Origins of Advertising

There are Greek and Roman references to ‘criers’ who shouted about merchants’ wares. Sign-writers advertised goods for sale too. The fall of the Roman Empire saw a temporary decline and in the Dark Ages there was much instability.

The growth of urban centres and fixed populations showed a need for advertising. With all this: large scale production, greater consumption of goods, stable economy and social conditions – the size of the population made it harder to communicate quickly.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, town criers were employed to make official announcements and goods for sale. Shop signs, fixed to merchant’s houses, increased in size. In 1450, with the spread of printing, notices spread. They were quicker and less expensive. Printed advertisements could be given to people to read at their leisure. However, low literacy rates limited development of advertising.


Advertising in Newspapers

In 1622, there was the first known example of advertisements placed in a newspaper. People paid for advertising. Advertising was, though, restricted to the wealthier sections of society especially due to literacy rates in the poorer sections. In 1657, The Public Advertiser, was the first publication devoted to advertising. Newspapers used advertising in London until the 18th Century.


Formation of Modern Media

Newspapers became dependent on advertising revenue; newspapers were the single most important institution leading to the development of an advertising industry.

There was an advertising industry formed with many professional bodies forming with the intention to regulate advertising material.

In 1948, ISBA persuaded cinema owners to screen ads with the house lights down. The radio also started broadcasting advertisements.

World War Two

The UK government spent 9.5 million on communicating information; regulating public behaviour and boosting morale. This taught the industry key lessons in mass communication for the post war economy.

There was a growth of women’s media. Women’s magazines were a valuable new outlet for advertisers. In 1950, Olive Hirst had become the first female head of an ad agency, they sold advertising in London.

With the end of rationing in 1953, there was a growth in advertising. USA companies entered the UK market.


TV and America

With TV came advertising on television. In America, they had 30 minute TV advertorials. This was paid program advertising on non-prime time TV.

‘As seen on TV’

1983’s Soloflex in USA is the first example.

TV was cheap due to the Cable TV Act.

In the 60’s and 70’s, celebrity advertising became popular.

In the 90’s, product placement became increasingly used.

These are notes from my semester one seminars and lectures.
I do not own the above images, they are from:, and



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