The History of Advertising

So, today I’m going to take a break from my usual posts of movies and quotes to bring you The History of Advertising. This is my first assignment for my Year 10 subject; English Advertising Issues and Analysis, and it’s my first school assignment posted on my blog…so bonus points for originality!

The History of Advertising is extremely long, dating back thousands of years. Wikipedia describes Advertising as ‘a form of communication for marketing and used to encourage or persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners; sometimes a specific group) to continue or take some new action’. When we think of advertising, we think television commercials, ads on bus stops, and buses, billboards on the side of the freeway and basically every we look but advertising was very different back thousands of years, and it has changed dramatically over the years.

Advertising dates as far back as BC. Outdoor advertising was invented by the Egyptians  in 2000 BC, where they carved public notices into steel. The Egyptians also used papyrus to make wall posters and sale messages. Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome also used papyrus for lost and found advertisements.


Fast forward, hundreds of years to 1472 in England, where the first print ad is produced; ‘the handbill  (which is like a small printed flyer) announces a prayer book for sale’.

Almost 200 years later, in 1661, the first product branding is created – Dentrifice Tooth Gel. Another 100 years later, political ads emerged, encouraging enlistment for the American Revolution.

The eighteen hundreds was also a time of firsts. In 1835 the automobile was invented, which caused the rise of billboard ads in the US. The first product placement was in the 1873 novel by Jules Verne, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. The first electric sign was lit in NY Time’s Square in 1882. But perhaps one of the most important changes of the 19th century became the importance and introduction of pictures, and slogans. And this was thanks to Thomas Barratt ‘the father of modern advertising’ and also the chairman of Pears Soap, the number one soap in it’s day. He is the reason modern-day advertising it the way it is. history-of-advertising3

Celebrity endorsement, which is now used in almost every movie we watch, was first introduced in 1905 by silent movie villain Fatty Arbuckle, for Murad cigarettes. The initial ‘sex sells’ slogan was used by Woodbury soap in 1911. In fact it was created for women, by a woman! Considering in the early 1900’s that woman didn’t have a lot of options for work, advertising was a way to go. The advertising companies recognised that women were the main buyers of products in their households and knew their value.images

Six years later in 1917, the American Association of Advertising Agencies was founded. Radio, something we listen to everyday, was invented in a garage near Pittsburg. That’s right; the world’s first commercial radio station -KDKA- was created in Frank Conrad’s garage in 1920.

World War II introduced the influx of propaganda, most of it racist and demeaning.  At about the same time in 1941, the earliest official TV commercial airs for 20 seconds. It cost the company -Bulova watch- just $9.Years later in 1950 the first political TV ad aired for Gov. Dewey of NY. Also in the 1950s, contests and giveaways, a good way of generating interest, became popular.history-of-advertising6

The longest running TV jingle, which is still used today, was for Mr. Clean, and it aired in 1957. Then 13 years later, the informercial was born for selling houses in San Diego.

A decade later in 1980, Calvin Klein faced controversy with a ‘sexy’ ad featuring 15 year old, Brooke Shields.  The following year 1981, the MTV was launched. But unlike nowadays where it’s full of  TV shows like ‘Jersey Shore’, when it first launched it was 24/7 of advertising music.  In 1984, Apple sets an example at the super bowl with the most expensive TV ad, which cost them $900 000.brooke-shields-calvin-klein1

In 1997, the very first mobile ad launched in Finland. Over a period of five years, from 1995- 2000, $8.2 billion invested in online ads. Then the famous Google, rolls out ad words; a pay-per-click service which now accounts for 95% of Google’s income. 2001, sees pop-up and pop-under ads fill user’s screens. They peaked in 2003, hitting 8.7% of all online ads. Then Pepsi purchases the most expensive ad campaign costing $7.53 million. It was the 90-second commercial featuring Britney Spears. YouTube launches in 2006, and launches the birth of video advertising. The same year twitter launches – real time global makes marketing & advertising, fast and free. The next year 2007, “Facebook introduces the concept of behaviour based advertising by specifically targeting users’ social interactions.” Online advertising becomes more popular and a No. 2 in terms of the advertising worldwide budget.

So, from carving public notices into steel to online ads and ads on every possible public surface, advertising has come a long way. It has definitely come a long way from the sexist and racist ads, that we wouldn’t get away with now. I was surprised myself at the way advertising has developed so swiftly. And I hope, also like myself, you have learned something from my post today!


If you’d like to see where I got my information from check out these websites:


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