When England was essentially rural there was little need for advertising as it is known today. Each community would have one smith, one cobbler, one baker, one butcher, one candlestick maker etc. In the larger towns and the cities where there were more goods and services on offer there would be discreet notices in windows or handbills might be distributed if the advertiser could afford them. There was no mass media such as radio, television or cinema; no huge hoardings; and until the 19th century newspapers were not read by the masses, many of whom were illiterate.
The Industrial Revolution meant that an unprecedented number of products and services were on offer from an unprecedented number of companies, partnerships and sole traders at a price affordable by an unprecedented number of consumers. Businesses needed to compete with each other to gain a share of the market place and advertising really began in earnest.
Methods used included signs, handbills, trade cards, posters (some in metal), and company names writ large on buildings. Some mills had the company name written vertically down the mill chimney or horizontally across the roof. As the 19th century progressed advertising in newspapers, ladies magazines, directories, trade journals, etc increased. Exhibitions were held to promote numbers of different products both nationally and internationally, of which the largest was the Great Exhibition staged at the Crystal Palace in 1851.
By the 20th century advertising had become an industry in itself. There were advertising agencies, copywriters and designers all competing for a slice of the advertising cake and inevitably advertising prices increased. The target was more literate, educated and discerning consumers. Competition was fierce and advertisers were always on the look-out for a 'good or different angle'.
The advent of cinema and television was seen as a great boost for advertising potential. Public taste however had become jaded with the proliferation of advertising and those paying for advertising began to have doubts about its effectiveness. F.W.Woolworth is reputed to have said 'I know that half my advertising budget is wasted. The problem is that I don't know which half'
There has been much research and many surveys done on the subject of advertising. One interesting fact to come out of this is the continuing success of newspaper classified advertisements which used to occupy the front pages of newspapers in the 19th century but which is now relegated to the back pages. This because it is 'the only form of advertisement which the public will actively seek out, the rest is generally ignored' However the same maxim which governed those offering goods or services in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries still applies today. Without advertising no one will know about them.
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