How It All Began – print advertising gains traction

Now that print advertising was gaining traction government agencies began regulating the print industry. Advertising agencies were opening throughout cities offering their expertise in marketing a wide range of products and services. Advertisers had a long way to go to convince America’s businesses that they needed to advertise.  In April 1873 the first advertiser’s convention was held in New York City. Agency leaders assembled to discuss foreseen issues in the current print advertising industry. Interestingly some of those same issues still exist in the industry.  The relationship between printers and advertising agents was more clearly defined and neither party could intentionally hurt the other both financially or by reputation defamation. With government regulation and government agencies gearing up, so did government taxes. Quickly the government realized the revenue stream available to an industry that would forever change American small business.

The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and businesses were scrambling to find the best method to reach their consumers, wholesalers, and retailers. Businesses could no longer advertise to just the wealthy or financially sound consumer. Competition was becoming aggressive so businesses had to widen their target audience and thus the household product marketing was launched to reach all income levels.

Why would P&G pay $11,000 to market one product in the 1800s?

Procter & Gamble began their advertising campaign for their Ivory Soap with a substantial $11,000 budget. “It revolutionized the world of branding, marketing and advertising, with pioneering methods that are still used today.”  Amongst several pieces to the P&G marketing effort was the product packaging for their multipurpose soap. Soap sells first began by cutting blocks of the soap off a larger block, wrapping it in brown paper, and handing it directly to the consumer. P&G 1900s  Ivory Soap Now that printing on paper was a necessity and becoming common practice, P&G took a gamble and printed a simple design on white paper and began packing their product for mass usage. The majority of the $11,000 was spent on product packaging. The gamble paid off.

Typography becomes important

Although newspapers were filled with advertisements for everything from political views to a local farmer selling his goods or livestock; businesses continued plastering posters on buildings and fences to ensure they found their customers. As print advertising gained popularity newspaper advertising space became limited so marketers learned quickly how to pack their ads with repetitious phrases and names. In order to set businesses apart from the competition and maximize print advertising typeface became an important feature. A business had to look different to catch the buyer’s attention. We began learning how layout and typeface changes the minds of the reader.

Subsequent to the Federal Trade Act’s passing in 1914, advertising became a tool for businesses to reach its consumers in more than one method.  Print advertising gained speed through the 1900s and quickly spread to radio and thereafter television media.  This began the marketing process of interlinking print advertising with electronic advertising.

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How It All Began – the birth of print advertising

As we researched how and when print advertising began we found many reputable resources that had a different first print advertising fact. Some say it wasn’t until the 19th century that it arrived in the New World, but in actuality it seems it may have been 4000 BC when some form of print advertising came to be.

Thousands of years ago the Egyptians carved public notices into stone and steel. But 2000 years earlier Indians drew on cave walls as a way of communicating their story. Some experts believe that petroglyphs were the first form of advertising. The basic definition of advertising is a form of communication used to persuade change or to continue an audience’s actions. As print advertising progressed through time it became primarily used to persuade actions in politics, ideologies, and commercial activities.

Caxton handbill
Print advertising has dramatically changed throughout history. From the first handbill printed in England in 1477 by printer William Caxton. By the 18th century citizens were bombarded with advertisements. Streets were lined with signs on walls and billboards draped over people’s shoulders, and merchants chanted about their products and services from their street side carts. Almost every city’s surface displayed an advertisement of some sort. The printing press had been substantially updated and could produce print ads quickly, and newspapers became a necessity for citizens to keep abreast of current events.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of early print advertising

Franklin join or die With the invention of paper and its journey to America, advertising found a new transportable method of communication. Paper became useful in newspapers, handbills, flyers, posters, and many more communications. Benjamin Franklin used his Pennsylvania Gazette to voice his opinions, under an alias of course, printed the first political campaign ad, and paved the way for future advertising.

Until the development and subsequent upgrade to the printing press the production of a quality print advertisement was ineffective. Even with the upgrades an advertiser was limited to layout and image restrictions. Images had to be hand-drawn and had to fit into an exact space. An advertiser was also limited to the number of consumers that were able to read and consume the information accurately. Cities were usually small and did not offer a delivery method outside of town. american printing press Prior to establishment of the Federal Trade Commission’s regulations in 1914 advertising was in many instances crude, one-sided, slanderous, racist, and included false information. The passing of the Federal Trade Act affixed government regulations to any in print advertising form in an effort to protect consumers and promote competition.

To learn more about the growth of print advertising after the 18th century and how it changed America, visit our blog post How It All Began – the birth of print advertising gains traction.

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