How Television Revolutionized Advertising – A Brief History

Back in 1946, the chief of 20th Century Fox – that powerhouse of the Silver Screen made what must surely be one of the worst predictions in the field of technology – and marketing when he said that television would not be able to hold onto any market six months after its launch. He continued; ‘people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.’

To say that Zanuck was wrong would be to underestimate the mistake that he made to an almost ludicrous degree.

TV advertising would eventually become one of the fiercest forces in the history of marketing. To this day, under the increasing influence of the seemingly ubiquitous pressures of the Internet, it would still be a courageous marketing professional who would agree with Zanuck in this view and reject television as an unwarranted force.

But, how did it all begin? How did television advertising become such a force to be reckoned with?

The success of television advertising owes much to the pioneers of radio – who understood that reaching a mass market with compelling messages about products and services that could make a significant difference in the quality of their lives was a recipe for commercial success.

In the 1920s, businesses that were quickly becoming icons in the advertising industry had identified and encoded the way the public would respond to the key messages they had developed. This approach has profoundly influenced the way television advertising has been successful.

The premiere of the recognized TV ad was for Bulova Watch Manufacturing, which aired on July 1, 1941. The advertisement was elegant in its simplicity. It was a 10-second spot where a Bulova clock was superimposed on a map of the United States. The payment line was also simple “America runs on Bulova time”. The spot broadcast on WNBT-TV, the former NBC channel, was to reflect a trend that would become a staple of television advertising in the following years. It preceded a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The overwhelming popularity of Bulova advertising, which appeals not only to patriotism but also to the love of America for a sport, and to two of its major sports franchises, has made television a revolutionary advertising medium. The Bulova spot quickly saw other American companies realize that they were on a potential gold mine when it came to reaching their target audiences. Companies like Pan American World Airways quickly realized that early adoption of this new format – and this means of communication – could pay huge dividends.

It was not until the year 1948, when the United States emerged from both the cultural as well as economic challenges of the Depression and World War II, that marketing specialists realized that TV purchases were at a tipping point. Now there were enough TV sets in American homes to reach the critical mass needed to undertake capital-intensive commercial marketing and advertising campaigns.

Next was for the agencies to understand how branding could be associated with a certain franchise. As a result, single advertiser campaign was born and reached its peak in the 1950s. Using this concept, the agencies launched (and had great success) with the idea that a specific series (or time slot) that was sponsored by a specific company could increase brand identity – and spending patterns. This is the birth of slots such as Kraft Television Theater and the Colgate Comedy Hour. Companies such as General Electric have also quickly exploited the potential of this particular television advertising format.

The ‘single sponsor’ model was by this time spreading beyond the shores on the United States. The first advertising campaign of this type in Europe was sponsored by ‘Gibbs Toothpaste’. With a 60 second slot airing in 1955.

By this time a free for all was developing and some dubious marketing tactics were beginning to take center stage. This led to the formation of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. This regulatory body would oversee the advertising industry and ensure that consumers were exposed to advertising that was fair and that claims made by advertisers could fell within regulatory boundaries.

However, the continued success of television and the increased penetration of the medium into more households allowed the studios more leverage than had been the case in the past. By the 1960s television networks could now command increasing prices for their valuable real estate- eyeballs and the time that each program could be on the air. The result was a format that would set the tone for television advertising in the decades to come. Now up to four advertisers could share in the success of popular programming.

The manufacturers of consumer goods climbed aboard the new concept. It was to turn already successful companies such as Proctor and Gamble in American icons with products as diverse as toothpaste, detergent brands and household goods such as peanut butter.

However, the authorities were becoming increasingly concerned with the advertising campaigns that were seen as being contrary to the public good. Cigarette campaigns which had profited immensely from the increasing popularity of television were under the microscope. In the 1970’s these advertising campaigns were banned.

However, this period did not signal a welcome revolution in the viewing experience of the American consumer. Between the 1970s and the 1990s the time that was allowed for advertising during a typical program was increased from nine to 19 minutes. This was not greeted with glee by the viewing public. However, technology was catching up with advertisers who seemed determined to monopolize the television airwaves.

The advent of technologies such as TiVo and its programming choices which allowed viewers to simply skip over adb]vertsing caused agencies to rethink their approach. This was the dawn of endorsements and the appearance of well-known personalities (including sports personalities) who would act as brand spokespersons – and due to their popularity avoid the pitfalls of technology like TiVo. It seemed as television and advertising agencies had circumvented both viewer dissatisfaction and new technology.

However, the truth of the matter is that television today may be under even more pressure than ever before. New technologies and the advent of cable television companies as subscription services is placing traditional studios under more pressure than ever before. the advent of the Internet and cable means that more and more viewers are exercising their choice to move away from the offerings of those studios. The increasing quality of programming from independent producers allied to cable and video on demand companies – and their subscription model means that traditional studios may have to put their thinking caps on to find new sources of income that are not so reliant on traditional television advertising models.

The new models mean new entrants into the market. Companies that rely on online streaming and subscription rather than the vast budgets that have been allocated to advertising on television. In turn, this has meant that they have more access to funding. The knock on effect is ever increasing quality of offerings. This, in turn, has had many top-flight actors and actresses turning their backs on ‘made for TV’ specials – and Hollywood itself.

Whether or not television advertising can withstand this new onslaught and what seems to be a new age remains to be seen. However the marketing approach has proven enormously resilient in the past, there is no reason to suspect that the advertising agencies will not find a way to weather the latest storm of advancing technology.

Internet Advertising

With technological progress and development has come the Internet, which is regarded to be the most efficient means of communication.

However, the Internet was not seen as a reliable option for advertising, because websites used to be quite expensive and were primarily supported by government and other educational entities.

But these days, online advertising has grown in popularity. Today you can find fine examples of online adverts on almost every website and media outlets.

Advertising on the internet was introduced following the introduction of the WWW or better known as the World Wide Web. WWW was first introduced by CERN in the year 1991 in Switzerland. Soon every business wanted to try their hands on this new marketing opportunity. WWW acted as an accessible way for businesses to commercialize their products and services to mass audience.

Internet advertising has grown rapidly and in 2001, leading companies such as Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc reached an audience of approximately 128-480 million viewers.

Initially, advertisers were supposed to be charged to advertise online, most often in the form of image ads located at the top of a website, but nowadays, they are required to pay for their advertisements on the basis of how many hits their adverts receives.

Early web ads used to be banners that were nothing more than horizontal ads located on the top of the web pages. However, as Internet evolved rapidly, there was also progress in the development of banners. The advertiser’s information could now be obtained simply by hovering over the banner with the mouse. In some banners, you can even watch short videos that demonstrate what the product is all about.

Both advertisers and website owners have discovered innovative methods for placing advertisements on their sites other than basic image based banners. Ads can now be embedded in page content, in vertical banners and even in small buttons. Advertisers seems to like vertical banners as they can be made visible to the viewer throughout the length of the content by making the ads sticky.

Previously, all these adverts used to be coded by the website owners themselves and added to the web pages. But nowadays, you can find hundreds of third party agencies that can do the job of placing relevant ads onto your web-pages automatically. All you have to do is sign up with them and copy their script and put in your site’s header or footer section.

Internet advertising has become a necessity for all kinds of organizations, large or small, and it is rare not to find a marketing department of a large company that does not include an electronic advertising group.

Even though this is the most feasible way to advertise, Internet advertising still represents only 2% of all advertising spending in the economy today, mainly because Internet advertising is much cheaper than television, radio or the press.

Impact of Internet Advertising on Television Advertising:

The Advertising sector for all these years had been dominated by the TV industry up until recently with the emergence of the Internet, which led to a social media boom, with social networks providing film and video to viewers for free.

Television and film are by no means the only content-based media formats that are flourishing online. The digital media industry as a whole is evolving, due to disruptions in conventional marketing techniques and technological advancements.

This change can be seen quite clearly in social networks. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, have made a significant impact on the way businesses create and share their content.

Viewers spend a lot of time surfing the web as well as watching television. Internet has been helping to meet people’s particular interests more completely than televisions will ever be able to do.

The Internet offers its viewers with a wider and better choice that provides them with both greater satisfaction and helps them focus on the topic they want to learn about at that time. Television’s monopoly on its audience is no longer tolerated and is gradually diminishing.

TV commercials are deemed long, annoying and easily avoidable, whereas there are some types of online advertisements that are unavoidable and must be watched for they are short and engaging.

Marketers now spend up to 20% or more of their advertising budget on online ads, as online marketing is more effective, attractive and has a completely distinct impact on one’s brand image than TV advertising.

Advertisers have realized that the online advertising acts as a medium for direct communication with their potential customers . Today every business understands that by educating people about their products with interesting and interactive ads, they can create a valuable database of customers for future use.


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