World-Wide Publicity for the League of Nations
[Mr. J. Murray Allison, whose " First Essays in Advertising" we reviewed a few nuinths ago, is one of the chief experts on" publicity " in England.—ED. SPECTATOR.] THE diagram at the head of this page represents the volume of publicity given in the Times, the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail and the Manchester Daily Dispatch collectively to the League of Nations and its activities during the thirteen months which ended on September 30th last. These four journals have been chosen as re- presentative of the Press of Great Britain. The number Df columns devoted to League matters in these journals may be accepted as a measure of the publicity enjoyed by the League in the Press of this country as a whole.
The chart is divided into thirteen perpendicular sections, each representing one month. Horizontally it is divided into equal sections, each representing five columns of newspaper space. The figures indicated by the graph have been arrived at by careful measurements day by day, and include space occupied by news items, reports of proceedings, leading and special articles, correspon- dence and quotations from other (including foreign) journals. No differentiation has been made between opinions for and against. Everything printed about the League has been included.
The first thing that strikes the eye .in the graph is the extraordinary irregularity of the curve. It is more than irregular ; it is spasmodic. There are four distinct peaks. The first occurs during the second month of the period under review (October, 1925), when Sir Austen Chamberlain went to Switzerland and fanned. into life what was called " the Locarno spirit "--a phrase then possessing high " publicity value."
The second peak registers another high-water mark in December, 1925, and may be summed up in one word —Mosul. The third represents the occasion of Sir Austen Chamberlain's second visit to Switzerland, when the Locarno spirit was expected to materialize into some- thing more substantial, but disappointed many hopes because there was not enough informed public opinion here or abroad to back it, or Sir Austen, or any other powerful friend of the League.
This particular peak of publicity was reached only because the League appeared to be tottering on the brink of disaster. Had there been no crisis, had everything proceeded according to plan, news from Geneva might have been found amongst the " also rans." There was a feeling of peril, however, and so the League had a big, if not a good, Press.
The fourth peak indicates the recent fillip given to League publicity when the representative of Germany took his seat on the League Council.
The average man, contemplating the graph, would be forgiven if he imagined the League of Nations to be an organization similar to the British Association, an organization which met at certain regular intervals for the purpose of discussion, about which much was printed during its sittings, but which passed into oblivion until it met again. The average man does not think it re- markable that nothing, or practically nothing, is printed about the League for long periods.
He is informed one morning that Italy has been threatening to do dreadful things to the League if the League does not behave as Italy thinks it ought to behave, or that Brazil threatens to resign, or that Spain has resigned. He reads, if he is sufficiently interested, that some kind of squabble is going on about permanent seats, or semi-permanent seats, on the Council of the League. He is shocked to learn that Sir Austen Cham- berlain is alleged to have made a private " deal " with the Spanish or another Ambassador. He is told of semi-private meetings between two and sometimes three individuals whose names count at the moment. Some- times three or four of these little semi-private meetings are taking place at one and the same time. The names of the little villages where they take place are apt to assume enormous importance in the estimation of foreign editors, who begin to write about them in a kind of political shorthand. They say, " Remember Corfu," for instance, just as an historian would say, " Remember the Maine." In a year or so we may read the 'sentence, " It is the inheritance of Locarno," and we shall be expected to understand all that that sentence means or implies, just as we are expected with greatei reason to understand what is meant by " The heritage of Trafalgar." A new jargon is brewing, and it is becoming more and more difficult for the average man or woman to follow the news of and comment upon the League.
If you were to ask the man in the street what the League of Nations stands for, he would reply vaguely that he understood it was an organization of all the nations to prevent war. If you asked him how the League of Nations would act in that peaceful capacity, he would not be able to tell you, because he does not know. lie has never been told. If you asked him what the League of Nations had accomplished, he would not be able to answer you, for the same reason.
Perhaps it would not be fair to ask him how many nations were represented in the League of Nations, and although it might be fair to ask him what nations were not represented, he would W.. be able to tell you. He would indeed not be able to tell you by how many seats the British Empire was represented on the Council. I wonder how long this impenetrable fog will be allowed to enfold the League and its doings ?
How can the League be expected to accomplish its ends if it continues to operate where there is no informed public opinion ? The four papers chosen as repre- sentative of the British Press have printed during the last twelve months some 270 columns about the League of Nations, less than 70 columns each ; a little more than one column per week each in twelve months. Less than one-tenth of what has been printed about one drapery concern in London ; less than one-tenth of what has been printed about one popular cigarette ; less than one-tenth of what has been printed about one brand of soap. What is the explanation ? It appears to me to be simple enough. The great majority of editors of the daily journals are newstasters. They know from ex- perience what the public is likely to read, and what it is likely to ignore, if not to resent ; and one thing the public is apt to ignore, if not to resent, is news about something of which it knows nothing. Editors and their representa- tives may know all about the League of Nations, but the public does not. For that small minority who know what is going on, who know what it all means, the newspapers provide a concentrated news service written, as I say, in a kind of political shorthand now rapidly degenerating into jargon. Is it strange that the public pays scant attention to the affairs of the League except on the odd occasions when there is a " stunt " on ?
In an atmosphere of widespread intelligent opinion the League will flourish ; in its continued absence it will languish. The people should be informed in simple language about the League's constitution, what it stands for, what it has already accomplished, what it is now doing, or attempting to do, and what it hopes to do not only in the near but in the more remote future.
This information should not be imparted once or twice or a dozen times, but continually and persistently until the whole mass of the people understand the League and its more obvious affairs as intimately as they understand the rules of cricket.
The first step is to clear the ground and start from the very beginning.
What brought about the League ?
Who brought it about ?
What is its constitution ?
What is its plan, scope and power ?
What has it so far accomplished ?
When the answers have been rammed home to such an extent that every intelligent man and woman is acquainted with them, the readers of the daily newspapers will expect and demand news about the League of Nations, and the editors will supply it. But even a full news service would need supplementing in the form of regular bulletins issued from Geneva and printed in the newspapers with the League's authority. There would be no difficulty, if this were done, in creating and holding a public opinion intensely favourable to the League. To put it crudely, the League has " got the goods." It is only a question of sustained publicity. That publicity does not so far exist, and is not likely ever to take place in sufficient volume to affect the present situation. The League itself, therefore, and its friends, should purchase the publicity in the form of straight Press advertising. It is the only way.
The campaign envisaged would not confine itself to Great Britain and Ireland. There is nothing parochial about this idea. The plan calls for the use of the Press of every country represented in the League of Nations. What space would be necessary in each journal utilized it is difficult, if not impossible, even to conjecture. But as it is advisable to get at some idea of cost, I propose to assume the maximum space necessary to be one column per issue in all daily newspapers, two columns per issue in all Sunday journals and one page per issue in all organs of opinion at home and abroad.
The space need not necessarily be used in that form. The idea of a column per day is not arbitrary, but it enables us to figure out the cost beforehand. It is, I think, a maximum, and if that amount of space properly utilized does not succeed in forming a powerful and world- wide public opinion in favour of the League, then we might as well throw up the sponge and begin to collect flint arrow heads.
It is quite possible that the cost of the campaign may turn out to be very much less than the estimate-50 per cent. less or even 75 per cent. less. In other words, the public may respond to the campaign more readily than I imagine. It is impossible to judge. That is why I budget for the maximum effort.
Three of the leading advertising agents have been kind enough to supply me with an estimate of cost.
It follows :—
£ Great Britain and Ireland, for twelve months ..
786,000 The Continent of Europe ..
782,000 The Overseas Dominions and Dependencies
218,000 The South American Republics and Japan ..
I have excluded from the estimate the Press of the United States of America, because the launching of an advertising campaign in favour of the League of Nations would be regarded as propaganda pure and simple, with the object of drawing that country into the League, and would be from that point of view undoubtedly resented. Excluding the United States, therefore, it will cost round about £2,000,000 to tell the world— not only the British Empire—all there is to know about the League of Nations, assuming it takes one whole year to tell the story and drive it home.
It is a great sum ; a little larger perhaps than the sum spent yearly by Messrs. Lever Brothers in Great Britain alone in advertising soap ; but less than the sum expended by one firm in advertising cigarettes. A great sum, yet less than one-third of one per cent. of the amount now expended annually by the nations upon armaments. A great sum, but only a tenth of the cost of one day of the late War.
It would be interesting to be able to compare this sum with the probable cost of the next great war, if it happens. But no expert can tell us what that cost might be.
J. MURRAY ALLMON.