Thursday, August 10, 2006

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor....

(continued from What’s Up, Doc?, see 8/8 below)

For those who have just joined us, we’ve been discussing the history of the advertising business in order to gain a historical perspective that will help us better understand the significant changes that are taking place in advertising today. Let’s pause a moment for a brief recap:

We discussed the “Media Era”, a period from 1841-1903 which saw the birth of the advertising industry from its roots as a media buying business (see posts dated 5/19, 5/24).

Then we talked about the start of the “Creative Era”, when the advertising industry quickly turned its attention from media buying to creative and defined advertising as “salesmanship in print” (see posts dated 6/5, 6/15).

We covered the “Space Age”, from 1841-1921, a period in time when the basic institutions, policies, procedures, and practices of the advertising business were formed. The Space Age is so-named because it was a time in the ad business when space-based (i.e. print) media -- newspapers, magazines, outdoor -- were the exclusive media of the day (see post 6/26)

More recently, we’ve been discussing a period I call the “Air Raid”, from 1922-1975, which saw the introduction and growth of new media -- radio and television -- which brought a whole new dimension to advertising, a dimension of Time (see posts dated 6/29, 7/7, 7/19, 8/2, and 8/8).

The period leading up to World War II saw some important changes in the practice of marketing and media. It became more scientific. Advertising practitioners wanted to understand what made advertising work. In the world at large, this was a period in time that brought forward men like Albert Einstein, who changed people's perspective of space and time with his new theories about our physical world, and Sigmund Freud who revealed astounding insights into the workings of the mind. It was a time of introspection and learning.

It was a time when business practices changed, too. Maybe it was the curiosity of the times, or maybe it was the necessities of war that brought about the change in the way business was conducted. The wartime crash program of weapons research and development; the planning necessitated by the large-scale mobilization of resources; the acute problems connected with the allocation of scarce facilities, manpower, and materials in both the military establishment and in industry; the broadened use of sampling procedures and operations research techniques -- all these were steps toward a more rational, more orderly, and better informed process of decision-making in all phases of economic activity.

The Space Age ended at about the time Claude Hopkins published his famous book, Scientific Advertising, wherein Hopkins argued that advertising had reached that status of a science. “It is based on fixed principles,” he said, “and is reasonably exact. The causes and effects have been analyzed until they are well understood. The correct method of procedure have been proved and established. We know what is most effective, and we act on basic law.”

Marketing skills and the media planning and buying side of the advertising business continued to develop along these more “scientific” lines. Marketing and Media research became more sophisticated. In larger advertising agencies, media planning developed as a separate function from media buying, at least for broadcast media.

Ironically, however, many copywriters and art directors rejected the so-called “science” of advertising, and the Great Debate began. Was advertising Science or Art?

And now a word from our sponsor…This history is brought to you by Smarter Media. We remind you that you can get better results from advertising through smarter media placement. For more information, please contact Rich Miller at

We’ll turn back now to the creative part of the Creative Era.

(to be continued….)

Sources and additional reading:

Kenneth H. Myers Jr., SRDS, The National Authority Serving the Media-Buying Function, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1968

Stephen Fox, The Mirror Makers, William Morrow and Co., New York, 1984


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