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The history of advertising: 1900 – 1999

3 mins read

In the United States mass marketing began after 1900 when industrialization expanded the supply of manufactured goods. There was a higher rate of production which means Americans needed to start buying more things which is where the invention of mass marketing came from. The marketing was used to influence how and why people made purchases. In 1880 the total advertising volume was $200 million and in 1920 it was almost $3 billion, that’s a gigantic increase!

The American government started promoting advertising in the 1920s. In 1925 the Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, addressed the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World with a speech called “Advertising is a vital force in our National Life”.

dr pepper

North of the border in Canada during the early 1900s newspaper was king when it came to advertising. The papers mostly featured stories that kept local partisans in the loop with what was happening in their towns and provinces. Political parties controlled the contracts for public printing and the publishers relied on subscriptions from loyal partisans. Since there was a large rise in advertising agencies after 1900 there was a huge want for ads in newspapers and higher circulation – these advertisers didn’t care about partisanship. This want for ad money resulted in the founding of many non-political newspapers which relied more on ad dollars than subscriptions from loyal party members.

The first radio stations were created in the 1920s and advertising provided the funding for most of them because ad professionals knew that radio would be the next big trend. Everything was going well until The Great Depression in the 1930s caused advertisers to cut back on their spending causing many ad agencies to layoff employees, (let’s not spend too much time on the sad stuff though).

old radio

On to better times! When things were on the up and up families started to move into new homes, started buying new cars and had lots of babies! With growing families people started to take more vacations which caused an upswing in travel and tourism advertising.

Luckily for advertisers the creation of the television in the 50s allowed for even more creativity. Shows were sponsored by companies but once modern age hit it was a whole new can of worms! Companies were able to target tv commercials to specific people based on their demographics and the shows they watched.

mad men
Fast forward to the “dot-com” boom (our favourite!) when computers created advertising possibilities that would be unfathomable to people just a couple of decades prior. Entire corporations ran on advertising profit alone which we think is a good way to end this post and leave the really juicy stuff for next time. Until then!


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