Advertisements are all over the place. You hear them on the radio in the morning, watch them on television, and see them while driving your cars in traffic on your way home. The advertiser’s goal is to encourage you to buy the product, sign up for a promotion, or avail of the services offered by companies. Content can also be advertisements, attracting the reader to click on the page. What can we learn from the timeline that tells us how today’s advertising shape the way businesses work? 

History Of Advertising

The most proximate connections to today’s advertising were those of the products during the arrival of the printing press in the 15th century. However, ancient cave paintings by the Egyptians were also considered to be advertising. They tell you about their ways of life and culture. 

Advertising was very much alive during the time the Internet was still non-existent. The main media were radio, fuzzy televisions, and the radio. The age was known as traditional advertising but was also the golden era. Look at the example below and see how the ad reflects society’s transformation then. 

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It was in the year 1941 in the United States when the first TV advertisement was launched. Prior to the game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies, there was a commercial shown which sold Bulova watches and clocks. It was a landmark moment for businesses, advertisers, and consumers, the same way the Moon landing took the world by storm. People of that decade realized this way of selling could be possible. 

Airtime was also used to express sentiments on what was happening in society then, even in the advertisements. For instance, when America went through the Cold War in the 1950s, advertisers began creating creators that connected viewers and brands. They wanted to strengthen this bond that was challenged by this period in Western history. From cigarettes to washing machines, advertising grew. 

For instance, multinational companies and brands that have existed for several years utilized advertising and built on a concept that’s both transformative and strong. Between the 1960s and the 1990s, companies used the same images but reflective of history. Cereal advertisements, for example, utilized the combination of the product and the character. Koko Krunch was both the food name and the brand’s image. 

Today, the playing field has changed. From the passive customer, they are being turned into active consumers who participate in the marketing campaigns. How many of the Coca-Cola ads have you seen showing ordinary people? This is one illustration. It’s user-generated content, sourcing out amazing stories from these individuals. Especially with the rise of the Internet, it seems that television, print, and radio advertisements have found their competition. Popular social networking website Facebook also runs advertisements.

Here are more information you should know about the history of advertising:

  • Ancient Greece, 750 B.C. – Ladies attracted patrons by tapping onto their nails, producing “come hither” sound effects.
  • England, 1472 – The first print ad was created, a handbill that promoted a prayer book for sale.
  • 1661 – The Dentifice Tooth Gel was the first product branding ever developed.
  • 18th century – Political ads were first introduced in the years of the American Revolution, encouraging people to sign up in the campaign against British colonial rule in the New World.
  • 1835 – The first billboard ads were launched and the product were automobile fuels. 
  • New York, late 19th century – The first electric sign was lit at Times Square.
  • 1905 – The first celebrity endorsement was presented with silent movie’s Fatty Arbuckle promoting Murad cigarettes, citing they are preferred by “men of cultivated taste.”
  • 1917 – American Association Of Advertising Agencies was established.
  • 1938 – Laws were enacted to curb false advertising.
  • Late 1930s – World War II propaganda campaigns were seen in advertisements.
  • 1950 – Gov. Dewey of New York starred in the first political TV ad. 
  • 1970 – Infomercials made its way to consumers. 
  • 1904 – First banner ads were launched, for companies like AT&T, Spring, Volvo, and more.
  • 1995 – Yahoo! Launched first keyword ad.
  • 2000s – The rise of online ads came through with the popularity of the Internet.
  • 2006 – Video advertisements made their way to consumers.
  • 2011 – Online ads became one of the priorities of businesses in their marketing campaigns and planning.

The World’s Most Fascinating Ads

These then bring us to the advertisements and campaigns that made customers and viewers laugh, cry, and surprised because of the way they were presented. Aside from the business perspective, urging viewers to buy, in advertisements, they also send a message to promote causes or part of a political campaign. Here are the most popular advertisements of all-time, listed on various websites.

1. Volkswagen’s “Think Small” Campaign (1960s)

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The “Think Small” campaign by renowned automobile brand Volkswagen, which started in the 1960s, is still used as a reference today by various advertisers. It seems to play an attack over the cliche, “think big,” but does not. It is a catchy phrase that attracted Americans to purchase cars from Volkswagen. It accurately described the way their automobiles are made.

2. Thailand’s Heart-Warming Video Ads (2000s)

They go viral, especially among targeted audiences and communities. These heart-warming video advertisements have made several people cry in front of their screens. Known as “sad-vertising,” these campaigns are like short films that release the emotion out of the viewers. Many companies attempt to have one of these in the promotions, but Thailand creates the best of them. At one point, you’ll think they are movies but at the last frames of the clip, they actually promote a product like shampoo, toothpaste, and more. 

3. California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk” Campaign (1900s)

With the California Milk Processor Board’s campaign, milk sales at the Golden States increased seven percent within a year. What’s in the campaign and what’s distinctive about it? Instead of targeting consumers who are not milk drinkers, the advertisers focused on customers who are already drinking milk. It catapulted several memes of “Got (Insert Item Here)?” because of the advertisement’s impact, combining elements in pop media. Such as this one:

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4. Clairol’s “Does She Or Doesn’t She?” (1950s)


Another effective ad campaign was released in the 1950s from hair color brand Clairol. The print advertisement promoted that using the hair color product, it won’t appear as you have them on your hair because of its natural tones. The success pushed certain states to lift bans on women wearing hair color on their driver’s license. This utilized visuals to promote the product.