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How Advertising Has Changed Over the Years

While advertising in some form has been around for as long as human civilizations have existed...how advertising has changed.

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How Advertising Has Changed Over the YearsWhile advertising in some form has been around for as long as human civilizations have existed, with ancient advertisements having been found by historians everywhere from Ancient Egypt papyrus scrolls to the ruins of Pompeii, advertising in the sense that most people in our own time would recognize it first developed within the transition of rural communities into a post-Industrial Revolution society.

This process of democratization in advertising became particularly evident as more and more people gained access to publications such as newspapers and magazines as paper and printing services became affordable to even small businesses or individuals. If advertising prior to the 18th and 19th Centuries was mostly limited in both form and area of influence, the widespread means for communication available to post-Industrial societies turned a burgeoning advertising industry into a big business indeed.

The Creation of Modern Advertising Techniques

With the rise of advertising slogans and catchy branding adorning professionally-crafted images in print media in the 19th Century came the notion of the “ad man” as a working professional, and it was here that advertising as we know it today truly hit its stride. This new type of advertising is often credited to British businessman Thomas J. Barratt, a business pioneer who sought out new and ever-more creative ways to sell his company’s soap products to a mass audience.

Barratt’s advertisement design methods were extremely popular and successful in his time and beyond; the means by which Barratt sold “Pear’s Soap” (as Barratt’s company was then colloquially known) would go on to create a paradigm shift in the notion that advertising could itself become big business. We may not remember the “Pear’s” soap company today, but slogans such as “Always Coca-Cola” and Apple’s “Think Different” are very much the brainchildren of Barratt’s advertising techniques.

The Rise of the Advertising Agency

As the profit margins of the world’s biggest advertising campaigns will show, business in the wake of Barratt’s foreword thinking methods increasingly link their image to their identity as advertisers. (Amazon’s advertising revenue alone is said to have been around $3.37 billion in 2018, for example.) The notion of the advertisement designer-as-business tycoon truly came into its own in mid-19th Century Philadelphia, however, when Volney Palmer set up the world’s first advertising agency and revolutionized the way in which companies could reach potential audiences via professional advertising firms.

Understanding the Psychology of the Market

In fact, Palmer’s methods were so successful that most advertising firms in the 21st Century directly owe their business models and design methods to his pioneering theories. But it was the work of later ad gurus such as Walter D. Scott and John B. Watson that would really allow advertisers to reach their audience in startling new ways.

Scott and Watson revolutionized advertising by inferring that there was a deep emotional connection between successful advertising campaigns and product popularity, a process that was later portrayed in the hit series ‘Mad Men’ when lead character Don Draper was shown formulating advertising ideas that specifically appealed to customers on both emotional and intellectual levels.

As technological advances in communication and digital marketing have developed over the last several generations, advertisers now have far more means to reach customers than their predecessors could have ever imagined, and with the rise of digital technology opening up the gates for sites like YouTube and Facebook to become major players in the ad industry, the market has never been better for advertising firms the world over.

For the ability to connect companies to customers who can benefit from a wide array of products and services that improve day-to-day life and increase living standards, however, we owe a debt of gratitude to forward-thinking business geniuses such as Thomas J. Barratt, Volney Palmer, Walter D. Scott, and John B. Watson. Without their pioneering work, life would bear little resemblance to what we have today.


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