The Evolution of Advertising

When we think about advertising, it is easy to quickly just think about television commercials and billboards on the side of a highway. However, advertising is much more than that. Advertising continues to evolve and change every day. What advertising meant last year is different than what it means this year. To understand what advertising is now and where it is going though, we must understand how it has evolved from where it was in the past.

Advertising initially began in full swing in the twentieth century with the emergence of the invention of the radio and cable television. The 1950s through the 1970s are heralded as the heyday of cable television. With these inventions, advertising was finally able to reach mass audiences. With a limited number of television channels, advertising could directly reach consumers without much other clutter competing for the viewer’s attention.

Then, cable television began in the 1980s, and the advertising industry began to be able to fragment the mass media and better target consumers. As more networks were created, further segmentation occurred and the concept of narrowcasting emerged. The idea of narrowcasting is simply targeted advertising through cable television to smaller market segments by demographics such as location, interests, age, etc.

The next big thing to sweep the advertising world was the increased presence of advertisements in magazines. As television advertising rose in cost, magazine and print advertising declined, only further fueling this print advertising boom. These print options could also more narrow segment the market.

Finally, with the ushering in of the twenty first century, there came the internet and with it digital media. Unlike previous methods of segmenting that used demographic variables to target markets, digital advertising provided the opportunity to implement behavioral targeting, which previously would have been too expensive to collect data on.

As a consequence of this, today our world is filled with much more advertising clutter creating an even higher demand for quality advertising that engages viewers. Currently, there is an increased ability for the consumer to avoid or skip over ads whether through a DVR or through the click of a button.

As a result, the advertising industry has become more creative with growth in strategies such as product placement and sponsorships. Social media has also emerged around 2010 as a powerful new advertising tool that is low cost, if not free.

Over the past hundred years, the entire landscape of the advertising industry has changed, and it will only continue to change. Advertising agencies then must continue to be on the top of their game, constantly thinking of new and creative ways to engage and reach the consumer.

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