Advertising has a long history in the marketing world. In whichever direction you look, you will encounter some form of advertisement in the form of banners, commercials, billboards, pop-ups, etc. We have come a long way from the days of traditional advertising to digital advertising. Yet what remains true is its continuing reign at the heart of the marketing industry.
Wherever you go today, businesses are constantly trying to draw your attention. In this competitive space, advertising has become an influential tool for businesses to promote their brand, goods, and services to the audience. Advertising is a form of paid promotion where the sponsor (generally, a business) controls the content and the message. The aim is to reach out to the audience and influence some facet of their attitude and behavior.
Let’s better understand advertising and its importance as a marketing tool.
Advertising has a history as long as civilizations and commercial activities. The earliest evidence of advertising has been traced back to the ancient civilization of Egypt. The written advertisement on papyrus found in the ruins of Thebes is known to be the first known written ad. The preserved ruins of Pompeii also show evidence of commerce, advertising, and even endorsement. Advertisements were manifest in diverse mediums such as wall paintings, oral advertising, and papyrus in the ancient world. It was the pre-printing era of advertising.
Modern advertising follows soon after with the advent of the printing press. It brought on the printing revolution and the systematic printing of uniform texts at an unthinkable rate. The invention of the Gutenberg press was the beginning of the printing revolution that, in turn, fundamentally transformed the advertising world.
Since then, there has been a rapid growth in newspaper and magazine publications beginning in London. Newspapers became a popular medium to make announcements promoting products through advertisements. Printed ads began to promote books and medicines.
As the nations’ economies expanded with the consumer society in the 19th century, advertising became increasingly popular, and newspapers continued to be the preferred medium for advertisers. The establishment of the first advertising agency in 1843 in Philadephia, the US, founded by Volney Palmer, further changed how the industry functions.
As the products in the market were diversifying, producers and brands felt the need to establish their own brand identity. So arose brand advertising. The Sears direct mail campaign of 1892 is the first known instance of direct marketing in modern advertising. It helped generate brand awareness, recognition, and brand loyalty among consumers.
The 20th century saw the advertising industry expand further. It is known as the golden age of advertising. Print advertising countered challenges arising from other mediums- radio and television advertising. Advertising agencies began to play an even bigger role in the industry. The field’s reliance on professionals such as psychologists and researchers and big data made advertising a scientific exercise since this period.
Nonetheless, it was the 21st century that led to a tectonic shift in advertising. The World Wide Web took the globe by storm, and online advertising became the mainstay of the advertising industry. The origin of digital advertising can be traced back to the world’s first digital banner advertisements in October 1994. The HotWired (present-day Wired.com) ad campaign saw 14 corporations participate in revolutionizing online advertising. They included prominent corporations like Volvo, IBM, Club Med, and AT&T, to name a few.
The dynamism of online advertising came to fruition with social media advertising which took targeted advertising to new heights. Social media platforms have become ubiquitous in the digitally-driven world and are at the forefront of digital media advertising. Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are known for providing access to the target audience with accuracy and ease not possible before the advent of social media platforms.
We have come a long way from the word-of-mouth and papyrus advertising of the ancient world. Technological advancements like the printing revolution and the popularization of radio and television were boosts that introduced the golden age of advertising. But the Internet age has unleashed the full potential of advertising and its importance in a consumerist society.
Now that we have briefly outlined the long and illustrious history of advertising let’s understand what it means.
The term advertising comes from the Latin word ‘advertere’ that translates ‘to turn toward.’ Advertising is a marketing technique to communicate with an audience to promote and sell a good, service, brand, or idea. An advertiser aims to influence the audience to take action that is generally beneficial to the business. It is a promotional activity that may target a specific niche audience or the general public regarding the subject of the advert.
Technological innovations have led to the rapid growth of advertising. New technology has introduced new mediums for its transmission. An advertisement (adverts or ads, for short) may come in many forms- newspaper ads, banners, video ads, radio, television ads, magazine ads, social media endorsements, catalogs, and leaflets.
The advertiser (or sponsor) has absolute control over the advertisement’s content, no matter its form. It is their way of one-way communication with the audience through paid promotion. The advertising industry continues to consolidate its power with each historically significant transition that has taken place over its long history.
This ancient marketing technique continuously adapts and adopts new technologies to stay relevant and valuable. So let us learn more about the use of advertising.
For a marketing technique to survive over the centuries, it has to make itself invaluable. Advertising has done so, and it continues to adapt to changing times to remain useful.