History: 19th Century

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At the start of the 19th century in England, heavy taxation continued to restrict the press. Government advertising, an important source of revenue, was withheld from those papers that criticized the government.

Although the Industrial Revolution was well under way and illiteracy was receding, there were fewer papers in the 1840s than there had been a hundred years earlier, even though the ad tax had been lowered in 1833.

The nature of advertising, however, was changing. Rather than pandering to the rich, manufacturers began to woo a nascent mass market. Warren's Shoe Blacking is often cited as the first nationally advertised household product marketed in the U.K. One of its much-admired ads pictured a cat spitting at its reflection in a highly polished Hessian boot.

Several of London's earliest ad agencies got their start in the first half of the 19th century, including John Haddon & Co. (1814); G. Street & Co. (1830); C. Mitchell & Co. (1837), publisher of the first newspaper directory in 1845; and Mather & Crowther (1850).

Many merchants, however, were far from convinced that the press was the best advertising medium, as hundreds of thousands of Britons did not read newspapers. To reach them, merchants enlisted bill-posters, who pasted announcements on walls everywhere. In 1839, the Metropolitan Police Act made it an offense to post bills without the property owner's consent, but the law proved difficult to enforce.

In the 1840s, help-wanted and jobs-wanted notices began to appear along with offers of employment and railway advertisements, providing a new source of revenue for the popular newspapers.

Most advertising followed a standard pattern, but there were curious announcements for patent medicines. Of the leading pill-makers, James Morrison was among the most provocative. The self-styled "Hygiest" created the "Universal Pill," which one need swallow only once and all would be well.

The Industrial Revolution brought bigger and faster steam-powered presses, lithography, new methods of paper-making and color-reproduction techniques that made volume printing cost-effective by mid-century. At the same time, the costs of running a newspaper increased owing to the news services and features the public had grown to expect

Yet many editors remained reluctant to admit that advertising provided a vital source of revenue. By common consent, newspapers banned ads that used large type or illustrations and extended over several columns, the argument being that display advertising was unfair to the daily, small-space advertisers.

Creative advertisers maneuvered around the stringent restrictions, filling ad columns with endless repetitions of a firm's name or a phrase for as many as 1,000 lines. Others discovered the trick of building up large capital letters by grouping together single letters to form novel images. This so-called "iteration advertising" eventually led to the breakdown of the every-ad-the-same-size rule.

In 1861, the last remaining duty on newspapers was lifted in England. Still, only a few manufacturers believed that advertising was necessary. Generally, advertising was widely held in contempt. Unsubtle, repetitive phrases typified ads in the latter part of the century. Reminder phrases—"Pears' soap," "Mellin's food" and "Hot Bovril"—were regarded as complete and sufficient ads.

The U.S., 1800-1880

At the start of the 19th century in the U.S., most advertising was by local merchants selling to their own communities. Products were sold as commodities, not brands. The country's burgeoning population, booming economy and western expansion, however, created a demand for news about business, travel, entertainment and the availability of goods and services. This led many newspapers to consider ads a vital source of revenue—some even included the term "advertiser" in their name.

Unlike their British counterparts, which were restricted by taxation, American newspapers in the 19th century expanded rapidly. The price of a U.S. newspaper was only 3¢; in Britain, a paper cost four times that much.

In 1846, publisher James Gordon Bennet at the New York Herald banned all display advertising on the grounds that display ads were unfair competitors to the daily small-space advertisers. He further insisted that ad copy run no longer than two weeks to keep the announcements fresh. Soon after, other U.S. papers also began to follow that practice.

To overcome this, U.S. advertisers, like marketers in Britain, built up big letters from scores of smaller ones and repeated copy blocks so that their ads would look different than adjacent ads. To beat the two-week copy rule, they created several variations on an ad. From this came familiar ad slogans such as "Use Sapolio" (a popular soap) and "Eat H-O" (a brand of farina) later seen across the country.

Showman P.T. Barnum popularized a number of advertising and publicity techniques on both sides of the Atlantic. He is best known not for his newspaper advertising but for the effort he put into rousing posters, handbills, flags, banners and bands. Following Mr. Barnum's example, advertisers adopted exaggeration in advertising, and consumers learned quickly to discount everything they read there.

Advertising as a profession came into existence in the mid-19th century. As long as advertising was aimed only at local readers, advertisers had little need for outside assistance and so dealt directly with newspapers. As transportation improved, however, marketers distributed their goods over wider areas and thus required sales promotions that reached beyond their own regions.

Advertisers often found that the placing of printed announcements involved a myriad of details and time-consuming tasks, including identifying effective newspapers, negotiating rates, directing the printer, confirming the insertion and sending in payment. To handle those tasks, newspapers began paying agents to sell space to advertisers, whose functions gave rise to advertising agencies.

The earliest known advertising agent in the U.S. was Volney B. Palmer, who set up shop in Philadelphia in the 1840s. He worked for the newspapers he represented and also acted as an agent for advertisers. When he persuaded a company to buy space in a paper, he passed along the copy he received and the newspapers paid him part of the revenue (usually 25%).

Among other advertising agents, John L. Hooper began buying large orders of space at a substantial discount that he then divided into smaller units and resold at a higher price—yet considerably lower than what advertisers could obtain directly. The idea caught on quickly and by the beginning of the Civil War, there were about 30 such agencies in the U.S., more than half of them in New York.

By 1850, the U.S. economy was booming. In addition, an increasing amount of goods from previously limited local markets was being sold both in Europe and the U.S. Prime examples of these products were Samuel Colt's handgun and Elias Howe's sewing machine. Other manufacturers bottled, canned and packaged not only new foods but also familiar ones. Gail Borden and Henri Nestle succeeded in condensing milk. Liebigh Extract of Meat Co. supplied extract of beef, while Philip Armour and Gustavus Swift developed meat by-products.

Civil War

The U.S. Civil War created a whole new generation of customers familiar with ready-made food and store-bought clothing. With the onset of war, the need to feed thousands of soldiers in remote areas led to innovations in packaging and food preservation. Although canning had been available in the early 19th century, consumer use of canned goods lagged until a generation of soldiers became accustomed to eating canned vegetables, fruits and condensed milk. The invention of the can opener removed another troublesome obstacle to the widespread use of processed foods, and the need for thousands of soldier uniforms, underwear and shoes brought the sewing machine into wider use, while ready-made clothing evolved into a big business.

After the war, many people left the farm to work in urban factories and came to rely on affordable, mass-produced goods. As manufacturers mass-produced foodstuffs, urban food retailing became specialized. In one of the larger U.S. cities, a customer might have to shop as many as a half-dozen specialty stores to obtain basic foods.

A new breed of merchandisers brought the European idea of "department stores" to America. A.T. Stewart and R.H. Macy in New York, John Wanamaker in Philadelphia and Marshall Field in Chicago set up department stores and competed by offering customers elegant surroundings, broad selection and prompt, courteous service. To facilitate sales, the age-old practice of haggling gave way to a system of fixed prices. And shopping became grander as block-size establishments gave way to enclosed, multitiered arcades with space for shops, restaurants and doctors and lawyers offices.

By the late 1860s, newspaper publishers recognized that retailers and other advertisers were willing to spend a lot of money to attract attention and began to give them greater freedom. As department stores increased in size and sales, their store announcements expanded down the column, spanned adjoining columns and eventually filled whole pages. Sewing machines and typewriters, the most heavily advertised machines of the time, were the first products pictured in large newspaper ads.

Although George P. Rowell published the American Newspaper Directory after the Civil War, providing agencies and advertisers with the first sound basis for estimating a fair value of media space, these details were not fully sorted out until 1914, when the Audit Bureau of Circulations was formed.

Francis W. Ayer, who started N.W. Ayer & Son in Philadelphia in 1869, developed the open contract in 1876. While, other agents kept advertising rates strictly confidential so that the customer never knew the net publication prices, Mr. Ayer fixed his commission at 15%, giving the advertiser the benefit of all discounts and the agent's shrewd bargaining. Typically, though, advertising agents struggled to get by in a dubious profession.

Advantages of advertising

By the 1880s, a number of marketers achieved unprecedented economies of scale, expanded their distribution and reached for coast-to-coast markets. Mail-order selling flourished with the development of the national railroad system and the introduction in 1896 of rural free mail delivery.

Businesses began to recognize that advertising could not only reduce production costs by increasing sales but also create desires in consumers. The success of patent medicines and the great expansion of mail-order houses such as Montgomery Ward & Co. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. demonstrated the opportunities for sales on a national scale.

Meanwhile, national advertising of mass-produced, brand-name packaged goods emerged as one of the most significant developments of the post-Civil War era. Advertising made specific products so appealing that customers would accept no substitutes and in turn, they urged stores to stock those products regardless of the price set by the manufacturer.

The early patent medicine peddlers perfected the "hard sell." To make sure buyers selected the right bottle from the shelf in a store, the medicine makers experimented with elaborate and distinctive labels, often featuring easily remembered names, such as Kickapoo Indian Sagwa.

The hard sell also included the claim of being the best, the greatest or the most wonderful product in the world, along with phrases such as "send no money," "money-back guarantee" and other attention grabbers.

Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, a mixture of roots and alcohol for "female complaints," became one of U.S. advertising's most widely publicized early success stories. Although Ms. Pinkham died in 1883, her famous face continued to appear in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and in streetcar ads.

Tobacco companies also advanced the appeal of proprietary names, commercial symbols and packaging. Marketers packed bales of tobacco under named labels and began to literally "brand" their products with hot irons that burned the marketer's name into wooden packages-hence, "brand names" such as Black's Twist.

By the 1860s, the makers of tobacco products began to package their goods for sale directly to the consumer. Creative names acquainted consumers with a product's special qualities—Cherry Ripe promised a rich, aromatic tobacco, while Bull Durham meant a stronger smoke. Like the patent medicine bottlers, they experimented with picture labels and decorations to make the packages attractive.

Development of "packaged goods"

From 1860 to 1920, factory-produced merchandise in packages largely replaced locally produced goods sold in bulk. At first most people considered packaged goods a luxury. Decorative bottles suggested the allure of Pears' toiletries. Printed labels on pottery jars enhanced the appeal of Keiller's Dundee marmalade. Individually foil-wrapped candies created an elite image for British Cadbury chocolates.

In the move to standardized packaging, the next significant innovation in distribution and marketing was the folding box, and in 1879 the cereal industry mechanized the printing, folding and filling processes.

As the use of brand names and commercial marks spread, so did the practice of imitation; but the protection provided by new trademark laws encouraged companies to rely on well-advertised commercial symbols. Early marketers put their names on packages and began to develop a loyal following: Quaker Oats, Campbell, Pillsbury, Coca-Cola and Levi Strauss among them.

In the new era of packaged goods, advertising no longer focused on a hard sell, as consumers had become familiar with the products. Instead, emphasis shifted to a "soft-sell," feel-good style that focused on tying the brand name and reputation of the marketer to favorable, memorable associations.

Another important function of advertising developed at about the same time was the introduction of new products. The phonograph, telephone, bicycle and electric lightbulb all appeared during this period. Eastman's Kodak camera appeared in 1888, and Daimler and Benz started producing automobiles in 1885.

In almost every case, manufacturers spent a great deal on advertising to stimulate demand to justify the mass production needed to make a profit. Products old and new jammed the marketplace, and advertisers sought new ways to reach potential consumers. The emergence of magazines reflected that effort.

The communications revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought technological advances that created the greatest changes in communications since the introduction of the printing press. Railways, postal routes, the telegraph, typewriters and telephones all served to speed communication.

At the same time, society was becoming more educated, urbanized, industrialized and faster-paced. The combination of rising literacy and falling printing costs—also the result of technological gains—expanded the reading audience. This literate audience, concentrated in cities and larger towns, became the target of what came to be called the "mass media"—books, newspapers and magazines.

Unlike newspapers, magazines made most of their money from subscriptions, and most carried little if any advertising until the 1870s. In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward, a traveling salesman, produced the first mail-order catalog containing the first mass-produced color pictures in a printed publication, an innovation quickly adopted by the other print media.

Boston ad solicitor Cyrus H.K. Curtis established the magazine as a high-grade advertising vehicle, first with Ladies' Home Journal in 1883 and then the revamped Saturday Evening Post in 1897. New York ad agent J. Walter Thompson also transformed previously staid magazines into eye-catching publications that reached millions of homes.

Those magazines depended on a new class of subscribers-middle-class readers eager to buy consumer goods. These magazines created new opportunities for national advertisers as well as new demands on agencies. Art, copy and layout had to be carefully considered to reflect the broader marketing strategy of product image, pricing and distribution.

Europe and poster advertising

With the development of color lithography in the 1880s, Europe had taken the lead in the production of artistic posters and advertisements. The poster as an advertising form was used widely in Italy, France and Germany before it found its way to England. Art Nouveau posters coming out of Paris and London fascinated the art world. The work of poster artists such as Jules Cheret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha sold everything from cough drops to world's fairs

By the 1880s, ambitious pictorial advertisements began to appear in British illustrated magazines. Admakers reproduced original paintings, wash drawings and sketches as page ads to give a product the right image. Frederick Remington painted Western scenes for Smith & Wesson guns, and Jesse Wilcox Smith created illustrations for Ivory soap and Kodak.

Under the influence of the new printing methods, trademarks evolved into complex pictorial symbols. One of the earliest came from Walter Baker & Co., which identified its cocoa and chocolate with a demure waitress bearing a tray of hot chocolate. Quaker Oats' Quaker gentleman appeared on the marketer's cereal package, while the Michelin Man represented tires and Aunt Jemima became synonymous with pancakes.

In this period, slogan-making developed into a specialty to encapsulate a key theme or idea, such as National Biscuit Co.'s "Do Uneeda Biscuit?" and Ivory soap's "99 and 44/100% pure" and "It floats," among others. Jingles, which had the virtue of being easily remembered, also reappeared, including a series of lighthearted streetcar ads that made Sapolio Soap synonymous with cleanliness, praising the qualities of Sapolio in verse:

This is the butcher of Spotless Town,
His tools are bright as his renown.
To leave them stained were indiscreet,
For folks then would then abstain from meat.
And so he brightens his trade you know
By polishing with Sapolio.

Emergence of the agency

By 1900, with the rise of national advertisers and the advent of new media to meet the demands of businesses, agencies began to expand beyond their initial role as sellers of newspaper space. They offered multiple services to advertisers—writing the ads, seeing that they were placed in the best possible location and trying to get the best possible price for the space.

Agencies also learned how to create ad campaigns, plan marketing strategies and prepare ads. Some agents formed their own bill-posting companies, which erected their own boards and leased space. Others organized streetcar and magazine advertising, selling on a national basis.

These efforts led to the creation of national and eventually global advertising organizations. New York emerged as the nation's center of advertising as major agencies opened: N.W. Ayer & Son (1869), J. Walter Thompson Co. (1871), Lord & Thomas (1871) and George Batten Co. (1891).

The largest of the modern British agencies, T.B. Browne Ltd., set up shop in 1876 and bought space for Pears' Soap and other international advertisers. Other large agencies in London included S.H. Benson Ltd. (1893), C. Verson & Sons Ltd. (1894), Paul E. Derrick Advertising Agency (1894) and Erwood's Ltd. (1895).

Advertising and imperialism

By 1900, Britain, the U.S. and Japan largely controlled the economies of the developing nations. From the onset, the burgeoning advertising industry was American and British dominated. Because the developing areas were largely colonial possessions, the major advertisers as well as the most prominent advertising companies operating in the region were those of its colonial masters. As a result, the colonial mentality—a preference for things foreign, particularly American or British—prevaled.

During its colonial period, Britain gained footholds in South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong, India and Malaysia. British-made goods were sold in the colonial markets by British trading companies. As a result, most of the commercial advertisers in these colonies were initially British businesses and foreign advertising networks formed part of a global strategy.

In the second half of the 19th century, the colonization by Britain had a strong influence on advertising in both China and Hong Kong. More than 300 foreign-run newspapers and magazines circulated in China, with most published in Shanghai, the commercial center of the country. These publications, many of which were in Chinese, became the major mass media for advertising in the country.

By the turn of the century, U.S. advertising networks also began to expand aggressively into other countries. JWT became the first multinational agency when it set up shop in London in 1899. The objective of this first sales bureau was to urge European businessmen to sell in the U.S. and advertise their products there. But it would not be until the 1920s that JWT would sign its first campaign in England for the account of an American client.

In Canada, advertising generally developed about 20 years later than similar beginnings in the U.S. In 1881, the owners of the Toronto-based Daily Mail newspaper set up an ad agency. From 1880 to 1900, the advertising business grew slowly; accounts were small and so were the ads, as they followed the English models.

Although the U.S. and Britain had the most impact on advertising, the practice of advertising as a modern industry in Japan also dates back to the establishment and popularization of mass media. In 1867, the first newspaper advertisement placed by a Japanese company appeared in a Japanese-language newspaper, and the publications soon began to increase their circulation as well as ad revenue.

In Japan in the 1880s and '90s, the first truly professional ad agencies were founded, including Kohodo, Kokoku-sha, Man-nen-sha and Hakuhodo. In the 1890s, the first weekly magazines started. Primary advertisers were cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and publications.

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