Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

It can seem that the advertising business existed, and functioned, and has been an inalienable part of the world’s economy both now and always. But the truth is, the period when it showed the first signs of the state close to the contemporary one, is dated the 18th century. 

The period of early advertising was a pronouncedly different time from what we have now in terms of mundanity. Still, certain advertising philosophy already existed, and it was of almost the same rules as we have it today. Moreover, it was the time of intense development of newspapers, which has inevitably influenced the progress of advertising and determined the main vectors of its further evolution.

History is known to be crucial to learn for understanding the reasons for today’s state of things and for not repeating plaguy mistakes. Keep reading this article, and you will get to know many interesting facts about the very beginnings of today's enterprises occupied in the production of ads.

 And, by learning the history of your current business you will understand it remarkably better and thus show considerably better results!

The General impression, or how advertisements felt and smelled at that time.

Oddly enough, but it’s rather easy to imagine the atmosphere of advertising in the 18th century for us. Especially when remembering the ads before the age of smartphones and vibrant digital graphics. By the way, here is a curious material on marketing digitalization.

Still, advertisements of that age had their specifics as well as everyday routine around them. For example, advertising could be done by street criers, people wearing boards shaped like sandwiches, and carrying placards. Other hired advertisers were walkers that were wearing advertising boards. And that “mobile advertising” was widely used because of taxation of sticked on the walls advertising materials.

But at the same time, ads in the 18th century were in a sense similar to the ones we had not that long time ago and proceeds till now. For instance, advertisers at that time already used handbills and leaflets and stuck posters on facades. Printed announcements were not meant to keep in their places for long and were quite often covered over by new ones. (Advertising in the 18th Century, )

And though, already at that time, it was possible to use more than one color in printed ads, images were used very rarely in printed announcements and advertisements in newspapers. Still, quality images were used in that time’s advertising! But they were incorporated not in regular ads, but trade cards. (Place an Advertisement, )

If you’re interested in advertising, you will make use of these interesting marketing podcasts.

Subjects of advertising

Although the 18th century’s advertising essentially resembled the one in the 20th and even the beginning of the 21st century, as it was mentioned before, it had its specifics. And those particularities related not only to some ways advertising was conducted, but mainly to the subjects of advertising.

Many of the popular at that time businesses that were often advertised are forgotten now. Their list is rather long, so it’s worth mentioning some of them: coal dealers, scum boilers, music sellers, tobacconists. And only a few of businesses demanded at that time survived: for instance, bakers, or hairdressers.

Nevertheless, 18th-century advertising was mainly focused on the businesses mentioned as they were of a mass market. Announcements on luxury, imported goods, furniture, or jewelry were rarely placed on pages of that time’s newspapers.

The public those businesses and their advertisements were targeted at were upper-middle and middle classes. And such target markets provided the inevitable growth of ads’ variety.

For instance, by the middle of the 18th century, such items as ladies’ clothes, brass, copper, and silver started to be subjects of 1700s advertisements. (Advertising in the 18th Century, )

Newspaper advertising

Aside from printed leaflets and handbills, stuck placards, and walking on streets specially hired advertisers, there was one more large channel for advertising in the 18th century – newspapers. Different types of newspaper advertising existed despite heavy taxes issued by the government at that time, and one day printed press became the primary channel for advertising.

The subjects of newspaper advertising were not different from the ones of other channels, but there was certain specificity. The thing is that printed press was mostly about book ads. And thus, it was bound to play a significant role In the development of literature.

Being the main channel of book advertising at that time, advertising in newspapers was developing alongside upcoming literature works and genres. For example, researchers found that newspaper advertising grew together with the novel genre.

Novels couldn’t get to their readers without newspaper announcements on their coming to the public. This was fueling advertising in newspapers along with improving their incomes.

 And aside from novels, there were announcements on books of many other genres. In the 18th century’s newspapers ads on all the variety of books could be found: medical books, travel chronicles, biographies, poems, scientific works, etc.

So that, it can be concluded that early newspaper advertising invested into the development of the literature of their time. And maybe many of the classical works could not get famous without advertisements in newspapers on them (Advertising Novels in the Early Eighteenth-century Newspaper: Some examples from the Bodleian’s Nichols collection, gps_17th_18th_nichols_collection_essay_drbrandtzaeg.pdf (

Specifics of advertising in the 18th century

The general impression of advertising at that time has already been talked about at the beginning of this article. In this paragraph, we will try to delve a bit deeper into the process of placing an advertisement, its rules at that time, and will talk a little about its first results.

If you want to get inspired on the advertisement topic and soak more of its spirit, we advise watching some of the movies about advertisement.

Basically, placing an ad in the 18th century was rather easy. There was no code of ethics related to advertising so that it was ok either if you were honest in your announcement or not. Everyone cared about the results of advertising, first of all. And thus, to place an ad, it was desirable to look into the products and promotion strategies of your competitors. As this could be the ground for your future success.

The absence of any rules and the ads’ ethics code made it easy on the one hand, but on the other hand, led to unpleasant consequences. The three most popular spheres for placing ads in the 18th century were commerce, press, and medicine. As you might have already guessed, placing ads on medicines without adhering to any rules is of far-reaching results… (Place an Advertisement, )


The very beginnings of the advertising that we know today were put in the 18th century. The specific time of “walking advertisement boards” was mostly similar to ours, except for many businesses popular at that time and completely forgotten nowadays. But speaking about newspapers, they mostly focused on books and publications, and this way they served the development of that time’s literature.

About the Author:









Nancy P. Howard has been working as a journalist at the online magazine in London for a year. She is also a professional writer in such topics as blogging, SEO, and marketing.