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This Way to the Egress

Banes at 12:00AM, May 3, 2018
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PT Barnum was a fascinating character, running “freak shows”, museums, and concert tours, and operating as an author and legislator/politician.

Apparently the phrase attached to him, “There's a sucker born every minute” is not necessarily something he
ever said.

As shocking as it is to modern sensibilities, Barnum's early work in “Freak Show” exhibitions were masterworks of marketing and salesmanship. He marketed the ‘world’s oldest woman', allegedly over 160 years old, and then upon her death, sold tickets to her autopsy that revealed she was about 80 (and had not been George Washington's nurse as claimed).

Other “curiosities” he exhibited were the Fiji Mermaid, Tom Thumb, and Cheng and Eng, the conjoined twins.

He apparently believed that a hoax in advertising was perfectly acceptable if the customers got enjoyment/value for their money, but found actual fraud and deception to be reprehensible.

At one point, his museum would remain full for too long, which did not allow new paying customers to enter, so Barnum had a sign saying “This Way to the Egress”, which people assumed was some kind of creature or curiosity. They would go through a door which led outside, and would close and lock behind them, so they would have to buy another ticket to re-enter!

(Egress is a snazzy word for “Exit”; not sure if everybody knows that these days, but apparently they didn't back then at least!)

The little bit I know of PT Barnum calls to mind other, more modern and maybe less scrupulous “marketing schemes” that used to appear in comics. Things like X-Ray Specs and the infamous Sea Monkeys with those adorable cartoon ads that captured the imagination!

Does this kind of marketing razzle dazzle have any place in webcomics? Personally I don't think there's much of a place for it these days. But we have to get eyeballs on our stuff somehow! How do you draw people in to look at your work?

comment

anonymous?

KimLuster at 8:32PM, May 4, 2018

I remember those sea monkey ads... came oh so close to ordering some!! and those Ripley's Believe it or not books... Since my teens, these sort of extravagant ads and displays fail to work on me but I find them fascinating in that bizarre outside-view way!! That said, I could never pull off what Barnum did, intentionally misleading people... There's a truth to the notion that if you repeat a lie often and forcefully enough, people will buy into it, even when they know it's false (the Nazis masterfully used that strategy)

bravo1102 at 9:27AM, May 3, 2018

As far as advertising webcomics? That market is saturated. It does work and creating a "hook" phrase and image is the key. Barnum was all about hyperbole. He'd put out "The oldest woman on earth; 160 years old? Claims to have been G.Washington's nurse!" It's not a lie. It's hyperbole with extravagant claims but all the claims are qualified. Just like Ripley's Believe it or Not! It could be, may be, reported to be, accounts say ... (and more than you think was verified) Ad copy could be all the superlatives your readership gives you! Put it in quotations and go with what they say. Barnum did that too.

Amelius at 8:38AM, May 3, 2018

Maybe they were expecting a pond of herons? This way to the egrets!--- Augh, I have no idea how to get folks to look at my work though. I've always depended on people who liked it telling other people. I'm actually working on ads for the first time and struggling!

bravo1102 at 7:13AM, May 3, 2018

Originally Sea Monkeys was going to be sold as "whale food" but there wasn't a market for feeding whales instant brine shrimp and it just wasn't a catchy enough name.

bravo1102 at 7:08AM, May 3, 2018

Doesn't anyone remember the great comic about myths, frauds, hoaxes, the odd and the unusual? Ripley's Believe it or Not! was all about hucksterism showing off the odd and unusual. Believe it or not.

bravo1102 at 7:05AM, May 3, 2018

Read "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science." Gold mine of crazy ideas that people believed (and still do believe. Many just won't go away) I love how when Barnum was ever taken in by a fraud, he would exhibit it as a fraud! Look up the Cardiff Giant. When Barnum had trouble buying the original; he had a copy made to show off the hoax. His museum was burned during the New York Draft riots and he had to replace many of the exhibits. Many of his surviving exhibits (and copies of same) can be seen in the various Ripley's Believe it or Not museums and appeared in the comic once upon a time.

Gunwallace at 1:58AM, May 3, 2018

Webmonkeys? Wait, hasn't that been done?

ozoneocean at 11:29PM, May 2, 2018

Seamonkeys were my favourite part of a lot of old comics! Hahaha! I wanted a comic done about them! Maybe we SHOULD be selling stuff like that in webcomics, that's a great idea ^_^


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