2.1 Advertising Is Old—and Brand New

Learning Objectives

After studying this section, students should be able to do the following:

  1. Understand how the background and history of U.S. advertising impacts modern advertising and its clients.
  2. Define the various types of advertising and promotion agencies employ in today’s marketplace.

The landscape of marketing communications has transformed dramatically in recent years, equipping marketing professionals with a wide array of tools. Just like ammers and screwdrivers were once suficient, the marketing toolbox now overflows with new technologies and strategies, presenting both opportunities and challenges.

In the past, agencies and their clients tirelessly searched through this toolbox, striving to identify the most effective tools for their campaigns. However, the rapid influx of new technologies has made the task even more daunting. Some seasoned advertising professionals find it difficult to let go of their familiar methods. Doug Scott, executive director for branded content and entertainment for the North American operations of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, acknowledged the lingering fear surrouding the shift away from traiditonal marketing tactics. Stuart Elliott, “Nike Reaches Deeper into New Media to Find Young Buyers,” New York Times Online, October 31, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/31/business/media/31adco.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&fta=y&pagewanted=print (accessed January 30, 2009).

Nonetheless, some marketers have embraced the notion that advertising not only reflects popular culture but also influences and shapes it. Take, for example, the "Share a Coke" campaign launched by Coca-Cola in 2014. By replacing its iconic logo on bottles and cans with popular names, the campaign sought to create a personalized and engaging experience for consumers. It quickly gained momentum and generated widespread social media buzz, sparking conversations and encouraging people to find and share bottles with their names or the names of loved ones

Another notable campaign that started in 2015 was Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches." This thought-provoking campaign aimed to challenge societal beauty standards and empower women. It featured an FBI-trained forensic artist who sketched women based on their self-descriptions and then created another sketch based on descriptions from strangers. The stark difference between the self-perception and external perceptions highlighted the impact of insecurities and emphasized the need for self-acceptance and embracing one's unique beauty.

Before exploring these changes further, let's start with a traditional definition of advertising: nonpersonal communication from an identified sponsor that aims to inform, persuade, and/or remind. Let's break down this definition to gain a better understanding of what advertising entails and how it differs from other forms of marketing communication:

Later, we will delve into other forms of marketing communication, such as influencer collaborations, and explore their distinctions from advertising. Currently, the boundaries between these forms are becoming increasingly blurred, challenging established norms. For instance, although advertising was predominantly associated with nonpersonal communication, some companies now employ "brand ambassadors" who effectively become digital influencers for their brands. These ambassadors might collaborate with creators on social media platforms or participate in interactive campaigns that invite user-generated content. Another example is the growing prevalence of experiential marketing, where brands create immersive experiences for consumers through virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) technology, enabling them to engage with products or services in a unique and memorable way.

Despite conventional definitions and expectations, we need to understand that advertising isn’t just about ads. Messages that sell may not originate with marketers or agencies, but rather with you. Marketing messages may not be paid for by advertisers. They are multinational and multidimensional, providing any combination of information, identity, and entertainment

They don’t stay in place. Today, most any place is ad space (maybe even your own wrist!). By emphasizing the visual and experiential, today’s advertising messages are difficult to analyze critically. By incorporating authentic experience and online collaboration, new marketing is very difficult to predict and control. An old Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” We do. 

There is a fundamental change in the advertising vehicles themselves as media and technology converge. Traditional radio is losing share to digital options, online streaming is increasingly popular, and marketers continue to divert print dollars to online budgets. Once thought to be a specialized type of advertising, now interactive/online approaches often are a fundamental way to engage consumers—especially younger digital natives who have grown up on social media, messaging apps, and online content platforms. Yet in an article on how advertisers seek less intrusive, more measurable ways to deliver online messages, the Wall Street Journal reports, “Many sites and advertisers remain in the throes of experimentation, with mixed or disappointing results to date. Some say the industry hasn’t yet figured out how to make video ads as interactive and effective as they can be.” 

Clients are similarly challenged. They no longer have the luxury of telling you only what they want you to know about their brand. Today, you can ask your neighbor or someone from another country sitting in an Internet café while they’re on vacation about that new bottled water you’ve been thinking about trying—all you need to do is type in a few well-chosen keywords on your search engine and you’re off to the races. 

 It didn’t take long for some forward-thinking marketers to ask how they could use blogs for their own purposes. However, as recently as 2006, a poll showed just how far most Fortune 1000 executives have to go to catch up with the consumers with whom they hope to engage in dialogue. Only 30 percent said they understood the meaning of the term Internet blog, while 12 percent reported their companies had resorted to legal action to stop a blog that someone else had posted about their company! The executives know there is a new tool out there. Most don’t understand or use it themselves. But their first instinct is that it must be reined in and controlled. 

 Like many marketers now, they battle twin fears: being late to the game and lacking the proper skills required to play. The danger is in choosing nontraditional routes uncritically because they have the cachet of being on the “bleeding edge.” According to Marc Schiller, chief executive of the digital-marketing shop Electric Artists, “There is always this pressure of saying we weren’t early enough on social media platform X. We weren’t early enough on platform Y.…Suddenly there is this herd mentality and people are doing it because they feel like if they are not there, they are missing out.” 

 A word of caution: in a business like advertising that prides itself on cultural currency, there is always a temptation to choose interactive solutions solely because you can. Sometimes, however, the best answer to a marketing problem is as low-tech and simple as an iconic wristband. But before we talk about where we’re going, let’s talk about where we’ve been. It’s time to take a step back and first learn a bit about where advertising came from and how many organizations still do it today.

Some Quick Background and History

Advertising has a long history, dating back to ancient Greece, where announcements were etched on stone tablets or proclaimed by town criers. While some of the ad formats we encounter today have evolved over hundreds of years, many have remained relatively unchanged.“Cosmonaut to Tee Up for Monster Orbital Golf Shot (Reuters),” NowPublic, November 18, 2006, http://www.nowpublic.com/cosmonaut_to_tee_up_ for_monster_orbital_golf_shot_reuters (accessed February 13, 2009).

In the United States, advertising started before the nation was even formed. Colonial Americans saw ads on posters and in newspapers—the first newspaper ad was for real estate and appeared in 1704. For a comprehensive timeline covering the history of advertising, check out http://adage.com/century/timeline/index.html. The true rise of modern advertising, however, coincided with the Industrial Revolution for several reasons:

  • Technologies enabled mass production of consumer goods, allowing companies to grow in size and produce goods efficiently. As a result, they needed effective ways to sell these products.
  • Railroads revolutionized transportation, connecting the nation and facilitating the distribution of newspapers and mass-produced products across America. In 1878, Quaker Oats introduced the first mass-marketed breakfast food, followed by Ivory Soap in 1879, and the first hand-held Kodak cameras advertised by Eastman in 1888.
  • The same technologies that enabled mass production also accelerated the growth of mass media. The invention of the rotary press in 1859 and the process of making paper from wood pulp developed in 1866 enabled mass production of newspapers, providing a platform to distribute ads to a broader audience.

Early examples of mass media include the New York Times, which published its first issue in 1851 (then called the New-York Daily Times). The New York Tribune's advertising doubled between October 1849 and October 1850. The magazines Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair debuted in 1867 and 1868, respectively. By 1870, 5,091 newspapers were in circulation in the United States.

Capitalism also fueled advertising as it created a growing middle class with the purchasing power to buy an array of consumer products. The proliferation of mass-distributed consumer goods led to the rise of the advertising profession. As competing manufacturers grew and more products flooded the market, the need to differentiate one's products from others created a demand for professional advertising agents, elevating advertising from an emerging practice to a legitimate profession. In 1890, the J. Walter Thompson Company, the oldest continuously operating advertising agency in the United States, had billings totaling over $1 million (which was a substantial amount at the time).

Types of Advertising/Promotion

Today, the realm of advertising has expanded vastly beyond newspapers—way beyond. Consider the recent ads by a popular athletic apparel brand that utilized augmented reality technology in major cities. Passersby could use their smartphones to see virtual athletes showcasing the brand's latest collection in real-world environments. Yes, we’ve come a long way from stone etchings.

In addition to augmented reality, take a look at all the media channels available to advertisers today.

Print Advertising

Print advertising includes national, regional, and local newspapers, as well as magazines, which, like newspapers, can be geographical or subject-based. For example, a magazine dedicated to environmental sustainability reaches environmentally conscious readers across the nation. 

Direct Mail

Direct mail is advertising sent directly to people’s homes through postcards, brochures, letters, and catalogs. Sponsored emails are a new form of "direct mail."

Specialty Print Media

Specialty print mediaBooklets, folders, and CD/DVD inserts. include booklets, folders, and CD/DVD inserts developed to provide targeted groups with specialized information on products and services.

Broadcast Media

The broadcast mediaRadio and television. consist of television and radio.

We subdivide television (TV)Communications medium that allows viewers to see and hear a program; television became widely available in the 1940s and now includes major networks, independent stations, cable, broadband, and satellite. according to major networks, independent stations, cable, broadband, and satellite.

Video Highlight

(click to see video)

Check out some of the best TV ads from recent years.

RadioThe first broadcast medium, bringing free advertising to American homes from the 1920s onward, which transmits sound through airwaves. Radio can be local or network., which was the first broadcast medium (bringing free advertising to American homes from the 1920s onward), can be local or network.

Out-of-home Advertising

Also known as outdoor advertising, out-of-home advertising includes digital billboards on roadsides, and posters on transit (buses, subways, rail, airports, trucks, and taxis), at gas pumps, and on park benches.

Point of Purchase

Point-of-purchase (POP) displaysDisplays next to cash registers or elsewhere in retail environments—we often find them at the point where customers are ready to buy. refer to displays next to cash registers or elsewhere in retail environments—we often find them at the point at which people are ready to buy.

Online Advertising

Pop-ups, pop-unders, banners, and text ads associated with web pages provide targeted online advertising on the web. Additionally, online advertising has seen significant growth in other forms, including: 

  • Social Media Advertising: Brands leverage social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube to reach their target audience and engage with them through sponsored posts, influencer partnerships, and interactive campaigns. 
  • Video Streaming Platforms: Advertising on video streaming services such as YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix has become increasingly popular, allowing brands to connect with users during online video consumption. 
  • Native Advertising: This form of advertising integrates seamlessly into the content of websites and apps, making it less disruptive and more engaging for users. 
  • Programmatic Advertising: Using automated technology, programmatic advertising allows brands to target specific audiences in real-time, optimizing ad delivery and budget allocation. 
  • Search Engine Advertising: Search engines like Google offer pay-per-click advertising options that ensure brands appear at the top of relevant search results.

Sales Promotions

Sales promotionsA basic tool in the promotional mix; any activity intended to produce short-term change in behavior, including limited-time incentives for consumers and for trade partners. build interest in or encourage purchase of a good or service during a specified period. These activities range from digital coupons and online contests to interactive campaigns that engage consumers in a brand's story.

Specialty Advertising

Specialty advertisingGiving away merchandise to promote awareness of a company at trade shows or conferences or in mail campaigns. involves the distribution of merchandise (called promotional productsA tool in the promotional mix also known as swag: free merchandise such as pens, coffee mugs, and polo shirts emblazoned with a company’s logo, intended to keep the brand top of mind., premiumsA tool in the promotional mix that gives consumers a free item with purchase of another item., or swagItems such as mugs, pens, or hats imprinted with a company’s name, logo, or slogan.) to promote awareness of a company. These include eco-friendly water bottles, reusable tote bags, and other items that align with sustainability values, imprinted with a company’s name, logo, or slogan and given away at trade shows or conferences or in mail campaigns.

User-Generated Content and Word of Mouth (WOM)

These days, many advertisers strive to get consumers to help get the word out about a product or service. The reason is simple: people trust the recommendations of others more than they trust paid advertising. Almost 90 percent of people say they trust recommendations from consumers compared to less than 50 percent who trust radio ads and less than 10 percent who say they trust online banner ads.Forrester Research Inc. and Intelliseek, http://www.nielsenbuzzmetrics.com/cgm. It’s fair to say that user-generated contentOnline venues such as blogs or Web sites where consumers review products they have bought or ask questions about a product. UGC can be in video, comment, or other parody as well. is one of the biggest advertising and promotion stories of this decade.

Ad-Supported Content

Ad agencies are well aware that many consumers watch TV with their streaming services at their fingertips, ready to skip through ads. Advertisers lose a lot of sleep worrying about how to get their clients’ brands noticed in this ad-hostile environment. This means moving away from traditional advertising and the model of adding prepackaged ads to pre-created content.

Ad-supported content (content that advertisers explicitly create or modify to feature products or services) has grown exponentially in the early twenty-first century. The trend toward integrating advertising messages with program content continues to accelerate, and new variations appear all the time. For example, product placement refers to the insertion of real products in fictional movies, TV shows, books, and plays. Many types of products play starring (or at least supporting) roles in our culture, and this practice has become so commonplace and profitable now that it’s evolving into a new form of promotion we call branded entertainment, where advertisers showcase their products in longer-form narrative films instead of brief commercials. For example, SportsCenter on ESPN showed installments of “The Scout, presented by Craftsman at Sears,” a six-minute story about a washed-up baseball scout who discovers a stunningly talented stadium groundskeeper.Nat Ives, “Commercials Have Expanded into Short Films with the Story as the Focus rather than the Product,” New York Times on the Web, April 21, 2004, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402E2DF163 AF932A15757C0A9629C8B63 (accessed February 13, 2009).

Is Traditional Advertising Dead?

We’ve seen that advertisers have many, many more weapons in their arsenal than they used to. With all of these exciting options available, it’s tempting to conclude that traditional methods like a TV commercial or a magazine space ad are history. Is traditional advertising dead?

Don't write an obituary for traditional advertising just yet. While the advertising landscape has transformed significantly, traditional methods like TV commercials and magazine ads continue to have a role in the marketing mix. However, the industry has adapted to the changing media landscape and consumer behavior. 

TV commercials, for instance, are still relevant due to their broad reach and ability to connect with a massive audience simultaneously. Advertisers recognize the value of reaching a wide demographic through television, even as people consume media through various platforms. 

However, the advertising industry now embraces a more interactive and customer-centric approach. Instead of solely focusing on "sell-and-tell" tactics, modern advertising aims to engage customers in meaningful conversations. Advertisers understand the importance of demonstrating how a product fulfills consumers' needs and stands out from competitors. Building awareness is just the first step; creating a lasting relationship with the audience is equally crucial. 

Today's advertisers leverage data-driven insights, advanced analytics, and digital platforms to personalize advertisements and target specific audience segments. Online advertising, social media campaigns, and influencer marketing have become integral components of modern advertising strategies. 

Additionally, the rise of ad-supported content, branded entertainment, and native advertising has blurred the lines between advertising and entertainment. Advertisers seek innovative ways to integrate their messages seamlessly into engaging content that captivates the audience. 

While traditional advertising methods remain relevant, marketers understand the importance of a multi-channel approach that adapts to the ever-changing media consumption habits of consumers. Embracing both traditional and digital advertising methods allows brands to reach a diverse audience and foster meaningful relationships with their customers. 

As the advertising landscape continues to evolve, staying up-to-date with emerging technologies and consumer preferences will be crucial for advertisers seeking to make a meaningful impact and stay ahead in a highly competitive market.

Key Takeaway

Advertising has been with us for thousands of years. As technologies develop and competition for consumers’ attention increases, advertisers need to keep alert to new media formats in addition to relying on the traditional platforms they’ve used for many years.


  • Describe the transformation of advertising over the years, from traditional methods to modern customer-centric approaches. Highlight the key technological advancements and media shifts that have shaped the advertising landscape. 
  • Identify and discuss examples of successful advertising campaigns that have embraced customer engagement and personalization. Explain how these campaigns resonated with their target audiences and achieved their marketing objectives. 
  • Analyze the integration of advertising into various forms of media and entertainment. Evaluate the effectiveness of ad-supported content and discuss the challenges of maintaining a balance between promotional messages and engaging content. 
  • Explore the impact of user-generated content and word-of-mouth (WOM) on modern advertising. Provide real-world examples of brands leveraging UGC to enhance their marketing efforts and build trust with consumers.