What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“TO BE SOLD By JAMES LUCENA, At his Store on the Point.”
James Lucena’s advertisement for the “BEST sort of Teneriffe Wine of the Madeira Grape” and other wines would have looked familiar to readers of the June 16, 1766, issue of the Newport Mercury. It had also appeared in the previous issue. It would look increasingly familiar over the next month. Lucena’s advertisement appeared in the Newport Mercury in six consecutive issues: June 9, 16, 23, and 30 and July 7 and 14. Although it moved around from page to page and column to column within the newspaper, the type had been set and it retained its original appearance.
Repeating an advertisement multiple times helped sellers inform potential customers about their wares, but this practice also aided in building their brand (to use today’s marketing parlance). Through sheer repetition, Lucena prompted consumers to associate the “BEST sort” of wine from Tenerife (the largest of the Canary Islands) with his shop. The brevity of this advertisement did not allow Lucena to expand on that appeal, to say more about the qualities of the wine he sold, but he may have balanced the relative costs of running a longer advertisement fewer times or a short advertisement a greater number of times. The recognition gained from having the short advertisement appear so many times may have been one of the results Lucena desired. Some readers who saw Lucena advertise “Teneriffe Wine of the Madeira Grape” likely came to associate this product with him even when his advertisement ceased its run in the Newport Mercury.