Selling the Dream


Elmer Wheeler (1903-1968), a sales lecturer and consultant, wrote an influential book in 1937 entitled "Tested Sentences That Sell." The book first popularized an advertising aphorism, “Don’t Sell the Steak—Sell the Sizzle!” This was because, as Wheeler put it, “the sizzle has sold more steaks than the cow ever did.” The principle, however, is much older than Wheeler. The idea is to suggest (but not directly assert) an association between the product and some drama, pleasure, fear, emotion, or desire. As a result, the advertisements of any period provide an indirect glimpse not only into the material culture of the period, but also into its psyche. Examine the pictures. The text has been removed, but each of them was the major portion of a newspaper or magazine ad. Can you guess what product each one was pitching?