From billboards to Facebook ads, the history of advertising and marketing changed the world

Date Published 05/12/2022
Lia Vin
branding design agency writing on touchpad with color palette next, office environment

Advertisement has been around long before the era of television and social media, and no matter what new platforms are invented in the future, it will likely still hold true today.

The power of eye-catching advertisements and marketing campaigns cannot be denied – every year, billions of dollars are spent on producing print ads, TV commercials, billboards, logos, and more to influence people’s decisions on what to buy and which products to use.

Let’s take a look at the history of advertising and marketing that changed the world...


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The Beginnings of Advertising

Advertising is far from a new concept. It began as early as 2,000 B.C., when signs were put on street corners in ancient Greece that read Tiberius for Tribune. 

As time evolved, the first common medium for marketing was newspapers. By 1650, newspapers had sprung up all over England, allowing businesses to get their messages out to potential customers by printing ads. 

Once magazines became popular (starting with Gentleman's Magazine in 1731), so did advertisements within them; 

Some even allowed businesses to purchase multiple issues featuring an ad spread out over many pages. 

Newspapers also continued to be popular venues for advertisements throughout most of the 1800s.

At that time, typesetting was done by hand. It became faster and easier when movable type—also known as a printing press—was developed in Germany around 1450. 

The printing press allowed advertisers to create ad campaigns more easily because they didn't have to rely on newspapers or magazines for space. 

Instead, they could distribute ad-filled flyers or brochures directly to customers. 

As railroads became popular during the 1800s in America (following their initial development around 1710), advertisers started using them as distribution platforms for promotional materials that explained their products and appealed directly to consumers.

The Golden Age of Advertising

The 1940s through 1950s is known as The Golden Age for a number of reasons. 

It's when American culture moved from rural communities into suburban areas. 

It was when television programming entered homes across America on a regular basis (and not just in news casts). 

And it was an age that fostered creativity in terms of both technology and design elements.

During World War II, companies turned their attention towards supporting military efforts as much as possible while simultaneously developing new products that could be marketed after hostilities ended. 

The initial television ad sets were sold commercially during 1946 at around $900 each—outrageously expensive compared to today's prices but they captured people's imaginations nonetheless.

Contemporary Advertising

Today’s ads aren’t just for telling us about products—it's also trying to connect with us on a personal level. 

This type of personal connection is best exemplified by modern day advertisers like Apple. 

The first time most people saw an Apple ad was when it featured 1984 directed by Ridley Scott. 

It wasn’t long before one of their other popular ads was aired during Super Bowl XLIX: featuring an emotional piano melody from U2's All I Want Is You, in which many viewers shed tears at its end (known as crying commercials). 

These emotional aspects are key ingredients in what makes contemporary advertisements succeed.


Contemporary advertisements have become a staple in everyday life. 

No matter where you go or what device you look at, there will almost always be some sort of ad—especially with social media as prevalent as it is. 

A common aspect seen in current day ads are celebrity and influencers endorsements for products or services. 

Social media platforms such as Twitter make these easy because celebrities can advertise just by tweeting a picture or a link from their page. 

Celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Ellen DeGeneres are considered popular social media influencers today thanks to their ability to connect with fans on an individual level through Twitter.

Marketing through Social Media Platforms

Marketing has gone through various transformations since its birth, but what hasn’t changed is its aim: connecting a product with a potential customer. 

Marketing today is being redefined every day with new inventions and innovations. The invention of social media platforms like Facebook has made it easier for marketers to connect with their target audience. 

Marketers have explored all available means including visual advertisements such as television commercials that can draw consumers' attention in a matter of seconds or catchy slogans on billboards to influence people's buying decision. 

Even companies like Coca-Cola are taking into account special designing elements such as color psychology and other designing techniques in their ad campaigns using social media sites in order to achieve an impactful result.

Learn more about color psychology (here)

Why Marketing is a Key to Every Business?

Whether it’s running an ad in a newspaper or posting a branded image on Instagram, business owners are always looking for new ways to market their products. 

The path that brought us from static billboards with one-way communication to high-frequency ads personalized for each user has been anything but linear. 

Today’s digital landscape is constantly evolving, which means there is no one size fits all approach for successful marketing. 

In order to truly engage customers and stand out among competition, businesses need a carefully designed mix of traditional marketing methods in addition to creative design elements like illustrations or photography. Learn How to create a recognizable brand in 3 steps!

Here are some inspirations and creative marketing that have been done throughout the past decade. 

Marketing examples


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As humans, we constantly seek new things to entertain us and make our lives easier, and advertising plays a huge role in that.

From billboards to Facebook ads, the history of advertising and marketing changed the world by influencing what we eat, drink, wear, and even think.

From the telegraph and radio to television and the internet, designers used their talent to put advertisements in front of everyone’s eyes to influence them into buying their product over others on the market.

It is important to keep in touch with the market trend to ride the wave and increase your sales.

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