80 Years of Ideas

Advertising Age: 80 Years of Ideas

We Look at the Events, Brands and Trends That Have Shaped Marketing -- and the Ones Still to Come

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When Ad Age published its first issue in 1930, the stock market had just tanked, and a Great Depression was only beginning. Consumer spending plunged 41% from 1929 to the Depression's 1933 nadir.

Ad Age's first issue, from 1930.
Ad Age's first issue, from 1930.
A problem for consumer marketing, media and advertising? Actually, a remarkable opportunity.

In this report, we profile great brands that made their debuts in 1930 and went on to be market leaders: Fortune and Fisher-Price, Motorola and McCann Erickson, Twinkies and Tums. And in an accompanying timeline, we assemble 80 highlights from 80 years.

The past offers key lessons. First: There is never a bad time to launch a great product or company. (The biggest opportunities on the internet were born of or after the dot-com crash. Just ask Google and Facebook.)

Second: Failure is a cost of doing business. When Apple's first wireless device (1993's Newton) flopped, Ad Age noted, "The category may give a new twist to Newton's law: Products may be falling now, but the category is still poised to soar -- eventually. ... Smart money still is betting on long-term prospects for wireless portable communications devices." Apple came back with iPod (2001), iPhone (2007) and iPad (2010).

Third: The best marketers, media firms and agencies boast an outstanding ability to reinvent themselves and lead their changing markets decade after decade.

The best example is Procter & Gamble Co.; see our 1931, 1980 and 1994 entries. And just last week, P&G rightfully became the first corporation inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Fame.

Ad Age has covered the rise of new media -- again and again: Radio, which went from essentially zero to 55% household penetration in 12 years; TV (0.4% to 55% penetration in six years); cable (6% to 50% in 19 years); internet (broadband penetration soared from 1.7% to 54% in eight years).

We've tracked the emergence of new technologies: Refrigerators (from 15% household penetration to 50%-plus during the 1930s); wireless phones (a 22-year ride from 1983 debut to 50% household penetration). We've also witnessed how innovators can build remarkable businesses around emerging media and technologies. Cable? Ted Turner. Refrigerators? Birds Eye frozen foods. Computers? Bill Gates' and Paul Allen's Micro-Soft.

Ad Age's 12-page debut issue mentions some now-faded brands such as Saturday Evening Post and Plymouth cars.

But the issue also notes brands that are very much in the game today: Time, The New Yorker, Quaker Oats, Buick, NBC. And Gillette, which at the time was preparing to launch a new-and-improved razor and blade.

So what's new? Keep reading.

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