What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Every particular in repairing at HALF the price charg’d by others.”
John Simnet regularly advertised his services as a watchmaker in newspapers published in New York in the early 1770s. Several of his competitors also ran advertisements, but Simnet placed notices so frequently that he achieved a much greater level of visibility in the public prints than other watchmakers in the city. In the early 1770s, only Thomas Hilldrup’s notices in several newspapers published in Connecticut rivaled the dissemination of Simnet’s notices, a development that may have prompted Simnet to advertise in the Connecticut Courant. Simnet’s advertisements were often so lively (or so cantankerous) that the Adverts 250 Project has traced his marketing efforts, especially his feuds with other watchmakers, for nearly five years, beginning with his first advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette in 1769 and continuing with his notices in New York after he relocated in 1770. Considering how much money he invested in marketing, the watchmaker apparently believed that his advertisements yielded results.
For instance, Simnet ran two advertisements in the October 18, 1773, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, one in the standard issue and one in the advertising supplement. The one in the supplement had been running for quite some time, but the one in the standard issue was new. The watchmaker deployed some of the same appeals in both advertisements, especially underscoring that he undertook “every particular in repairing [watches] at HALF the price charg’d by others, and will keep them in proper order in future, gratis.” Simnet believed that the combination of bargain prices and additional services at no charge cultivated and secured relationships with customers. Perhaps he even discovered during his conversations with clients that was indeed the case, a rudimentary form of research into the effectiveness of his marketing strategies. Simnet also listed his prices for cleaning watches to make comparison shopping easier for prospective clients. In the new advertisement, he once again incorporated a claim that he frequently made about his status as the “only regular London watch-maker” in New York. He received his training in London and had decades of experience as a watchmaker there. Simnet often implied that made his skills superior to competitors who only had experience working in the colonies; on occasion, he explicitly stated that was the case. Compared to some of his notices, the two advertisements in the October 18 edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury were rather placid. For the moment, Simnet did not seek to benefit from creating controversy. Instead, he used multiple advertisements to keep his name and his services in front of the eyes of prospective customers as they perused the newspaper.