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Advertising hasn’t always been like we know it today. Over time, the field grew more complex and its evolution has been marked by several milestones throughout history. The most recent milestone reached by the industry has been marked during the Internet age, and it has led to the ultimate form of personalization. But before that, we have witnessed a series of evolutionary changes that led to higher personalization levels.  

The Shy Beginnings of Advertising

Archeologists say that advertising has its roots back to ancient Egypt. Steel carvings dating back from 2,000 BC were discovered in the area, with what researchers think that is the first advertising form ever discovered.

However, the first print ad was published by an English merchant, writer, and political figure, in 1472. His name was William Caxton. William printed ads to market its new book and nailed those to all churches in England.

At the beginning of the 1700s, we witness the first newspaper ad, published in the Boston News Letter. The ad section was used by merchants to sell their goods. Later, after the Great Fire in London, advertising begins to be extensively used by the London Gazette.

During the 1800s, most ads published in papers and not only were patented medicines: bitters, pills, and ointments.

During the first half of the century, in the US, we have the first billboards displayed by the roadside. They were advertisements for the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows. The billboards were over 50 square feet and they were huge for their day and time.

Also, in the 1800s, Procter & Gamble publish the first ads for their Ivory Soap. The Lord & Thomas Agency brought advertising to another level, with their ad for the Quaker Oats. The agency tried to reach closer to the consumer by advertising the product as “easy to cook”, a feature many people have been attracted by, at the time.

The Golden Age of Advertising

Here we are, during the Golden Age of Advertising. Radio and television sparked its development, offering companies and their creatives to speak directly to people.

The first ad vas radioed in 1922 and was the property of H.M Blackwell. Because at the time direct selling was an offense, the advertiser got a little creative and extensively explained (a 10-minute talk!) why their apartments in Queens are perfect for prospects. The talk was personalized enough to make prospects who were searching for a quiet place to live to choose the Court Apartments advertised by the spot.

A few years later, in 1930, ads become even more personalized. Rosser Reeves, the pioneer of American television advertising, came up with the idea of a unique selling proposition, which described in detail how different businesses will solve different problems, of different audience groups. The new approach was highly personalized, addressing very specific issues people were searching for solutions.   

To help marketers and advertisers identify market opportunities, George Gallup introduced market research a few years later, in 1935. Horology enthusiast may be familiar with the following piece of information. The first legal and continental TV commercial was for the Bulova Watch Company, which aired for the first time in 1941. Although the commercial was a fairly short voiceover commercial, it set the trend for the following 70 years.

The Golden Age of Advertising was marked by agencies building characters with big personalities for their ads and their brands. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Snap Crackle, Rice Krispies and the Marlboro Man ads have all their beginnings during this age.

Modern Offline Advertising

Although modern day advertising is mainly carried in the online sphere, offline advertising still makes the rules in today’s environment. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and all huge brands still gamble on traditional advertising means. They still use display boards outside their brick-and-mortar shops, they still invest in huge roadside billboards, and they still try to appeal to the most intimate desires of their consumers.

They aim to get emotional reactions, and they still succeed it. People still get emotionally involved in brands and the characters they build to sell their products. Brands’ display boards and billboards also grow in diversity and variety, in an attempt to appeal to as many consumer categories as possible. See the McDonald’s ads and billboards. They have for each campaign different styles with different messages. And they successfully personalize those.

Online Advertising

Advertising has experienced the latest shift of approach during the Internet age. It all began in 1992 when online services were first introduced. During this age, banners and online ads have appeared. Next, we have reached the web directory age, and PPC age, when Planet Oasis launched the first version of this type of campaign.

From there to mobile advertising, was only a step. With the wide adoption of mobile phones, advertising possibilities and opportunities were endless.