,” Advertising as a Vocation, 1919

Let advertisers spend the same amount of money improving their product that they do on advertising, and they wouldn’t have to advertise.

~Will Rogers

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.

~Norman Douglas, South Wind, 1921

Few people have an entirely neutral attitude toward advertising. The business by its very nature compels interest and this interest speedily drives one either into bitter enmity or violent championship… It is a grave question whether a correct appraisement of advertising as a factor in modern business has been retarded more by ignorant denunciation or by ignorant championship. One of the great needs of the advertising business is that the universal interest in it should be more intelligent.

~Paul T. Cherington, 1919

It has also been whispered about that I hate television commercials. Once again I plead “not guilty.” I love them. Oh, I readily admit that they are noisy, nauseating, ridiculous, dull, boring, and tasteless… but so are many other things… The difference — and herein lies the reason I love commercials — the difference is that one can turn them off. This is an epoch-making breakthrough. In the entire history of sadism, the television commercial is the only instance where Man has invented a torture and then provided the victim with a means of escape. What is interesting is that so few people avail themselves of the opportunity.

~Alfred Hitchcock, 1965

The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket.

~George Orwell

This may be understood when we realize what the world was like before advertising existed. Christopher Columbus, we are told, spent eighteen years vainly trying to persuade the sovereigns of Europe to discover America. Under present conditions all he would have needed to do would have been to circulate among the Kings a form letter with the heading DO YOU WANT A CONTINENT? or put a picture of himself on the paper with one hand extended towards a cloud in the sky and the legend This Man Discovers Continents…

~Stephen Leacock, “The Perfect Salesman: A Complete Guide to Business — The Whole Art of Advertising,” The Garden of Folly, 1924

Let the public discover that 5 per cent of your advertising is exaggeration, and it immediately suspects the other 95 per cent.

~Walter E. Weld, 1918

Advertisers constantly invent cures to which there is no disease.


Our leading advertisers have richly proved that the public will believe anything if they are told of it often enough.

~Arnold Bennett (1867–1931)

Someone invented the automobile,

And good Americans took the wheel

To view American rivers and rills

And justly famous forests and hills —

But somebody equally enterprising

Had invented billboard advertising…

~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), “Look What You Did, Christopher!”

Many merchants who try to write their own advertising make a fizzle of it because they are too close to their own business to see it in the proper perspective. They look at it from their own standpoint rather than from the standpoint of the public.

~Walter E. Weld, 1918

Moreover, the service of advertising is not confined to the world of trade. There are innumerable good causes which must ever depend upon the best and most skillful methods of publicity for their success and usefulness to mankind.

~Frederick J. Allen, “The New Conception of Advertising: Service to the Public,” Advertising as a Vocation, 1919

…”Madison Avenue,” that mythical advertising copy writer who is supposed to persuade us to wallow in cosmetics and tail-fin cars.

~Archibald MacLeish, in LIFE, “Eloquent Guides to America’s National Purpose,” 1960
[A]dvertising is just one more item added to the Pictured Vision of Unreality, better than life itself.

~Stephen Leacock, “The Perfect Salesman: A Complete Guide to Business — The Whole Art of Advertising,” The Garden of Folly, 1924

Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic.

~Samuel Johnson, 1759

So long as there’s a jingle in your head, television isn’t free.

~Jason Love

Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.

~Samuel Johnson, 1759

Good wine sells itself.

~German proverb

There are some, however, that know the prejudice of mankind in favour of modest sincerity. The vendor of the beautifying fluid sells a lotion that repels pimples, washes away freckles, smooths the skin, and plumps the flesh; and yet, with a generous abhorrence of ostentation, confesses, that it will not restore the bloom of fifteen to a lady of fifty.

~Samuel Johnson, 1759

…advertising is but one form of salesmanship. As a customer’s mind must pass through the four stages of Attention, Interest, Desire, and Resolve to buy before any sale, however great or small, can be made, so must advertising, to be effective, attract attention, stimulate interest, and create a desire in the mind of the reader sufficient to bring him to your store. Whereupon it is up to the salesman to bring about the resolve to buy, and thus complete a sale which has already passed through the preliminary mental stages.

~Walter E. Weld, 1918

The same media people that claim violence on TV doesn’t influence people, are perfectly willing to sell you advertising time.


The first essential of a good advertisement or notice is that it must be brief.

~Stephen Leacock, “The Perfect Salesman: A Complete Guide to Business — The Whole Art of Advertising,” The Garden of Folly, 1924

MAGAZINES A game of chance, the object being to locate a needle of reading-matter in a haystack of advertisements.

~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914

ad infinitum Television commercials on “The Late Show.”

~Leonard Louis Levinson, Webster’s Unafraid Dictionary, 1967

You know what I hate about the word brand? It implies that whatever you’re doing, you wouldn’t be doing it unless the cameras were rolling. That’s not us. New Amsterdam doesn’t have a brand. It has a creed. We help people.

~New Amsterdam, “This Be the Verse,” 2021, written by Graham Norris, based on a book by Eric Manheimer [S4, E5, Max]

In general, they refused to eat anything that hadn’t danced on TV.

~Erma Bombeck

I suppose the best brand is just being yourself.

~Ted Lasso, “Rainbow,” 2021, written by Bill Wrubel [S2, E5]

Better by far spend two whole days on a quarter page ad, and have it right, than fill a whole page full of bombastic piffle and senseless inanities…

~Walter E. Weld, 1918

So when people see mustaches now, they think hipster, not Hitler. And that, people, is the power of creative rebranding.

~black‑ish, “Crazy Mom,” 2014, written by Gail Lerner, Njeri Brown, and Devanshi Patel  [S1, E4]

And that is the whole secret of successful advertising. A good store, selling good goods at right prices, is the foundation… No advertising should be better than the store behind it.

~Walter E. Weld, 1918

Beneath this slab

John Brown is stowed.

He watched the ads,

And not the road.

~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), “Lather As You Go”

The trouble with us in America isn’t that the poetry of life has turned to prose, but that it has turned to advertising copy.

~Louis Kronenberg

When the historian of the Twentieth Century shall have finished his narrative, and comes to search for the sub-title which shall best express the spirit of the period, we think it not at all unlikely that he may select “The Age of Advertising” for the purpose.

~Printers’ Ink, 1915, John Irving Romer, editor

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