150th Anniversary Issue

Advertising in the Daily Cal: 50 years in the past to the present

Advertising is an important source of revenue through which The Daily Californian supports its independence. While the creation of the internet has generated more advertisement options for businesses, the process of relationship-building between clients and account executives remains essential. (Lisi Ludwig / Senior Staff)

As a senior account executive working in The Daily Californian’s sales and advertising department, I’ve found myself increasingly interested in the advertising industry. Hoping to learn about how the Daily Cal’s advertising processes have changed over the years, I decided to interview two sales and advertising department alumni, Helen Marcus and Mary Mariani. Marcus joined the advertising team in 1964 as a freshman, and was business manager from 1966 to 1967. Mariani was a part of the advertising department from 1967 to 1970, serving as entertainment, production and business manager.

Movie theaters, textbook companies and airlines were examples of popular and lucrative clients for the newspaper at the time, according to Marcus. Marcus explained that, on Fridays, the Daily Cal would run ads for local churches, which would have the title of the sermon being preached.

Marcus described how the advertising team was given a lot of freedom with the copy they wrote.

“There were some advertisers — one of them was a burger place — who basically said ‘put whatever copy you want,’ ” Marcus said. “Those ads were often very rude. … We had contests in the office about inventing an ad script that would advertise the burger: ‘Want something warm between your buns?’ ”

Mariani described that the Daily Cal sometimes had to make difficult calls as to whether to value increased print revenue or more coverage of important political issues. Mariani discussed how, during the demonstrations at People’s Park, the advertising department had to decide whether it would cut lucrative ad copy for companies such as Bank of America in order to have more space to write about the protests.

Since Marcus and Mariani worked in the advertising department, the process of physically printing the advertisements has dramatically evolved.

Marcus explained how staff members used to have to go down to the printer’s office, off campus “at the crack of midnight” to print ads with a hot press and read the ad copy to make sure there were no errors. However, Marcus said, you could only read the ad copy once you put ink and paper on it.

“It was the reverse of how you would read it, which meant you were reading a story with the letters backwards, or looking at an ad backwards,” Marcus said.

This meant there were sometimes “egregious mistakes.” Similar to today, the Daily Cal had to comp the client and rerun the ad, error-free.

The intricacies of physically printing an ad then are much different than the process of running ads today. Today, online ads have opened up more options for the newspaper to gain revenue, such as social media, impressions (the number of page views an ad receives) or sponsored content.

Additionally, the transition to color printing has put a greater emphasis on the visual design of ads, and today, the Daily Cal has a robust design team that works with advertising to design custom-made artwork for clients.

Mariani said she particularly enjoyed working with small, local businesses, such as those on Telegraph Avenue, which account executives could develop relationships with, versus large, national corporations who were less involved in the process.

Marcus recalls how there used to be department and retail stores who would want to place “back-to-school” ads at the beginning of the semester, and airlines who would want to place ads around spring break. These kinds of national clients would go to their advertising agencies — who would “have all the details of how to reach the student newspapers” — and tell them to place ads in all the newspapers of the major universities, Marcus explained.

These companies had identified students as a market. This hasn’t changed; what has changed is the way in which companies use advertising to market products or services to students, according to Marcus. With more companies transitioning to in-house advertising, the use of ad agencies has become less popular, and now, the Daily Cal does most of the prospecting of sales clients on its own.

Even though ad options have expanded, the process of procuring and verifying the success of ads is similar today as it was in the 1960s.

“Some of the basics of staying in touch with your customer (and) understanding what your customer wants: How are you really helping them? How do you verify that your ad does any good?” Marcus said. Those are still relevant questions today.

Ultimately, the advertising section of the Daily Cal reflects both how the values of Berkeley and society have changed. Looking back in time, ads reflect the pop culture, entertainment and politics at the time of their publication. Ads also provide a way of chronicling the small businesses which have made Berkeley their home.

“I got an appreciation for the fact that anything that’s being produced in terms of newspapers, magazines, TV, what have you, how important the advertising part of it is in order for it to exist — if we wanted to have a 24-page paper … we needed to have sufficient advertising in order to pay for it,” Mariani said.