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Marketing Through the Ages Part II - The Revolutions of Print and Screen

In Part I of this meander through marketing techniques past and present, we covered the very ancient through to the birth of signs and special offers. This time we tackle some slightly more modern approaches, which began with a real game changer for marketing (and many other things for that matter) - the invention of the printing press in 1450. Although this magical machine wasn’t used as a marketing tool until much later, the technology paved the way for mass communication to customers and customers-to-be.

Tim Newman, Telemarketing Specialist

The Telemarketing Company

Part II - The Revolutions of Print and Screen 

Posters

Prior to the printing press, only the richest folks could afford to send out letters en masse; so being able to reproduce a single message multiple times in a quick-smart fashion was revolutionary.

By 1839 advertising posters were so incredibly popular in London that they covered all available surfaces and had to be banned by government. The response to the blanket ban: a huge increase in human billboards. The general populous inevitably grew bored of the sight of human billboards, so they introduced human billboard “parades” and entertaining / whacky outfits.

As for more permanent, large scale posters and billboards, these had to wait for technology to catch up before they could take off. Weather resistant paint and paper didn’t arrive until the 19th century making outdoor, semi-permanent hoardings a much newer feature on the marketing landscape.

Fliers

Next it was the turn of fliers. Initially these new printed messages were mostly used to push the messages of religious, political and social groups; in fact, as far back as 1765 they were used by Americans enraged by the Stamp Act.

It took a little longer, but businesses eventually hit on to the potential power of these useful bits of paper.

It was during the 1950’s that companies really caught on to the power of fliers. Businesses targeted post-war baby boomers who no longer had to rely on rations and could begin to spread their fledgling financial wings.

With technological advances and environmental concerns, leaflets have lost their lustre somewhat; but it’s interesting to think that a contraption invented over 500 years ago still impacts the mass-marketed world we live in.

As industry boomed and production capabilities sky rocketed, so did city populations. Now a poster or a flyer would not meet all the needs of a company looking to expand. They needed something more pervasive, something that could find itself in the homes of its prospective customers.

Newspapers

The printing press, although a game changer, was slow to spread. Because the majority of people couldn’t read, there wasn’t much point distributing things with writing on them.

The first newspaper arrived in Germany in 1605 called Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien (Account of all distinguished and commemorable news).

There is a bit of debate as to when the first advert in a newspaper arrived, but an early and successful ad adorned the pages of the French newspaper La Presse in 1836.

The advert allowed the paper to lower their price and extend their readership; this certainly didn’t go unnoticed and spread like wildfire through the other newspaper titles. In 1856 the first full page advert greeted the readers of the New York Ledger.

Further down the line, inevitably, came the so-called “quack” adverts, necessitating the birth of the first advertising regulations.

Radio and TV

As radio receivers started filling the homes of people in the West, a brand new method of attracting customers was born. The first commercial radio station aired in 1921, one year later, in 1922, radio advertising began in earnest.

1920S Radio

In 1930 the first so-called soap opera was aired. It was called “Painted Dreams” and ran during the day; this gave advertisers an opportunity to sell cleaning products to housewives, hence the term “soap opera”.

Twenty years after the first radio advert, the first TV advertisement premiered. It ran before and after a Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. The Bulova Watch Company paid the princely sum of $4 to run the ad, creating an advertising industry, which today brings in billions of dollars each year. 

Radio and television advertisements have gone from strength to strength, but in Part III we will cover the influence of the mighty computer, the game changer to end all game changers.

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