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  • The History of Advertising

    Posted on Timeless Kathy Sammons No comments

    Advertising has been a way of sharing ideas and getting the “word out” about products and/or services from the beginning of time, or at least since we have been trying to communicate.  The first signs of advertisement can be dated back almost 25,000 year ago on the walls of the caves in the hills of France.  These were Stone Age people advertising the hunting prowess to their fellow hunters.  Moving ahead in time to Babylon around 3500 B. C., sketches where drawn on soft clay tablets and set with a runner to advertise to the neighboring clans letting them know what they had to trade or other descriptive information.

    We can also look to Egypt, about 1100 B. C. where an Egyptian aristocrat sent out a notice on papyrus that one of his valuable slaves had run away and he is offering a reward for his return.  Papyrus was used for centuries as a precursor to the newsprint of today.  The advent of the town crier was a big step forward.  He added flare and excitement to the advertisement, in addition to making it more accessible to the general public.

    As we move forward, we see the collapse of the Roman Empire and with this a reduction in the amount of writing, yet the crier continued to be a great source of information.  This information was disseminated to the public by an organized body of advertisers and employees of the state.   Each has his own peculiar call and when heard, people would come running from their homes to hear.  These criers had exclusive rights to news of auctions and other sales.  The crier made it easier for the public to hear about upcoming weddings, Christenings, and  funerals, as well as, letting people know about royal decrees, and the offering of products and services.

    During the Medieval times, the English medieval guilds and the large city companies used the equivalent of the now popular poster boards.  The industries of the time, the weavers, goldsmiths, potters all developed attractive signs to be displayed on the front of their stores to draw the attention of the people passing by, not unlike the store front signs of today.

    Then came the printing press, William Caxton brought the first printing press to England in 1477, and before long all the businesses and even the churches had signs posted on the doors and windows.  In 1632, Nathaniel Butter started the Weekly News in London and he posted the first ad, but the first publication to get paid for an ad was Mist’s Weekly Journal.  Not until Sir Robert L’Estrage saw the “writing on the wall” with his three publications, (1669), did advertising really begin as an industry.

    In America, being a virtual duplication of England, we carried on with the same traditions, the criers, poster ads and periodicals.  In 1704 the American Weekly was founded, it was 74 years later that the first daily newspaper came along.  The first magazine appeared in 1741 in Philadelphia.  So, as these different types of media came into being, more people were looking to them for useful and pertinent information.  A very interesting note about adverting and magazines is that advertising in magazines was looked down upon by the public and businesses alike.  It was looked at, as not only un-valuable, but as an object of contempt.

    Not until 1870 when Scribner’s finally decided to include advertising in its magazine did others join in and start generating ad revenue for themselves.   The value of this advertisement can be seen in hindsight in a most remarkable way.  In 1870 the average life span was 45 years old.  Then in large part because of the advertising of sanitary and health building products and the new ideas presented in the widely disseminated periodicals, by 1930 the average life span had increased to 60.  That means that over a 60 year period the average life span increased by 15 years.  That was a remarkable advancement in the well being of the citizens of this nation.

    As we know deceptive and harmful advertising was, of course, prevalent at times, however, the benefits to the mass public were such that the value of advertising was accepted by both businesses and consumers alike.

    Advertising has grown to such heights that in 2007 total U.S. advertising spending was over $150 billion.  It is quite apparent, that advertising is here to stay, and that, in truth, it is a benefit to both parties involved.

    Kathy Sammons

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