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Arens, Schaefer, & Weigold (2009) developed a timeline indicating the first known advertising message was created in 3000 BC. Although the actual message bore a closer resemblance to a classified advertisement, the evolution of advertising had begun. The nonpersonal, persuasive, structured communications we recognize today are a progeny of advertising efforts spanning the past few centuries. Early advertising and distribution was limited to a small geographic area surrounding a vendor. Everyday advertising, such as a merchant’s signage, used symbols instead of words to indicate the type of business and product or services offered.

During the preindustrial age, advertising was reaching far beyond the simple signage and word of mouth of local merchants. Handbill, posters, and signs became popular formats for advertising. The printing press was one of the most important developments in the history and evolution of advertising.  By the middle of the 1600s, the printing press was enjoying the bicentennial of its introduction by Johannes Gutenberg. Gutenberg’s invention was one of three major developments that can be attributed to the birth of modern advertising (Arens, Schaefer, & Weigold, 2009).

The first newspaper advertisement appeared in 1650. While a large percentage of the population could not read, the local newspapers were becoming recognized as a medium for delivering advertising to the masses. Merchants, vendors, and manufacturers used newspapers to extend their marketing boundaries beyond the small concentrated areas surrounding their physical locations. Print advertising first appeared in America within the pages of the Boston Newsletter–published in 1704. Ben Franklin is responsible for creating the structure and format of print ads. His techniques for making print ads more legible and easier to understand continue to be used in modern print advertising. Ben Franklin was the first in America to recognize the need to large headlines, white space, and illustrations in advertisements.

England had enjoyed several hundred years of advertising before the American colonies were born. English author, Samuel Johnson, recognized the oversaturation of advertising. In 1758, Johnson insisted that in order to stand out, advertisers needed to embellish their messages. Puffery, as recommended by Johnson, is the exaggeration of the benefits or capabilities of a product or service in an advertisement. While an accepted practice of the industrializing age, puffery is not tolerated in modern advertising.

The industrializing age began in America in the early 1800s—nearly half a century behind the Industrial Revolution in England—introducing machines to mass-produce goods. The sudden surplus of goods and products exposed a need for aggressive marketing and broad saturation advertising. Retailers assumed the responsibility of advertising to the consumers. The industrialization age was followed by the industrial age and once again the face of advertising changed. Advertising during the industrial age—recognized as the first seventy-five years of the twentieth century—focused on the promotion of consumer-packaged goods.

The postindustrial age of the 1980s through 1990s faced the challenges of marketing to an environmentally sensitive society. Demarketing techniques were used in advertising in an attempt to make consumers aware of a company’s environmentally responsible manufacturing and supply-chain methods. Consumers today are not only better informed about products and services, but also the companies that produce them. The modern consumer will research a company and absorb feedback from word-of-mouse channels such as blogs and forums to offset the positive-only hype from advertising. The green movement is represents a marketing potential of 500 billion dollars (Hopkins, 2009).

Modern advertising trends are constantly changing. Mostly driven by advances in technology, advertising media is becoming broader reaching and less expensive to leverage. The Internet has evolved into an advertisers low-cost playground. Email campaigns are less expensive to produce than traditional print campaigns. The Internet also allows a more strategic direct and targeted approach to advertising. Email is a less formal and more personalized alternative to traditional direct mail campaigns.

Regardless of the message and media, advertisers are spending more time identifying their target audience. The recent economic downturn has caused consumers to tighten their belts. Recovery takes longer than downturn (Libey, 2004). During the recovery, consumers strive to become better educated about the products they purchase. Advertising, using every popular medium, to a target audience in the only way a business can stand out on the very crowded playing field with their competitors. In modern advertising, every marketing dollar counts. A savvy marketer will use several techniques, such as predictive modeling, to select a target audience for a specific product or service. The marketing message, advertisement, and call to action will be written specifically for the target audience. Identifying a target market and creating an advertising campaign with relevant content and a compelling message positions a marketing manager for the highest likelihood for success.

The advertising industry has been redefined several times. The types of advertising agencies within the industry have grown. While there have always been local, regional, and international specialists within the industry, niche or creative boutique type agencies are beginning to become prevalent. Many companies are using in-house departments for concept, design, and creative while relying on traditional agencies for media placement. The purpose and definition of advertising has remained consistent across each ring of growth.


Arens, W., Schaefer, D., & Weigold, M. (2009). Essentials of contemporary advertising. McGraw-Hill Irwin. Boston.

Hopkins, D. (2009). Riches in niches: Connecting to true browns. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/riches-niches- connecting-true-browns-403940/1

Libey, D. (2004). Signs of real economic recovery. Retrieved February 6, 2010, from http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/signs-real-economic-recovery- 28914/1