A Brief History of Advertising

Welcome to Advertising Then Now and Forever: The Good The Bad The Ugly. This blog is designed to give a better understand of what exactly advertising is as well as  discussing strong brands that have stood the test of time as well as brands that have failed.

Let’s start with understanding what exactly adverting is, according the Merriam-Webster dictionary advertising is, the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements. Advertising has a strong history and it has been around since ancient times. Here is a brief outline of the history of advertising, this will hopefully give a good understanding as how far we have come in the world of advertising.

Ancient Advertising

The start of advertising did not include TV, Radio or Print ads. Instead people would stand and yell announcements about events that were going on in their community. This was truly ancient advertising in the fact that because their was no such thing as even print advertising that this is what people had to resort to in order to advertise an event. Not long after this though advertising in the ancient times changed and they started to print their advertisement however because many people at the time could not read the ads had consisted of only pictures. Different cultures advertised for different reasons, the Romans used advertising to announce Gladiator Matches, in Arabia they would advertise political campaigns, the Egyptians made for sales signs, in Greece they would have lost and found posters. However in countries like Africa and Asia the earliest form of advertising was Cave Paintings.

 15th-17th Century

A lot happened during this time period as far as advertising is concerned. At the start of the fifteenth century this is were it all really started. The printing press was invented around 1440 and this is were we start to see handbills. From then on out advertising took off and we start to see newspapers being printed during the seventeenth century and ads being placed. These ads were simple, they were not fancy. A lot of these early ads were for advertising books and newspapers but also medicine.

19th Century Advertising 

The early part of the advertising was still not big, the more ads were running in the paper than before but they were all placed in the back of the paper. These ads often times for elixirs. By the late nineteenth century we start to notice that ads are no longer just black and white text, but color images started show up more often. This all has to do with the change in the business world, we are introduced to Thomas Barratt the father of modern advertising, as well the introduction to the first full service ad agency N.W. Ayer & Son in Philadelphia in which was in charge of content a they worked off commission.

20th Century Advertising  (1920-1990s)

A lot happened durring this time period and so I will try to make this as brief as possible and hit some of the major events in advertising during this time. This where we start seeing ads for products that have ultimately stood the test of time. In the picture located on the left    we see an original ad for Wrigley’s chewing gum, and this product as we should all know is still around. We have propaganda ads during war time (WWI and WWII). Ad agencies now had designers that would design the ads that would be ran. We start to see ads at the movies, in magazines, radio and by the 1950s we are also start seeing the first ads on Television. The ads that one might see during the 1950s would include luxury items, science, dieting and cigarette advertising. The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of the creative revolution and meet Bill Bernbach who is best known for his Volkswagen ads and the ads that wer aired also started to be targeted to certain audiences. By the late 1980 and 90s we are introduced to cable television and are also introduced to channels like the Home Shopping Network, which aired nothing but ads and sold products through the TV. Just call the 800 number and and order.  By the 90s we are slowly introduced to the Internet, and ads start to be placed online.

21st Century (Today)


Since the ancient time of standing and yelling announcements to the invention of popup ads on the Internet we now in the 21st century and boy have we come along way since the ancient times. We still have the Internet, radio and TV ads, but the look and design of these ads have changed since the early days. We have Google which is everyone’s new best friend. When you want to find information about anything and everything just “Google it”. Google has Google ads if you want to use them to help promote your product or website, there are various different social media website e.g. Facebook which places ads on the side of there page that they think might be of interest to you. Advertising today is much more targeted. You can shop completely online at sites like Amazon.com and when you start shopping there they will look at the purchases you have made or products that you might have looked at and place ads or show you products that might interest you in the future. TV ads are getting better but are having some trouble in that we now have DVR’s which allows us to record our shows and then fast forward through the commercials. However advertising has gone through a lot of  changes and   those who make ads are always looking for new and inventive ways in which to market a product or brand. One way in which they are doing this is through a tactic called Guerrilla marketing, which is finding a way to promote a product or brand in a way that a person my not expect (take them by surprise). As time goes by it will be interesting to see what the future of advertising holds us.

*The information here was provided by: ORACLE Think Quest 


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