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Hanns Kropff, "Women as Shoppers" (1926)

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The woman with a profession, unburdened by crude household worries and in possession of more money that she can dispose of freely, wants simply to be a woman in her leisure time. She does not think so much of the price if you convince her that your goods will make her life easier, more pleasant, and nicer. Like the housewife her first question in regard to a fashion advertisement is: does it become me? And like the former, she is interested only in the one pictured, and not in the dozen presented in the text. She strives for new knowledge in order to advance herself, but learning by being entertained is most congenial to her. Women politicians and parliamentarians are captivated by a pretty and skillful speech, even if the calculation is wrong, even if the statistical figures do not add up and even if after the third word all the men are already shaking their heads. In short, having a profession has not changed her in her heart of hearts. She remains a woman.

You see that it is not easy for men to write texts for women. It is even harder to illustrate such texts. Give your drafts, pictures, and texts to women to evaluate—not your wife or your daughter or a lady who knows what is at issue but a complete outsider. A woman’s judgment is quickly influenced when she knows why she is supposed to give it.

Everything that has been said already applies to an even greater extent to illustrations. If a good picture is worth a thousand words, then ten thousand good words will not induce any woman to look at an ugly or false picture. The effect of the ad stands and falls with the picture. They look first of all at the picture, and if it appeals to them, they read the text. Something incorrect in fashion, a badly arranged kitchen, or a false step in the care of the children, everything that is ridiculous, impossible, or horrible to women occasions them to pass over the ad immediately in scorn and irritation.

Without a doubt the majority of women would rather look at a pretty, appetizing girl than an ugly one. But the ever-cheerful “sweet girl” performing the dirty chores in the public toilet wearing elegant evening gloves is even more ridiculous for women than for men.

Pure text ads, be they ever so clear and aesthetically pleasing, do not interest women. Mere text is too cold and structural for them. Not even trimmings and borders help matters. On the other hand, many women, out of curiosity and the desire for sensation, read the personal ads and the announcements of weddings and engagements, carefully. A clever ad in close proximity to these generally succeeds.

Let us summarize: ads for women must be as personal as possible. They must take into account the typical female characteristic: to agree without reservation, or to repudiate absolutely. Women see things with their eyes—nothing can move them to read an ad that, for some reason or other, does not appeal to them on first sight.

The young women of the postwar period distinguish themselves in some things very clearly from their sisters of 1914. Their bodies, freed from the corset, reasonably dressed, and athletically trained, have become more natural and prettier. Their minds, steeled by need and the worries of war and sharpened by the business of work, are freer and clearer. Their demeanor, although more tomboyish, is easier and less forced than it was in the times when it was thought that the solution to the problem of the erotic was solved by hushing it up. The fellowship of young men and women, often slandered and abused, has become a fact in many parts of Europe.

A new race of women is growing up in Europe, consciously demanding the rights from which they have been barred by the slavery to convention of earlier times.

Source of English translation: Hanns Kropff, “Women as Shoppers” (1926), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 660-62. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: Hanns Kropff, “Frauen als Käuferinnen,” Die Reklame. Zeitschrift des Verbandes deutscher Reklamefachleute (July 1926), pp. 649-50.

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