Adverting can sometimes rise to a higher level, to help us see new possibilities about who we are and what we might become.
At the highest level, advertising can turn the nation. Noble virtues can be conveyed, and the public shown how their everyday actions can make important differences. This is the basis of social movements.
This advertisement was so compelling when it first appeared in the New York Herald Tribune in 1942, that newspapers all over the nation repeated it. The copy was also widely read during radio broadcasts.
These powerful words became, in effect, a leading viral phenomenon in their own era.
It is 3:42 a.m. on a troop train.
Men wrapped in blankets are breathing heavily.
Two in every lower berth. One in every upper.
This is no ordinary trip. It may be their last in the U.S.A. till the end of the war. Tomorrow they will be on the high seas.
One is wide awake ... listening ... staring into the blackness.
It is the kid in Upper 4.
Tonight, he knows, he is leaving behind a lot of little things - and big ones.
The taste of hamburgers and pop ... the feel of driving a roadster over a six-lane highway ... a dog named Shucks, or Spot, or Barnacle Bill.
The pretty girl who writes so often ... that grey-haired man, so proud and awkward at the station ... the mother who knit the socks he'll wear soon.
Tonight he's thinking them over.
There's a lump in his throat. And maybe - a tear fills his eye. It doesn't matter, Kid. Nobody will see ... it's too dark.
A couple of thousand miles away, where he's going, they don't know him very well.
But people all over the world are waiting, praying for him to come.
And he will come, this kid in Upper 4.
With new hope, peace and freedom for a tired, bleeding world.
Next time you are on the train, remember the kid in Upper 4.
If you have to stand enroute - it is so he may have a seat.
If there is no berth for you - it is so that he may sleep.
If you have to wait for a seat in the diner - it is so he ... and thousands like him ... may have a meal they won't forget in the days to come.
For to treat him as our most honored guest is the least we can do to pay a mighty debt of gratitude.
The New Haven R.R.
It is impossible to know how many lives were made better by the words of copywriter Nelson C. Metcalf, Jr. and the art direction of Ed Georgi.
Clearly, the message resonates yet today.
Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.