The evolution of advertising on full display

Posted November 26, 2013

By Sean O'Leary, NAA Director of Communications

It began with a typeset price list. It has since evolved into color spots, sponsored content and interactive digital experiences. The advertising world has come a long, long way.

It’s especially noticeable now, in the midst of the holidays and the biggest advertising season of the year, which has been discussed as the most important in recent memory. With the National Retail Federation’s forecast of a potentially tricky retail season, holiday ad campaigns rolled out as early as September this year. Brands such as Kohl’s, Toys ‘R’ Us and Macy’s have been touting their sales, layaway programs and the satisfaction of scoring deals before Thanksgiving.

Black Friday
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A recent study by Wanderful Media is only the latest to point out that Black Friday shoppers “show little store brand loyalty and are typically lured by specific deals” – making advertising especially critical at this time of year for brands and retailers to showcase their sales and compete.

Where is the best place to advertise those deals? The study found that shoppers turned first to newspaper circulars, rating their local paper the best place to find Black Friday sales.

And that’s exactly where it all started in America.

Of course there were fliers, drawings and posters before that, but newspapers were the first to deliver advertisements to the consumer, instead of requiring a person to be in a specific location to see an ad.

AdAge reports that America’s first newspaper advertisement was printed in 1704 in the Boston News-Letter. But rather than selling wares, the advertisement sought a buyer for Oyster Bay. In 1742, Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine published America’s first magazine ad.

Black-and-white, text-only ads tended towards hyperbole through the years. One of Coca-Cola’s early ads begins with, “Delicious! Refreshing! Exhilarating! Invigorating!”

But the advertising industry’s greatest strength has been its ability to change with the times and continue innovating to reach a large audience. Color ads were developed alongside color printing. Newspaper circulars became popular. Radio spots emerged, and then television commercials. Advertising forms changed with the times, to the point that post-Super Bowl coverage can focus as much on the ads as the game.

In the last decade alone, there has been a wealth of new, emerging options and media choices for advertisers. We’ve seen banner ads, YouTube campaigns, social media and mobile developments. Advertisers and publishers are both adapting to the native advertising trend, as consumers respond to the value of the content provided.

Throughout these transitions, newspaper advertising has stayed constant, relevant and engaging. Recent Nielsen research reports that newspaper print ads still produce the highest purchase intent. Newspaper ads – in print and online – still boast the highest audience engagement.

Newspapers have evolved with the times, and readers have remained loyal to both the editorial and advertising content they offer. The doubled size of most Thanksgiving papers this year and years past is proof of the power of newspaper advertising.

That’s great news for brands, shoppers and advertisers alike this season.