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This unit examines the historical antecedents of Advertising in the world over, as well as its various definitions. The unit is subdivided as follows:

  1. History/development of Advertising 
  2. Definitions of Advertising 
  3. Functions of Advertising


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. discuss the origin of advertising 
  2. give at least three definitions of advertising. 


Advertising is an adjunct of the mass media. It has to do with commercial persuasion. All advertising contains both information and persuasion in varying degree. The classified advertisements in the daily newspaper are almost information. Their primary intention is to advise readers of the availability of products-telling where, when and for how much. The audience either wants it or they do not (Black et al 1998:296).

3.1 Origin and Development of Advertising

Ancient forms of advertisement existed before the emergence of newspaper. There were critics who advertised their product through oral norms in ancient Rome, Medieval England, and America and in Africa. Signs and symbols were also used to advertise. Graffiti on the walls of Pompeii and the stone obelisks of ancient Egypt give evidence of early sales promotion.

Trademark and brand system differentiation began in the middle ages. Marks were developed to identify the makers of many goods while the medieval guild controlled the quality of such goods, thus making the mark a great asset.

The emergence of newspaper in 1620 gave advertising a medium to grow. The date of the first newspaper advert is yet to be known but Henry Sampson cites in advertising that appeared in 1650 in several editions of the “proceeding in parliament”.

In the early American colonies, the Boston newsletter appeared in 1704. It attempted to find a buyer or rents for an estate in Oyster Bay Long Island .In 1729, Benjamin Franklin began publishing his newspaper the Pennsylvania Gazette, and he was often considered as the father of American advertising. Franklin made important innovation in newspaper advertising. He was the first American to use advertising illustration. He was a copywriter, an advertising manager, salesman, publisher and editor. His most famous piece of advertising copy was the Pennsylvania fireplace. {The Franklin Stove}

The Egyptians played a remarkable role in the development of advertising when they used papyrus to create sales messages and wall posters, while lost-and-found advertising on papyrus was common in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Wall or rock painting for commercial advertising is another manifestation of an ancient advertising form, which is present to this day in many parts of Asia, Africa, and South America.

As far back as 4000BCE, the Indians were involved in ancient advertising in form of wall painting as exhibited by the popular Indian rock-art paintings. During the mid 16th

century, advertising expanded to include handbills. In the 17th century, advertisements started to appear in weekly newspapers in England. These early print advertisements were used mainly to promote books and newspapers, which became increasingly affordable due to the printing press; and medicines, which were increasingly sought after as disease ravaged Europe. However, false advertising and so-called “quack” advertisements became a problem, which ushered in the regulation of advertising content.

The expansion in the world economy equally led to accelerated growth in advertising. In the United States of America, classified advertisements became popular, filling pages of newspapers with small print messages promoting various goods. The success of this advertising format eventually led to the growth of mail-order advertising.

In 1841, Volney Palmer, a Boston based advertising agency was the first, advertising agency to be established and the first to charge a commission on ads at 25% commission paid by newspaper publishers to sell space to advertisers. At first, agencies were brokers for advertisement space in newspapers. N. W. Ayer & Son was the first full-service agency to assume responsibility for advertising content. N.W. Ayer opened in 1875, and was located in Philadelphia.

Women too, joined the advertising career and since women were responsible for most of the purchasing done in their household. Advertisers and agencies recognised the value of women’s insight during the creative process. In fact, the first American advertising to use a sexual sell was created by a woman – for a soap product. Although tame by today’s standards, the advertisement featured a couple with the message “The skin you love to touch”.

When radio stations began broadcasting in the early 1920s, the programmes were however nearly exploded. This was so because the first radio stations were established by radio equipment manufacturers and retailers who offered programmes in order to sell more radios to consumers. As time passed, many non-profit organizations followed suit in setting up their own radio stations, and included: schools, clubs and civic groups. When the practice of sponsoring programmes was popularised, each individual radio programme was usually sponsored by a single business in exchange for a brief mention of the business’ name at the beginning and end of the sponsored shows. However, radio station owners soon realised they could earn more money by selling sponsorship rights in small time allocations to multiple businesses throughout their radio station’s broadcasts, rather than selling the sponsorship rights to single businesses per show. This practice was carried over to television in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In the early 1950s, the Dumont television network began the modern trend of selling advertisement time to multiple sponsors. Previously, Dumont had trouble finding sponsors for many of their programme and compensated by selling smaller blocks of advertising time to several businesses. This eventually became the norm for the commercial television industry in the United States. However, it was still a common practice to have single sponsor shows, such as the U.S. Steel Hour. In some instances, the sponsors exercised great control over the content of the show – up to and including having one’s advertising agency actually writing the show. The single sponsor model is much less prevalent now, a notable exception being the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

The 1960s saw advertising transform into a modern, more scientific approach in which creativity was allowed to shine, producing unexpected messages that made advertisements more tempting to consumers’ eyes. The Volkswagen ad campaign–featuring such headlines as “Think Small” and “Lemon” (which were used to describe the appearance of the car)–ushered in the era of modern advertising by promoting a “position” or “unique selling proposition” designed to associate each brand with a specific idea in the reader or viewer’s mind. This period of American advertising is called the Creative Revolution and its poster boy was Bill Bernbach who helped create the revolutionary Volkswagen ads among others. Some of the most creative and long-standing American advertising dates to this incredibly creative period.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the introduction of cable television and particularly MTV. Pioneering the concept of the music video, MTV ushered in a new type of advertising: the consumer tunes in for the advertising message, rather than it being a byproduct or afterthought. As cable and satellite television became increasingly prevalent, specialty channels emerged, including channels entirely devoted to advertising, such as QVC, Home Shopping Network, and Shop TV.

Marketing through the Internet opened new frontiers for advertisers and contributed to the “dot-com” boom of the 1990s. Entire corporations operated solely on advertising revenue, offering everything from coupons to free Internet access. At the turn of the 21st century, the search engine Google revolutionized online advertising by emphasizing contextually relevant, unobtrusive ads intended to help, rather than inundate, users. This has led to a plethora of similar efforts and an increasing trend of interactive advertising.

The share of advertising spending relative to GDP has changed little across large changes in media. For example, in the U.S. in 1925, the main advertising media were newspapers, magazines, signs on streetcars, and outdoor posters. Advertising spending as a share of GDP was about 2.9%. By 1998, television and radio had become major advertising media. Nonetheless, advertising spending as a share of GDP was slightly lower — about 2.4%.

A recent advertising innovation is “guerrilla promotions”, which involve unusual approaches such as staged encounters in public places, giveaways of products such as cars that are covered with brand messages, and interactive advertising where the viewer can respond to become part of the advertising message. This reflects an increasing trend of interactive and “embedded” ads, such as via product placement, having consumers vote through text messages, and various innovations utilizing social networking sites (e.g. MySpace).

Paul McManus, the Creative Director of TBWAEurope in the late 90’s summed up advertising as being “…all about understanding. Understanding of the brand, the product or the service being offered and understanding of the people (their hopes and fears and needs) who are going to interact with it. Great advertising is the creative expression of that understanding.”

3.1.1 Forces behind the Growth of Modern Advertising The forces are:

  1. Technological development- mass production, mass communication and mass marketing. 
  2. Growth in productivity per worker. 
  3. Increase in disposable income 
  4. Growth of the middle class- creating more advertising audience. 
  5. Growth of transportation- allows distribution. 
  6. Increase in education 
  7. Decline of personal selling 
  8. Growth of specialized advertising organization 
  9. Growth of brands and variety of merchandise. 
  10. Growth in use of research. 


What are the roles Iwe Iroyin played in the development of advertising in Nigeria?

3.2 Definitions of Advertising

Advertising is derived from the latin word, ad vertere which means “to turn the mind toward”. What this means is that advertising in itself can only predispose, or tips the scales. Advertising does not and cannot sell anything. (Black et al 1998:296) Simply put, advertising is a paid form of communicating a message by the use of various media. It is persuasive, informative, and designed to influence purchasing behavior or thought patterns. One important thing about this definition is that Advertising is paid and not free. It could also be defined as a one-way communication through a medium in which the sponsor is identified and the message is controlled by the sponsor. Every major medium is used to deliver these messages, including: television, radio, movies, magazines, newspapers, video games, the Internet.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines advertising as “any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods or services by an identified sponsor.” This presupposes the fact that advertising is openly and overtly subsidized information and persuasion, and its task is to present and promote far more than the merchandise. One needs to point out that advertising cannot impose or force people to accept its message. In other words, the effectiveness of any advertising is subject to audience receptive ability. Advertising is controlled, identifiable information and persuasion by means of mass communication.

Unlike other media where the source is not the gatekeeper, the advertiser is the gatekeeper here. Whoever pays the bills to place the advertising in the edit exercises control over how those messages are to appear. When someone sends a public relations release to newspaper, the editors and reporters become the gatekeepers. They determine whether and how the message looks, what it says, when and where it will appear and who is likely to see it. In this sense, commercial advertising is more open and above board than public relations and much more so than its totalitarian counterpart, propaganda, in which more often than not persuasion is masked as news or its sources are perverted or hidden (Black et al 1998:296)

3.2.1 Advertising Agency

The advertising Agency is a mediator between the advertisers and the mass media. The advertisers could be the manufacturer or distributors of particular products. The advertising Agency represents the two parties involved very well by serving their interest well. The major function of advertising Agency could be summed up as: client liason, creativity, production, placement and housekeeping.

Functions of the advertising Agency

  1. Planning 
  2. Client service 
  3. Creative service 
  4. Advert placement 
  5. Research. 
  6. Sales promotions 
  7. Public relations 

Top Ten World Advertising Agencies 

Source: http://www.adage.com/international/world_brands, February 12, 2002.

McCann-Erickson Worldwide; DDB Worldwide; Grey advertising; Ogilvy & Mather; Worldwide; EURO RSCG Worldwide; J. Walter Thompson Co.; BBDO Worldwide; Y & R advertising; Publicis Communication; D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles; Agency Markets Clients.


Explain the ‘Advertiser as gatekeeper rather the editors’ in advertising.3.3 Functions of Advertising

The primary function of advertisement is to help companies produce larger sales, less supply, and a possibility to introduce new products etc. It helps stores with faster turnover of old goods and it enables the use of media as an important source of funds for a normal business. It enables a more qualitative choice between products to consumers. And it also helps society in general because it promotes economic development, encourages competition in quality and so adjusts products to be equal on an international market. One important use of advertising is that it reduces the unit cost of a product. Another function of advertising is to increase sales volume of products and establish product distribution in a new locality. Advertising can also reduce production costs in a few industries by increasing the scales of operations. Increased demand created by advertising brings about a reduction of cost per unit as a consequence of the lower costs made possible by mass production process.

Another function of advertising is that it enhances the quality of products. Advertisers are looking for unique feature and characteristics of a product, or the quality edge the product has over other products. This unique feature is what the advertiser would use to package the advertisement messages.

Advertising compels ever-increasing qualitative superiority of product on the management of all companies. The advertiser with a product characteristic which can be stressed may achieve the steady patronage of customers who are won over to the product. This should result in stabilizing a share of the total market for the product (Ajai 2005:54).

Don’ts of Advertising

Below are the don’ts of advertising:

  1. Advertising must not contain anything that is contrary to the law and must not leave out anything that the law requires. 
  2. Advertising must not contain anything that insults the public in terms of dominant respectability rules. It must also not be contrary to self-evident equality between genders or show a man, a woman or a child in an offensive way. Nudity and sexual implication that shock public or draw attention as well as pointless connection with the product is not acceptable. When nudity and sexual implication are connected with the message, it should not offend good taste. 
  3. Advertising must not be so framed as to abuse the consumer’s trust, exploit their lack of experience or knowledge and to manipulate them.
  4. Technical descriptions, claims and comparisons which are published in advertisements must be proven. If there are unusual claims that are not generally known, advertisers and advertising agencies must take all responsibility for it. 
  5. Messages must not contain claims or visual images that directly or indirectly mislead the consumer about the purpose of the product or about the advertiser. 
  6. Lies or exaggerations which try to amuse or draw attention are allowed only if this purpose is clear and not if it’s a fact that must be accepted as one. 


What are the dysfunctions of advertising?


Advertising is faced with controversy. It is both condemned and praised in that while others see advertising as the driver of business as it reduces the unit cost of a product by creating mass demand, others in the opposing side say that advertising is wasteful; that consumers pay more for a product that is advertised than they would, if it were not. Advertising gives the company the desire to improve the quality of its products and services and makes a company to engage in continuous product research and development


The place of advertising in the economy is underscored in this unit. The unit which started with the historical antecedent of advertising in the world over, equally looked at definitions of advertising. Besides, the unit briefly discussed the mediator in advertising business, otherwise known as the advertising Agency which function include: Planning, client service, creative service, advert placement, Research., Sales promotions and Public relations


Advertisement is too much with us; It lies and misleads. Make a solid case for or against this statement.


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