Imagine the peacocks and flowers of the world. Colors, sounds, and performances convey to the rest of the species that you are a suitable mate. Plant seeds and pollen are spread around by other animals only if they can draw attention. Humans instinctually understand and respond to advertising. It is encoded in our genes from eons of evolution.
Advertising for products is an obvious extension of this evolutionary phenomenon. We take advantage of techniques that catch the attention of humans in order to get them to consider a purchase or an idea. The way we imagine advertising in its many forms did not arise until the advent of mass production with the Industrial Revolution.
Prior to that time, products were traded within small communities, and there was no need to attract a large audience. Indeed, illiteracy rates were so high that advertising would have proven useless. Once the markets expanded beyond tight-knit groups, though, word of mouth would no longer suffice for getting your wares sold.
Mass production allowed for many revolutions to occur that propelled advertising practices. First, printing became far cheaper as it was automated. This meant that companies could mass produce advertising for the first time. In addition, societies began to recognize the need for education. Therefore, the explosions of both reading ability and availability of printing made advertising grow during the industrial revolution.
Advertising soon became an industry unto itself when newspapers and magazines started allowing paid ads to be placed in their publications. This allowed specialists to make a living designing and implementing advertising as opposed to manufacturing products themselves.
Each new communication medium that has been developed has opened doors for advertising. Printing gained mass appeal just after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The next big leap was radio, a medium that exploded in popularity starting in the 1920s. The rise of radio commercials paralleled this development.
Television followed the same path to commercialization as radio starting in the 1950s. The next, and perhaps largest, advance for advertising was the popularization of the Internet starting in the 1990s. Each medium incrementally expanded the potential audience to the point where today an advertisement can reasonably reach everybody on the globe.
In fact, it can be argued that advertising made the different media possible. Interestingly, the need for advertising has grown with time. In print media, selling subscriptions without advertising could sustain a publication. Of course, the supplemental income from ads can expand the profitability significantly. Radio relied significantly more on advertisers since the broadcast signals could not be restricted to only subscribers at the time. Therefore, the selling of ads lifted the radio medium into profitability.
Until cable became popular, television was the same as radio. Signals were indiscriminately broadcast to antennae in homes, so advertising needed to be sold to support the industry. With cable and other subscription-based services gaining ground in the 1980s, however, television was able to separate itself somewhat from the need to sell advertisement for support.
The Internet presented a particularly tricky medium to commercialize. A subscription-based website could easily be undercut by similar free websites. This availability of widely-available free material made advertising essential for the support of Internet ventures unless a tangible product was being sold. At the time, many people felt the Internet was not profitable.
Nowadays, advertising is integrated firmly into every medium available to us. Commercials appear on radio, on television, and in Internet videos. Ads are placed liberally on webpages, on billboards, on buildings, and on buses to attract your eyes. Reaching an audience to persuade them has never been so simultaneously easy and complicated as it is today.
The huge volume of information that bombards everybody means your ad must stand out for recognition. Despite this challenge, there is no better way to support a product than through successful advertising.