A seller sends a message about a product or service to a consumer. Although this lies at the core of what transpires in the phenomenon we know as advertising, the actual process involves many more steps. It must begin with a company (or, more rarely, a person) who has something to sell. That company then hires an advertising agency to (1) help construct and (2) deliver its message to the potential consumers. Or, in the terminology of the business world, a client company hires an advertising agency to communicate its brand identity and selling propositions to potential consumers.
The story of how the client in conjunction with the agency delivers the message to potential consumers is the subject of this chapter. In fact, the history of modern advertising is a story about continually changing media technologies and the creation of messages for and adapted to these modes of communication. The story moves over the course of about 150 years—post-Civil War America to the present—through various stages of message delivery. It is a story that originates in messages delivered personally by sellers to one or a few consumers at a time, then of messages delivered to multitudes through mass media, and finally of messages tailored for and delivered to individual consumers through complex technologies. This fantastic and often ironic story is easily overlooked in thinking of advertising only as a process of sellers delivering messages to consumers.
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