Over the years, advertising has taken on many new forms so that it is a continually evolving industry. You have probably never stopped to think about it but, even as far back as the ancient Egyptians, some form of advertising existed. Those carvings on steel found by archaeologists are believed to be a form of early advertising, which is actually quite possible. Outdoor marketplaces were where most commerce took place. Craftsmen and farmers brought their wares to be sold, so it stands to reason they would want word to get around promoting their goods.

Even in the humblest beginnings of commerce you can find examples of early marketing or advertising which have seen a myriad of evolutions along the way to this period in time, the 21st century. Are you a business owner or director seeking to find solutions to your advertising needs? If so, it might help to look at how advertising has evolved into forms that are most effective in today’s world.

Why Are These Changes So Important?

You may be wondering just why the ways in which advertising has changed over the years is so important. Perhaps the best answer to that would be to look at how styles and technology continually change from generation to generation, and even from year to year. While some things never change such as our appreciation for music, the way in which we experience that music changes over time.

Consider for a moment that the first radio signal wasn’t sent and received until 1895. Credited with the invention of the radio was Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi who sent that very first signal. However, the first radio signal across the Atlantic didn’t happen until six years later when he successfully sent a transmission, cementing his place in history.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that music began being broadcast in England and the United States, and the rest, as they say, is history. If you are of an age, you will remember when most radio stations broadcast only AM frequencies. Even though FM was invented by Edwin Armstrong in 1939, and a Nashville broadcasting station, W47NV, began broadcasting in 1941, it wasn’t really until the late 1950s when FM radio came into its own. Now you are probably wondering what this has to do with the evolution of advertising.

Obviously, radio stations needed revenue to survive and so they sold advertising time to ‘sponsors’ of specific programs and artists. Business owners and administrators will need to understand how to best allocate time and resources to customer acquisition, within which advertising plays a key role. If you intend to earn a Master of Business Administration, it will be necessary to have an in-depth understanding of marketing. Not only is the importance of advertising covered as you study for that MBA, but you will also learn how to identify and reach your audience.

Back to the Beginning

As previously mentioned, advertising can be dated back to ancient Egypt, but for literally thousands of years that is how advertising was handled. There were no radios, no televisions, and no internet. In fact, until the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, no one even dreamed of mass communications. It really wasn’t a concept at all until many years after he invented the first printing machine in 1450. The Bible was the first book printed ‘commercially’ and that brought about a reformation in theology as well. So, you see just how important the written word was when reaching the masses and remains so to this day but in other forms yet to be discussed.

It is said that the first printed advertisement was created by William Caxton in 1477. Bear in mind that this was just 27 years after the first commercial printing press was introduced to ‘the world.’ Caxton was an English merchant who designed what was referred to as a handbill to be distributed in the general neighborhood where his shop was located in Westminster Abbey. When it comes to beginnings, this can be noted as the advent of ads in print.

Newspapers, Flyers, Magazines and Billboards

That historical handbill is said to be the predecessor of today’s flyers but it can also be the prelude to newspaper and magazine advertisements. The major difference is in the way each is distributed. Flyers can be mailed, handed out in person, left on vehicles, or sometimes tacked up on bulletin boards, among other popular ways to get them out to a maximum audience. Each of these can credit their evolution back to that first commercial printing machine of Gutenberg and that first local ad created by William Caxton.

When it comes to magazines, it is widely held that the most notable printed advertisement, especially in modern times, was the conception of the ever famous Marlboro man. What many people don’t really know about this handsome, rugged man was the intent of the ad in the first place. Until the 1960s, filtered cigarettes were equated with femininity. Only women smoked filtered cigarettes and real men chose those of the unfiltered variety. Lucky Strikes and Camels were the most popular unfiltered cigarettes of the time and so not only were these ads aimed at getting men to smoke filtered cigarettes, but the deeper purpose was obviously to grab that market.

Moving Into a New Era in Advertising – Television

At this point, the Marlboro Man plays a key role in ushering in the age of television advertisements. Oddly, these ads seemed to be more popular among women than men which shows how capturing a market may not work out as intended. That handsomely rugged man appealed to the ladies and many of them began switching brands as well. This opened the door to a whole new market geared towards a female market and thus the creation of Eve cigarettes that were advertised as being designed with women in mind.

Here it is important to note that the Marlboro Man was once again relegated to print advertisements. On April 1, 1970, Richard M. Nixon signed legislation forbidding cigarette ads on television and radios. Again, you can clearly see how current trends in society can set the stage for advertising. That once popular Marlboro Man had to step back to print. Interestingly, when Bob Norris died in 2019 at the age of 90, the public were made aware of the fact that he, himself, had never been a smoker. Isn’t it amazing what advertising can do? You would think of him as the quintessential smoker but he never was.

Advertising in the Age of the Internet

This brings us up to current times when most people are introduced to new products and brands online. In the beginning, digital advertising was all about reaching a market with a key focus on product. Product marketing was successful for a number of years but, over time, trends do change. Today’s consumer no longer looks to identify with a product but would rather develop a ‘relationship’ with a brand. There is this sense of connection they seek and so advertising is now geared toward building that relationship. It is common for corporations to seek market influencers who virtually become the face of the brand. Think of Taylor Swift’s Capital One ads and you’ll have a perfect example of celebrity market influencers.

However, celebrities are not the only popular market influencers and so businesses now reach out to bloggers and social media to capture the audience they seek. This is highly successful, but currently many consumers are tired of all the popup ads that interfere with an article they are reading or a YouTube video they are trying to enjoy. While working with market influencers is still highly effective, it is important to also understand that there are a number of popup blockers people use to prevent being interrupted. Digital advertising is still effective, but a new evolution is underway to reach those audiences without relying on popups.

Key Takeaway for Today’s Business Administrators

While most businesses hire marketing teams or advertising executives, it is still important for business owners or administrators to understand the history of advertising and the techniques most effective in today’s world. One of their most important roles as an administrator is to focus on that all-important bottom line. This means that hiring the right team for the job is a key consideration. Unless you understand marketing for today’s consumer, you will not know if those ads will work for or against you.

In other words, if you want to realize a profit, you will need a marketing team that understands your company and can reach a highly targeted audience. Customer acquisition and retention are two of the key factors in profitability which is why so much emphasis is placed on advertising. No matter what era you were raised in, your aim is to reach today’s audience where they can be found. Although just one aspect of business administration, advertising can make or break a company and this is why it is so vitally important.