Advertising: Past Present and Future!

Love or hate it, advertising is a core part of the fabric of our society in the 21st century. We can all probably think of one or more memorable adverts from our childhood that not only stick in our minds but have also influenced our thinking in some way. Not that weā€™d admit it šŸ˜‰ But where did it all start ā€¦ and where is it going?

In 1957 Vance Packardā€™s now legendary book – The Hidden Persuaders – was the first serious study of advertising and examined the ways in which advertising can manipulate human desires so that people develop a need for goods that they may not have previously desired or even heard of. He claimed that effective advertising is able to ā€œundress people in terms of their rationalisationsā€.

Of course in those days advertising was very much based around the printed press. Newspapers and magazines would have a particular type of audience based on the content of their publication. Advertisers would buy space in those publications whose audience most closely mirrored their own target audience.

Traditional and digital marketers using newspapers

A similar process applied to audio visual adverts with the growth of domestic television and commercial radio – including many of the annoying ones we reluctantly remember! – and then, around 2000, things began to change again with the Internet explosion.

Gradually, more companies began to advertise online – initially through buying advertising space on relevant websites, but the whole art of digital marketing then developed a new life of its own!

Over the past two decades, the relentless evolution of computer technology and mobile devices has seen people move away from physical to digital platforms, with many people now spending significantly more time online than engaging with more traditional media.

This brings a new challenge for digital marketers in that they now need to find ways of ensuring that the user experience of visiting their website is consistently high , and seamlessly deliver engaging content to the consumer whichever platform they are using.

Another major development in advertising is targeting and personalisation. As part of this, social networks and search engines – such as Facebook and Google – have become major players in the advertising world.

Data is continually mined about consumersā€™ online behaviour, and the advertising that appears on social networks and search engines is increasingly tailored to the individualā€™s search activity, perceived tastes, physical whereabouts, and the time of day.

In particular, the growth of mobile technology has had a huge impact, enabling those providing mobile services to distribute content and launch targeted advertising campaigns across all media platforms. The digital explosion has also opened the way for device manufacturers such as Apple and Android making considerable advancements into the sector.

Itā€™s no wonder then that in recent years there have been a variety of mergers and acquisitions in the advertising world, enabling organisations to gain access to an ever-increasing array of cross channel platforms and to target consumers through a variety of media.

So, the world of advertising has changed enormously over the past few decades and in our view can only become more targeted and personalised as the digital revolution continues. Whilst we can look back now at the early TV adverts and laugh at their cheesiness, perhaps Vance Packardā€™s assertion that adverts ā€œundress people in terms of their rationalisationsā€ does in fact hold true even more today than it ever did!