A fun history of basic advertising

Price tags

People have been inventing new and exciting ways to advertise for over a century now. Of course, advertising has been going on since the dawn of civilization but it’s really only in the last fifty to one hundred years this it’s been put down to an exact and perfected science. In 1900, if you had a new product or service idea, you were limited by the area in which you lived, the amount of money you had, who you knew and the speed of life which, at the time, was much slower than it is now. In other words, beyond signs held by a simple pedestal sign holder and handwritten signs on the side of the road, you were pretty stuck. The most effective types of advertisements were things like deli signs, retail displays and other types of signage that, while still extremely effective on a local scale, didn’t get a big push on a wider scale. But something interesting happened to change all of these local ideas into something much bigger. It all started around 1950.

    The mid century
    What was different about the fifties that began to change the face of advertising? Well, to understand that, you have to understand the face of culture at the beginning of the decade. The war had just ended and the United States, along with its allies, were reaping the benefits of a post war economic boom. This meant more money for everyone, regardless of standing or social class, and led to the rise of an even more commercial market economy. Everything from the aforementioned pedestal sign holder to display racks to cars to house was cheaper and easier for the nation to afford. Price tags went down and the amount and pace of wealth increased along with a whole host of other, more scientific achievements. One of these breakthroughs, of course, was in communication and, in the early fifties, the television was introduced to an ever growing majority of American households. How did this affect the then modern American family?
    Seeing everything and everyone
    The television changed the way that modern American families, and indeed all families across the world, saw culture. It really was a profound fundamental change and the effects of it are still being felt today. For the first time, people could receive news the same day the news actually happened. Events happening in faraway places could suddenly be seen for the first time. It, like all inventions great and small, from rockets to the pedestal sign holder, made the world a closer and more connected place. But this didn’t just affect news and entertainment. To fund the new, few shows that were airing on the newborn networks, someone need to pay for them. How best to pay for this new communication, the networks asked and they quickly found an answer by turning to radio, of all places. They would use advertisements from companies to boost their ratings and revenue.
    Mass culture
    Though this idea had been used before, it had never been put to use with such a massive amount of appeal. Never before had such a large group of people been exposed to new products and ideas all at once. Radio advertisements had their uses, sure, but even with the radio people couldn’t physically see the product being advertised. Now they could and everything had changed. Advertising companies rose up all over the United States to fill this new, mass culture niche. They were ready to sell the citizens of the United States anything they were ready and able to buy. This in turn increased revenue for the networks and led to a boom that could be felt throughout the entirety of latter half of the twentieth century.
    Into the future
    We’ve come a long way from the pedestal sign holder, haven’t we? And we still have a long way to go. Ads are now becoming increasingly personal and targeted in adherence to a new world that values intimacy above all else. So where to next? We’re not quite sure but, wherever it is, it’s sure to be something no one can possibly imagine!

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