A brief history of advertising

October 3, 2011 | Raya

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Various forms of advertising have been around for thousands of years.  The Egyptians used papyrus to advertise goods and services. In ancient Rome and other parts of the ancient world mosaics, pictures on signs or walls were used by businesses to advertise their wares.  The Athenians, however, took advertising to a whole new level by using town criers to stroll the streets advertising products and services (very similar to our television and radio commercials) and can probably be credited with being the inventors of advertising as we know it today.



The earliest surviving printed ad in English (above) was published in 1477 by William Caxton, English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. This ad announces Caxton's edition of the "Sarum Ordinal" or "Pye", a list of rules for clergy at Salisbury on how to deal with the changing date of Easter.

At the beginning of the 17th century printed advertising was very common and was written by the merchant himself. La Gazette, the first French newspaper established by Theophraste Renaudot in 1631 contained personal ads for those seeking and offering employment, buying and selling goods and services and announcements of all kinds.  In the 18th century illustrations began to appear in advertisements and advertising agents, as they became known, started writing and illustrating the ads. 

And the rest is history!

Check out these books and DVD's for more in-depth information about the history of advertising:


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