History of Advertising

The history of advertising goes all the way back to the ancient civilizations.

Pre-modern times

A popular way of advertising in pre-modern times was using wall painting. This and Indian rock paintings can be traced back to 4000BC. The Egyptians used a popular method of advertising called “Papyrus”.

Papyrus is a form of thick type of paper that is made out of the pith of a papyrus plant. A papyrus is an early form of a book and the sheets of papyrus have been joined together side by sider and rolled into a scroll.  Here is an example of the wall paintings and a papyrus scroll:



This would be the Egyptians version of billboard advertisements. Commercial and political campaigns have been found in the ruins of Pompeii. A lot of wall and rock paintings and papyrus for commercial advertising are still present to this day in Africa, South America and Asia.

19th Century

In the 18th century weekly newspapers where what started off early printed advertisements. These advertisements were mainly used to promote books and newspapers which became more affordable with advances of printing press. However, this is were false advertising started. Advertising in the newspapers in Britain in the 1850s and 1860s was popular for targeting middle class people to buy their products such as health remedies, beverages and fresh food. This is were branding started as advertisements for these products started to repeat and people would know about the products more than the generic products that wouldn’t be advertised or repeatedly advertised in the newspapers.

1890 condensed milk ad

Advertising Progression since the 19th Century

Political Advertising

Since the 19th Century, media advertisements became big. In the 1900s newspapers covered a lot of affairs that had happened and people would buy these newspapers to find out the latest “gossip”. Little did the readers know, the articles would be controlled by the political parties. This would be at the times version of advertising about each political party. Two thirds of newspapers would cover editorial pages supporting either the Liberal party or Conservative party whilst the others would remain independent.

Sex in Advertising

As advertising grew, different ways of getting audiences attention came to life. In the 20th century sex in advertising became popular and got a lot of attention. In 1911 a company called Woodbury Soap company was the first to use an image of sexual contact to sell their product. Helen Lansdowne created the slogan for the ad which was “Skin You Love To Touch” for the companies soap. This was a promise that the soap would increase the beauty of the customers skin if they were to buy the product. The slogan was so popular that the company continued to use it until the 1940s. It was ranked 31st on Advertising Ages‘s list of the top 100 campaigns of the 20th century. Here is the advertisement:



Woodbury was again the company that pushed the boundaries in the current times of advertising and was one of the first companies to advertise nudity. The ad known as “The Sun Bath” showed a nude woman with her back to the camera and the text for the advertisements was “filter sunshine”. Many celebrities later on featured in these advertisements for Woodbury’s soap.

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