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H1: The evolution of advertising
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The average person is bombarded with over 3,000 marketing messages in a day – it’s impossible for us as consumers to process this amount of information, so we have become incredibly desensitised and selective in what we consume. This means that companies are constantly vying for our attention and, with 417 web pages for every one consumer, it’s a tough space to stand out in.
When we examine the history of advertising, it’s fascinating to witness how the field has progressed and the human psychology behind it. In the modern, digital age, it’s all about content and context, telling great stories and creating brands that people actually want to discover. Today, consumers have the power and brands are continuously competing for their loyalty. The information in this article is adapted from Hubspot, ‘The history of advertising: how consumers won the war for their attention’ (http://blog.hubspot.com/the-history-of-advertising-war-for-consumer-attention-slideshare) and Mashable, ‘The evolution of advertising: from stone carving to the Old Spice Guy.’ (http://mashable.com/2011/12/26/history-advertising/).
Advertising began in 2000BC, when the forward-thinking Egyptians used steel to carve public notices in the streets and invented paper. The first print advert advertised a prayer book for sale and was published in England in 1472. In 1661, Dentifrice Tooth Gel became the first company to develop its own product branding and in 1776, the American Revolution began and the political advertising was employed to encourage enlistment. 1835 marked the dawn of the automobile which led to billboard adverts becoming increasingly popular in America.
In 1870, John E. Powers rather insightfully said, “if the truth isn’t tellable, fix it so it is.” Ne’er a truer word was spoken – unfortunately, the advertising industry has suffered from many brands making false claims, which has led to a consequential culture of mistrust and sceptical consumers.
1880 saw the launch of ‘extravagant hyperbolic adverts’ – see below for an example.In 1892, Sears sent out 8,000 handwritten orders to consumers and received 2,000 orders for its efforts – thus, direct marketing was born.
From 1901-1910 it was all about the ‘branding boom’ and the launch of the encompassing campaign. Advertisers realised that people respond positively to an immersive, sensory experience, rather than simply words on a page. 1908 marked the launch of aeroplane advertising, while 1911-1920 witnessed the rise of radio. In 1911, Woodbury Soap initiated the first ‘sex sells’ campaign, with their provocative slogan. This marked another shift in advertising mentality, to a direct emotional appeal.
1921-1930 witnessed a dramatic rise in the consumerism of nonessential items – the roaring twenties were all about excess and having a good time. 1931-1940 saw the rise of the soap opera – WGN-AM in Chicago presented the first daytime radio soap and soon soap companies all over America were sponsoring similar acts appealing to the happy, home-making housewife. The Wheeler-lea Act was proclaimed in 1938, in an effort to curb false advertising.
1941-1950 was the era of World War II propaganda, demonstrating just how much power well-placed imagery can have on us and how advertising often works to exploit real life.
1950 was proclaimed the Golden Age of advertising – a time when Don Draper-esque characters appeared and writers were paired with artists. TV became the most prominent advertising platform. Giveaways also became popular during this time, with Dial Soap giving away an actual oil well at one stage. In 1957, Mr Clean’s jingle was presented to the public and it is still in use today, thus earning itself the title of the longest running TV ad jingle.
In 1960, consumers were getting increasingly fed up with having endless products punted at them and started to rebel against mass produced items, favouring individuality over conformity. Thus, the age of cynicism began and ads had to become increasing artistic to reach their disinterested audience. David Ogilvy recognised this change and summarised it aptly, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”
In the 70’s, positioning became important for advertising and regulations became increasingly stringent and restrictive. The first infomercial was launched, selling homes in San Diego.
1980 has been described as the era of ‘self-indulgence’ – consumers actively sought products aligning with their values and materialism was rampant, with TV and infomercials being used to push merchandises. MTV launched in 1981 and Apple showcased its now famous Super Bowl advert presenting the Macintosh in 1984.
1994 saw the first banner ads along with Pay per Click Advertising. 1991-2000 was a busy time: advertising saw another big shift with the integrated marketing approach being adopted. The Dotcom bubble burst, faith in Internet companies declined and the rise of search engines resulted in the need for Search Engine Optimisation. Seth Godin introduced the idea of permission marketing – consumers do not like to be interrupted all the time; brands need to ask for permission to do this.
The first keyword ad was created by Yahoo for Golf in 1995, while in 2000, Google introduced Adwords, which now makes up 95% of its revenue.
2001-2011 was the age of social media and email spam: Facebook, Twitter, Google + and numerous other sites were launched, forever changing the online sphere and revolutionising brand-consumer interaction. The concept of inbound marketing was founded and companies focused on creating an encompassing digital experience.
2011-today: nowadays, the emphasis is on native advertising – an advert that resembles editorial content. Content is also partnered with poignant visuals and real-time interaction is necessary between brands and their communities. The emphasis is on storytelling and creating a brand that people want to trust and find out more about.