One of America’s founding fathers was also our first outstanding figure in the fields of advertising and publication. Benjamin Franklin wrote, sold and distributed advertising in a time when advertising was almost unknown. The first known magazine advertisement appeared in his General Magazine in 1741. He pioneered in both newspaper and magazine publishing and the present The Saturday Evening Post continues as one of his publications. He was also a master of sales promotion and public relations.
In his time, advertising was an amateur job. There were no rules and no precedents, and indeed, almost no advertising. However, Franklin had a natural flair for it. Although advertising was to him merely an adjunct to his other activities, he wrote excellent advertising copy. His successful efforts for retailers and other businesses made many realize the beneficial results of advertising their goods and services. His Pennsylvania Gazette contained more advertisements than the other colonial newspapers and Franklin wrote many of them himself, acknowledging their importance to the newspaper by affording advertising space a prominent place in the publication. An interesting fact that highlights the shrewd and business-savvy aspect of his personality is that Franklin advised advertisers in his newspaper of products that he too sold to underestimate the quality of their goods so as to impress a buyer with its unexpected merit.
The pioneer of printing and publishing in America, Franklin developed the Pennsylvania Gazette from a dull, poorly printed sheet to a lively, interesting and successful publication of about the size of a modern tabloid with the largest circulation in the colonies. He founded his own magazine, the General Magazine, and trained young printers to start up their own newspapers in various colonies.
Franklin was the original voice of America, selling products and services, community programs, democracy and America itself through written and spoken word.