Dating back to well before human beings even had a written language, we’ve been adept at advertising ourselves. Ancient wall paintings were the spiritual cousin of billboards and smoke signals can be seen as the first form of on-air advertising.
When written languages and paper materials such as papyrus popped up more than 5,000 years ago though, advertising took off. Posters and pamphlets helped advertise political campaigns and giant wall paintings pointed people in the direction of the best bath houses in town. Tangible advertisements died somewhat during the Middle Ages, where the predominant form of advertising was “town criers” who would float from town to town sharing news and telling people where to buy the best things.
Luckily for us though, the printing press was invented during the 1400s, making mass production a more feasible task. Newspapers were easier to produce, with advertisements being sold to help fund the papers.
Move forward a few more years and billboards for circuses begin appearing in New York, “snake oil salesman” become a thing, “real” on-air advertising comes to the masses in the form of radio, and advertisers begin to use sex appeal, with slogans such as “The skin you love to touch” for soap products.
When radio ads get started around 1920 we see modern advertising begin to take shape. TV followed a few decades later, with its Super Bowls and Cola Wars. The advent of the Internet gave advertisers another way to get our attention, with pop-ups, search advertising and mobile ads becoming a huge factor in companies’ advertising plans.
The future of advertising looks to be limited by only imagination. People are selling ad space on both their vehicles and bodies and it’s only a matter of time before some enterprising business owner finds a way to project their logo on the moon or figure out how to plaster satellites with ads.
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