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What are the earliest examples of business advertising and how did it work?

Business advertising in the 21st century is very different from its early beginnings in the early 1900s. Today’s marketers have hundreds of choices in terms of media opportunities, and communications channels, but with this comes more competition from varied sources.

The advent of the internet has changed the landscape of advertising and marketing forever. It’s now possible for companies around the globe to compete for consumers dollars. It’s no doubt that the advertising world has changed completely since its humble beginnings.

If you’re interested in the history of advertising continue reading and join us as we explore the earliest examples of advertising through the ages with Pathwwway White Label.

The 19th Century  (1801 – 1900)

In the 19th century, the first business advertising first began to appear in weekly newspapers in England in the form of adverts. These early adverts were mainly focused on selling books, newspapers and new medicines, which were becoming available.

Books and newspapers had become increasingly affordable, as Gutenberg’s printing press had become available to more and more businesses. There was also a shift in the general public’s mindset and they started to reject traditional cures and seek out modern medicines for their ailments.

Quakery – With any new communication technology there is the opportunity to take advantage of people. False advertising became widespread in British newspapers during the century and laws were created to protect the general public.

Expanded Product Ranges Newspapers in the late 1800’s appealed to the affluent middle-class, with disposable income available they sought out a variety of new products. Around the 1850’s regional newspapers caught on to this and started to include adverts for fresh foods, beverages and the latest fashions, along with traditional adverts for books and modern medicines.

Household brands were created – Manufacturers realised that by using repeated business advertising that they could cultivate a stronger appeal than generic products. Businesses started to roll out adverts in national newspapers as well as in regional newspapers.

Market Segmentation became Apparent With heavy class divisions in Britain, brands were able to create adverts according to these societal segmentations.  This was most common for tobacco companies when they discovered that they could appeal to the health conscious middle class men in certain newspapers. But, in other newspapers they could appeal to working class men by pitching the “rugged heavy taste”.

20th century  (1901 – 2000)

International Advertising Began – Business advertising in the developing world was dominated by agencies from the imperial powers. J Walter Thompson became the first American agency to expand overseas with the opening of their London office in 1899, they continued to expand around the world eventually opening offices in Egypt, South Africa and Asia. The pressure to expand internationally came from the automobile industry who wanted to export their vehicles worldwide. Typically the agency would hire an American Manager and the rest of the staff would be drawn from locals who had a better understanding of the language and the culture.

Mass Marketing– Advertising saw a dramatic increase in the United States around 1870 as industrialization took hold. Manufacturers now had the resources to supply products to a very large market. To profit from this higher rate of production companies needed to find new consumers of their factory products, this was the birth of Mass Marketing. The goal was to influence the whole population’s economic behavior, which it did. This is clear from the industry data, in 1880 the total advertising spend was $200 million by 1920, just 40 years later, it had grown to almost $3 billion.

Modern Advertising – In the 1910s and 1920s it was the tobacco industry that pioneered and developed modern advertising techniques that advertisers still use today.  Ad men believed that they could influence people and sell more products by tapping into human instincts. Maternal, love, fear and sexual instincts were targeted and harnessed into the desire to purchase items from cigarettes to cars and everything in between.

Cable television – The late 1980s and early 1990s saw most homes in the western world introduce cable television and this had a huge effect on advertising.  MTV pioneered a new advertising concept, that people would tune in to watch the music videos of songs they could go out and buy. Advertising was no longer an afterthought. Cable and satellite TV grew substantially over the years and more specialized niche channels were formed. Channels such at QVC and ShopTV became entirely about advertising products.

The Internet from the 1990s – The invention of the Ad Server in 1995 saw a whole new platform open up for marketers to use. Ad Servers were a new technology, which controlled the delivery of banner advertisements all over the internet. The market was saturated and many businesses were able to run solely on advertising revenue. Advertising online was innovative because not only could you to target ads to different users, marketers could now see their results in real time. This allowed Marketers to view clicks, post-click and post-impression activities and adapt their adverts from these metrics.

21st century ( 2001 onwards)

Media for Equity  – in the early 2000s advertisers shook up their business model and the Media for Equity model was conceived. This is where start-up companies receive advertising in return for equity rather than cash. When the start-up company grows to a substantial size the agency can sell their shares.

Interactive Advertising – At the turn of the 21st century the web marketing landscape changed again, websites started to emphasize contextually relevant ads based on an individual’s browsing interests. Online adverts became more relevant for users and were therefore more effective, the Pathwwway White Label trend for interactive advertising continues to this day.

The Dawn of Smartphone Advertising – In China since the late 2010’s advertisers have been leaning heavily towards smartphone based ads. Companies in China are increasingly more focused on delivering adverts on mobile devices than on television. Adverts are delivered on social networking sites and messaging apps like WeChat. Western brands in the Chinese market have also begun to use this form of business advertising to market their products through these new and exciting platforms.