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A history of advertising

‘Good morning. Have you used Pears’ soap?’

This was the first advertising slogan created. It was devised by Thomas J Barratt for the Pears Soap Company in the 19th Century. He has the enviable credit for creating the first recognisable legally registered brand. He went on to create the Miss Pears competition, whereby parents were invited to offer their children to be used in the Pears adverts.

He introduced the first techniques for strong consistant advertising with quality imagery and strong messages. Keeping these constant across a range of material and associating quality products with quality imagery.

The literal term of advertising comes from the Latin ‘Ad Vertere’ which translates as ‘To turn towards’. It is clear how this became one of the most important industries on the planet. It has become quite a story and quite a history of advertising.

By the turn of the 20th Century, America was becoming an industralised power and consequently looking at competing in the various markets through advertising. They embraced this new powerful advertising media to get better sales. They explored slogans and straplines and toyed with target markets to see what reactions they got. This proved very successful and in the early 20th Century a certain Edward Bernays got involved in the use of subliminal advertising messages. He just happened to be the nephew of Sigmund Freud, the renowned psychoanalyst.

Predictably, I guess, the tobacco industry was one of the first to see the potential of this new form of subliminal advertising. They hired Mr Bernays to create a feeling of positivity for their cigarettes. This proved very successful and inevitably led to other industries joning the new advertising bandwagon with the realisation that women were the major purchaser of many products. The power to sell to women holding the purse strings led to female targetted advertising and of course – soap. Women love to smell good and advertising had a field day in creating messages and ideas to sell their goods to this target audience.

The first ‘sex sells’ ad was actually created by a woman. she cresated the strapline “The skin you love to touch”. This would be quite risqué at the time but was very popular with the relevant ladies.

Needless to say this opened the gates for the advertising industry as a whole. Once you get a handle on what can work and what people will respond to there is no end to what can be creasted in the world of advertising. More and more seductive imagery was used to entice an audience, couple with cheeky and suggestive slogans and straplines. The world of advertising became an art form for creatives looking to create the next great advert that people would talk about and which would get results for their clients.

As the world of advertising grew it was soon realised that it could be used to get any message at all out there into the public domain. The retail sector used it as much as they could but it was also extremely useful for government messages or public awareness campaigns.

There was no end to the scope of its ability to reach people. It was used in endless publicity drives ranging from AIDS awareness to selling the next soap powder. Slogans and straplines became the norm in society from Esso’s ‘Put a tiger in your tank!’ to Nike’s ‘Just do it!’ We had slogans everywhere and advertisers creating new messages and copy to entice us every minute of the day wherever we walked, drove or sat.

The psychology of advertisng, and its affect on consumers, became a strategic art form for creative advertising agencies worldwide. Any creative director worth his or her salt was looking for the next big campaign opportunity to prove their worth and get their teeth into some new creative for their client. Large design agencies pitch for the best accounts and clients to get their creative staff working on the best campaigns which in turn will help the agency gain a better reputation and attract more great clients with more great campaigns.

So as you can see advertising, and the creative designers and copywriters working within it, have created a very competitive world for consumers and companies selling products. There are millions of products out there for cunsumers and they are all fighting for our attention and trying to persuade us to buy them. Are we able to resist their advances or do we all succumb to their tantalising messages and offers?


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