The Advent Of Advertising

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1959 , Published on 08 October 2012

A common consumer today, tired and over-exposed; constantly bombarded with advertisements and promotional gimmicks. But it wasn’t always like this. In all my findings, (read leisurely reading sans any academic benefit whatsoever), I never once came across an anecdote where some history’s great mentions that his brilliant innovation was actually the end-product of some blaring advertisement he saw. There were peaceful times, long ago maybe, but there were.

An age where word of mouth was the only way to sell, an age where advertising was on one-to-one basis, and as personalized as it could get. Though some may argue that WOM as its commonly called is still the most effective advertising channel. So how did this multitudinous demon- experiential advertising, advocacy advertising, persuasive advertising, informational advertising and what not, come about?

They say there is no smoke without fire and damn were they right! After all it was the Great fire of London in 1666 which proved to be the birthing grounds for the first ever newspaper advertisements in England. In fact, it is claimed that in ancient Egypt, papyrus was used to make sales message and wall posters. But that’s another story. It was the advancement in the printing press that opened the avenues for cheap and effective advertising in local newspapers.

In June 1836, French newspaper ‘La Presse’ included paid advertising in its pages. Not only did it augment revenues but also helped extend its readership.  Now that the stage was set it was time for the players to enter. Sometime in 1840, Volney B. Palmer lay the foundation of what was soon to become a modern day advertising agency. He bought large empty space in various newspapers at a discount and then resold the space at escalated price to advertisers. He was something of a space broker. The actual ad - the copy, layout, and artwork - was still prepared by the company wishing to advertise. However, in the late 19th century another advertising agency called N.W. Ayer & Son offered to plan, create, and execute complete advertising campaigns for its customers. By 1900 the advertising agency’s main business was creative planning, and advertising was firmly established as a profession.

TVCs were a long way off then but they were an inevitable phenomenon waiting to happen. Advertisers needed a bigger battlefield and television proved to be the perfect solution. In United States, the first TVC was broadcasted in 1941. A 20 second display of ‘bulova’ clock superimposed on a map of US was aired just before a baseball game, with a voice over “America runs on Bulova time”.

In UK the first advertisement was that of Gibbs SR toothpaste in 1955. Another half a decade later, Philippines bore audience to Tide detergent powder.

Rest is history! Advertising soon proliferated into more and more aspects of a consumer’s being. They splurged across various channels of media and surrounded an ever-perplexed consumer. Choices between increasingly similar products with so called differentiating factors continue to be made every second of every day. If one is to call consumerism a plague, I’d say that the pied piper did his rounds centuries ago.

This article has been authored by Bhavna Sharma from IIM Indore.

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