A Brief History of Print Advertising

Print advertising, AKA the most traditional and arguably the first form of advertising, is still one of the most popular ways to advertise. But do you know the history of print ads and how the industry started? Let’s take a look. 

The first print ad, according to AdAge magazine, was published in 1704 in the Boston News-Letter. It was an announcement seeking a buyer for an estate in Oyster Bay, Long Island. 

Fast forward to 1880, when department store founder John Wanamaker became the first retailer to hire a full-time advertising copywriter, a man called John E. Powers. Then in 1883, Cyrus H.K. Curtis launches Ladies’ Home Journal with his wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis, as editor.

Several historically significant moments occur in the late 1800s including a full-time copywriter for The Ladies Home Journal, and more importantly, in 1899 J Walter Thompson became the first ad agency to open a UK office. Their first client was Campbell’s Soup, and that is when advertising really took off at a rapid pace. 

W.K. Kellogg places the first Kellogg cereal ads in 1906, and the second ad agency, Young & Rubicam, is formed in 1926. 

After the stock market crash, advertising spending took a nosedive, but this didn’t stop Lucky Strike cigarettes from spending the most any company had ever spent on a single product ad campaign. 

Soon television and radio ads would compete for space in favor of print alone, but throughout the rest of advertising history up until today, the print ad sells at high prices in the most sought-after publications like the New York Times, LA Times, and numerous print magazines in circulation. 

Print advertising also includes billboard ads, which are less popular today, and slowly becoming a dying breed. 

Banners, signs, posters and other forms of print ads continue to be used by large and small businesses, and it’s important to note that print quality has improved drastically over the years, so that today companies like BannerBuzz that specialize in print advertising solutions are able to offer business owners premium quality signage that can be used indoors and out, without fading over time. Now you can create banner ads, posters, and signs of all styles with a few clicks. Let’s put your company’s advertisement in the history books! 

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