The Evolution of Advertising: From Ancient China to the 21st Century

Advertising has been around for centuries, evolving from ancient China to the 21st century. In ancient China, the oldest known advertising was oral, as recorded in the Classic of Poetry (11th to 7th centuries BC) of bamboo flutes played to sell candy. Advertising often takes the form of calligraphic signs and inked papers. Fast-forwarding to the 20th century, the first TV commercial aired on July 1, 1941, and lasted almost ten seconds.

Produced by Biow Company, the video promoted a Bulova watch. The message was: “The United States is running with Bulova's time. Le Chat Noir is another iconic example of advertising from the 19th century. While non-French speakers may not know what it says, Le Chat Noir is internationally recognized. With bright colors and an artistic style specific to the time and place, the poster has appeared on postcards, books and Pinterest boards for more than a century.

At its peak, Le Chat Noir was a well-known cabaret in the Montemartre district of Paris, inviting artists of all kinds to perform before a captive and bustling audience. In 1886, a glass of Coca Cola cost 5 cents at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, GA. Leaping 300 years into the future, we find the first paid newspaper ads in the Americas. Begun on April 17, 1704, “The Boston News-Letter was the first newspaper consistently printed in the colonies. While the news was often delayed by a month or so, the News-Letter provided updates and articles on what was happening in London to distant settlers.

The first issue also included a note about paying a small fee to announce. Two weeks later, the newspaper published announcements about the recovery of stolen items, land for sale and something about lost anvils. The last Medici ruler died in 17king, a family dynasty that lasted almost three hundred years. The world's first television commercial aired on July 1, 1941, during a match between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies. The announcement was for Bulova Watches, a company that is still in operation today. It lasted only 10 seconds and aired on a local channel in New York called WNBT. The first step towards modern advertising came with the development of printing in the 15th and 16th centuries.

In the 17th century, weekly newspapers in London began running advertisements, and by the 18th century such advertising was flourishing. In the ancient and medieval world, as it existed, advertising was carried out by word of mouth. In 1841, the first advertising agency in the United States was founded by Robert Palmer, son of a newspaper editor and a coal businessman who considered himself an advertising agent. The earliest identified example of an outdoor advertising medium is a printed poster from the Northern Song period, consisting of a square sheet of paper with a white rabbit-shaped logo in the center. For advertisers, the most important data about a given radio or television program is the size and composition of its audience. In addition to promoting products for sale, advertising methods are used to encourage people to drive safely, support various charities, vote for political candidates, and so on.

Many national journals publish regional editions which allows for more selective targeting of ads. Palmer's main contribution was shaping the newspaper advertising market by reserving a large amount of space for advertisements and reselling it at higher prices to professional advertisers whose competition grew fiercer year after year. Seagram became the first liquor brand to be advertised on television when they released a commercial for Crown Royal. Some of the familiar faces such as Marlboro Man from the 60s to 90s were also regularly used to sell items and optimize television advertising. Advertisements are broadcast between or during regular programs at times sometimes specified by advertiser and sometimes left to broadcaster. In 21st century advertisers have increasingly used digital technology to draw more attention to products and causes. Other advertising media include direct mail which can make highly detailed and personalized appeal; outdoor billboards and signs; transit advertising which can reach millions of users of mass transit systems; and various media including merchandise and dealer displays promotional items such as matchboxes or calendars. It has been argued that cost of large advertising campaigns is such that few companies can afford them which helps these companies dominate market; on other hand while smaller companies may not be able to compete with larger companies nationally advertising locally or online allows them to put up with theirs.