Advertising began earlier than you would think. Back in 2000 BC, the Egyptians carved notices on steels These notices were not necessarily to sell something but to announce or give warnings. This effectively became the birth of advertising.


Continue reading below to understand how advertising progressed.


750 BC – Greek women developed the practice of painting their nails to “attract” men.

1472 – The Catholic Church created a print ad to sell their prayer book

History of Advertising: Important MilestonesCredit: Presbrey, Frank. The History and Development of Advertising. Doubleday, New York: Doran & Co.

1609 – Flyers and posters were created to encourage people to migrate to the U.S.


History of Advertising: Important MilestonesCredit: Presbrey, Frank. The History and Development of Advertising. Doubleday, New York: Doran & Co.

1657 – A flyer was created by a London company to promote coffee.

1661 – Contrary to belief, Coke is not the first product to create visual branding. It was Dentifice Tooth Gel. They created a logo that is consistent with their packaging.

1735 – Philadelphia Gazette talked about the life in America before revolution. The newspaper was owned by Benjamin Franklin and the advertisement was meant to attract people to go to America. Once in the America, these people were sold as slaves

1776 – The U.S. government created posters and flyers to encourage men to enlist in the army and fight the American Revolution


  • James Gordon Bennett revolutionized advertising and newspapers by using advertising to lower the cost of newspapers. He was the publisher of New York Herald. Instead of repeating ads over and over, he printed ads for only two weeks and then later on to one day which encouraged more people to read ads more.
  • He also financed the famous journey of Stanley to find Livingston through a series in the paper which gripped readers.
    He was also the one who introduced personal ads on newspapers.
  • As the economy was recovering, automobiles were starting to be mass produced and fuel was a big part of it. Fuel companies started putting up big versions of their flyers and posters which is now known as billboards.
History of Advertising: Important MilestonesCredit: Presbrey, Frank. The History and Development of Advertising. Doubleday, New York: Doran & Co.

New York Herald Sample Ad

1842 – another pivotal figure became famous, Phineas Taylor Barnum. He came out with and ad promoting his exhibit of a mermaid which was a hoax. He just attached the head of a monkey to the body of a fish but many people came to see his exhibit. He gradually escalated to more ridiculous claims like claiming he has put together the a circus that is “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

1864 – William James Carlton founded a company that offered ad spaces to different magazines. J. Walter Thompson was an administrative assistant. However, Thompson realized that money is on sales so he asked that he be transferred to sales.

1873 – The first media buy happened in the novel Around the World in 80 Days. The novel specifically mentioned certain shipping and transportation companies.

1877 – Thompson, he was able to save enough money to buy the company from Carlton. He renamed it J. Walter Thompson Company. In less than a year, he hired copywriters and artists and offered copywriting and image services to companies.

1882 – Media placement and Media Buying officially became an industry when New York Time Squared hosted the first electric sign.


History of Advertising: Important MilestonesCredit: Presbrey, Frank. The History and Development of Advertising. Doubleday, New York: Doran & Co.

1891 – KodaK came up with a slogan “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” which set the trend of using a slogan for products.

1899 – Thompson opened a branch in London

1900 – Thompson introduced trademark in the market, setting the foundation for what is now known as branding.

1982 – Sears sent out personal postcards to its regular customers. More than 20% of these customers went to order more items from them. This is the birth of Direct Marketing.


  • The University of Pennsylvania offered course in “The Marketing of Products”
  • Fatty Arbuckle, in silent movie, showed Murad cigarettes.
  • This is also the time when consumers were slowly getting irritated with lies and unsupported claims of advertising materials. This year, Collier’s magazine came out with a series of articles exposing the unfair practice of companies and the unpleasant effects to consumers. This is series is titled “The Great American Fraud”.

1908 – Harvard Business School opens.

1911 – Woodbury used “sex sells” in their product tagline.

1917 – The American Association of Advertising Agencies was born.

1920 – KDKA launched, the first radio station. It was owned by Frank Conrad.

1932 – David Ogilvy proved the power of direct advertising when he was given $500 as a budget for a hotel opening. Ogilvy got the phone directory and called everyone he could to invite them in the opening. The hotel had a full house on the first day.

1938 – The Wheeler-Lea Act of 1938 is established to curb false advertising, proclaiming that “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce are hereby declared unlawful.”

1941 – TV Commercial was born. Bulova watch aired a 20-second TV ad before a baseball game. They bought it for $9. Hey, it was 1941.

World's First Ever TV Ad

1949 – Bill Bernbach, Ned Doyle and Mac Dane put up DDB. While all other advertising efforts were geared towards sales, Bernbach steared the wheel by concentrating on the creative aspect. He gave birth to some of the most effective creative taglines in the history of advertising like Avis’ We Try Harder and Volkswagen’s Think Small. Many companies and brands followed which inspired other advertising agencies to build better creative departments.


  • Gov. Dewey of New York came up with a TV ad for his campaign.
  • Companies who own soap products started coming up with contests to entice more people to choose their product by getting a chance to win more products.

1955 – Advertising became a science when companies started hiring psychologists to determine how to get customers to buy their products

1957 – An iconic advertising symbol is born, Mr. Clean.

1963 – David Ogilvy famously said “Don’t say anything you wouldn’t tell your family. You wouldn’t lie to your wife. Don’t lie to mine.” This ushered in the culture of modern advertising.

1970 – Real estate companies started buying longer time slots which effectively became infomercials.

1980 – Calvin Klein got Brooke Shields, who was then 15 years old, to endorse their product with a provocative copy saying “Want to know what gets between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

1981 – MTV ushered in music advertising. The network were promoting musicians and performers instead of products.

1984 – The now famous “radical” Apple ad was aired at the Super Bowl. At the time it was the highest priced advertising spot ever.


  • Online advertising began when HotWired came out with ads for Volvo, Sprint and others.
  • also launched Pay-per-click advertising is the mother company of Yahoo Advertising.

1995 – A company bought “Golf” keyword from Yahoo

1997 – A company from Finland offered sponsored text-based news headlines to mobile phones

2000 – Google launched Adwords

2001 – Pop-up ads became a trend

2002 – Pepsi created a TV ad featuring Britney, production cost was $7.53 Million. It is the most expensive ad to date.

2006 –YouTube was launched and also gave birth to video online advertising

2007 – Facebook introduced behaviour-based advertising by collecting data of its users to determine what kind of ads would be more relevant to a user.

2008 – In-text advertising was introduced.

2010 – Old Spice made history by using YouTube to relaunch its line.