How advertising has evolved over time

By: Alex Marella

Advertising has been an important part of commerce essentially since trading began all the way back in the antique period. The first advertisements came in the form of people shouting over each other trying to entice traders to do business with them. Advertising has evolved greatly since then and is now a cornerstone to how we do business in the 21st century. 

The world’s first written advertisement was found in the ruins of Thebes, in Ancient Egypt, written on papyrus. A man used the message to try to find one of his lost slaves, as well as offer reward in the form of cloth from his shop,“Where the best cloth is woven to your desires.” The next big evolution in advertising came during the Middle Ages with the printing revolution. Sellers used original signs and flags to attract the attention of potential buyers. During this time period, The Chinese Tang Dynasty began to require sellers to sign a trademark on their products, in order for them to monitor product quality and control advertising, this was the beginning of logos and trademarks as we know them today. 

The next big change in advertising came during the Industrial period, at the beginning of the 17th century. Now printing had begun to take on more than just books. The 17th century led to the mass distribution of newspapers, gazettes, magazines and journals ultimately providing a huge opportunity for retailers to mass advertise with flyers and trade cards. This fundamentally changed the concept of advertising as retailers now focused on mass appeal (“The Crash Course on the History of Advertising You Must Read”, 2021).

The next evolution in the advertising world was the biggest and most noticeable change to date with the invention of Radio and Television leading to the ‘machine period’. These inventions made mass marketing much more effective and more than doubled the size of the advertising market. This was the first time that advertising had made its way into the American home. 

The first paid radio advertisement took place on WFAN radio in New York in 1922. Since direct selling over airways was illegal at the time, the ad was a 10-minute segment promoting the carefree suburban life in Queens. About 20 years later, the first television advertisement reached the airways in 1941. The ad was a ten second commercial about Bulova watches. This period was also the beginning of American advertising agencies. 

The time between the 1960s and 1980s became known as the Golden Age of advertising. Industry leaders such as William Bernbach, David Ogilvy, and Mary Wells Lawrence revolutionized advertising by utilizing psychology and data to come up with better ideas for appealing to their audiences. “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible,” -David Ogilvy (“The Crash Course on the History of Advertising You Must Read”, 2021).. Companies also began using well-known characters or celebrities as brand ambassadors to build connections and grow their audiences. This rethinking of the industry allowed it to grow to a size people previously didn’t think possible (Bauerlein, 2021).

The next evolution in advertising came with the rise of the internet. The internet made advertising even easier to access and gave them more places to be able to reach their audiences. This is also when companies began to tweak their messaging to consumers who were no longer as intrigued by the ‘hard sell’ approach that companies took, so companies now worked to establish trust and brand loyalty rather than the traditional advertising methods. Websites, online news and social media gave advertisers new angles to market from and new methods to win over customers (Gigante, 2021).

The last evolution leads us to our current advertising climate, where companies are aware of consumers’ mistrust of commercials and are working ways around it. Artificial Intelligence has allowed for mass-personal advertisements and larger, more accurate data sets. This has also led to more problems with consumers being weary of artificial intelligence. 

Works Cited

Bauerlein, L. (2021). History of Advertising: How Has Advertising Changed Over Time? – C-leveled. Retrieved 19 February 2021, from

The Crash Course on the History of Advertising You Must Read. Softcube Blog. (2021). Retrieved 19 February 2021, from

Gigante, M. (2021). A Brief Look at the History of Modern Advertising. MDG Advertising. Retrieved 19 February 2021, from

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