Scroll to top

This History of Advertising in America

“Advertising ministers to the spiritual side of trade. It is a great power that has been intrusted to your keeping which charges you with the high responsibility of inspiring and ennobling the commercial world. It is all part of the greater work of regeneration and redemption of mankind.” 

– President Calvin Coolidge, 1926 Speech

That’s a pretty hefty calling made by President Coolidge. Has the advertising men and women of today held to that great responsibility? I think that question holds much more complication than we could ever answer. Advertising in this day and age is such a gigantic entity that to discuss the ethics of it would take days. But the advertising world was not always so huge.

During colonial times, most advertisements involved verbal announcements of the goods that businesses had in stock. Small advertisements that were very cut and dry appeared in newsletters as well. It’s also important to remember that back then, you didn’t have 10 of the same kind of shops on one street. Most people knew of the one or MAYBE two places to buy their toiletries and dried goods. Advertisements during this time were not always about goods and services though. Sadly, many of the advertisements you would see had to do with the buying and selling of human beings- the slave trade. So glad that ugly part of our history is over.

In the 1880’s, manufacturing companies started mass producing generic products and were looking to sell as much as possible. This is the time when national advertising of branded products started appearing. Business also took to the new advertising revolution and started finding ways to sell their products. Major department stores began to send out the mail-order catalogs with everything in it from clothes to home furniture. The money spent on advertising in America during this time went from $200 million in 1880 to $300 billion in 1920. Advertising went viral! I guess you could say that the rapid and continual uphill growth of advertising started in the 1920s, and has not stopped ever since. Once radio broadcasting, television and the movies came into play, it was nothing but forward speed from there.

The 1960s brought on a new style of advertising that we see in a large way today: target audiences. Agencies started advertising their product to attract a certain kind of customer, and the style exploded. There’s probably not a commercial on t.v. today that isn’t targeting some specific person. Some would say that the ethics of this approach is highly questionable and sometimes downright wrong, but it nevertheless takes the shotgun seat in the world of advertising everyday.

So where is advertising at in the year of 2012? Well all of my browsing, research and everyday living would point to the world wide web, and more specifically, social media.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogspot, Reddit, Foursquare, etc. The list could go on and on, and it seems to be running our world. Is it a tool for advertising that will stand the tests of time? With the way technology is going, absolutely. However, no matter how sleek and attractive online marketing and advertising gets, it’s undeniable that, when it comes to directing customers to your front door or attracting visitors to your event, quality signage is still one of the cheapest and most effective forms of advertising. Let be your source for all of your signage needs. Vinyl banners, custom signs, you name it. Design and purchase online or contact us for a custom quote. We’ll work one-on-one with you to produce the perfect signage solution for your needs and budget. Looking for something geared toward helping your organization or business grow? Check out or business solutions and let help you acheive your marketing goals.