About AEF | Newsletter | Site Map | Legal | Advanced Search
Print Version

The Advent of Modern Advertising

With this first issue of 2015, we continue last year’s historical exploration and plunge into the depths of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Revealing a richness of materials and thought, we hope that this collection inspires fresh perspectives on the cyclical nature of advertising phenomena, as well as new insights on recent developments. Call it a healthy sort of nostalgia.

In From Crisis to Consensus: Advertising Practitioner Responses to the Trust Consolidation Era, 1898-1902, Stewart Alter takes us back to the turn of the century and paints a vivid picture of advertisers’ responses to the trust consolidations that characterized the business landscape. Feeling the need to better define and defend advertising practices, the industry was propelled into forming a more cohesive sector of professional specialization. It goes to show that advertising, as we know it now, is partially the result of the business environment at the time. Concomitantly, the views expressed across trade publications indicate varying understandings of power of these trusts and the future of advertising.

In our Classic Campaign for this issue, Kyle Asquith investigates Cream of Wheat’s child-focused campaigns in the early 1900s, and places it within a larger body of historical work on the creation of the child consumer. Around 1928, he argues, the leading food brand recognized the child’s potential as a marketplace actor in her own right, and began bypassing the mother in their communications. It is another case of children going ‘From Consumers of Food to Participants in the “Modern” Consumer Marketplace’, that largely predates and foreshadows the developments to come in the TV era.

I add an essay that explores the marketing background of the famous 1910s campaign for Woodbury soap. This campaign’s impact is often attributed to its use of sex to sell. However, I argue that solid marketing, from consumer research to media tracking was the real genius behind one of American history’s most important campaigns. Further, as I detail, when Woodbury lost track of market changes in the early 1920s, its power to persuade faded.

Taking another step towards the present, Cheryl Williams reviews A Word from Our Sponsor: Admen, Advertising, and the Golden Age of Radio by Cynthia B. Meyers (2014). This concise history of radio advertising presses on us the profound impact of the medium, and the importance of advertising in its evolution. The challenges of navigating shifting media landscapes will resonate with today’s practitioners in the face of social media. Yet Williams points out that the history of early radio advertising is characterised by sponsored content’s first heyday and demise. In light of the latter’s revival, perhaps it is wise, she concludes, to heed Meyers’ careful analysis of the past.

Linda M. Scott

Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.