Media drives Advertising. One needs the other.
The on-going establishment of Newspapers at the tun of the 20th century, albeit with their new weekly sophistication, meant advertising was still really a one-horse media pony. But that said too, effective in reaching the customer who had no other media choices. When there’s only one media choice (newspapers) it makes advertising easier to reach consumers (readers) but, it also limits advertising spend.
If you wanted to Advertise, it had to be in newsprint and so that very limitation of media, limited Advertising budgets. After all, how much did an Advertiser need to spend to have a presence in a Newspaper every week? Not a lot.
Continuous Industrialisation too, in the United States from 1870, meant products had started to advertise and that helped drive the need for Advertising to an already nearly $3 billion by 1920. So advertising money drew attention to an opportunity for new media owners to get their hands on it.
Hence, some Advertisers media money was there for the taking, and Innovators saw an opportunity to build new media because the advertising money was already there and likely growing.
In 1915 The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) was born, bringing some level of data (newspaper readership) into the market too.
US secretary Herbert Hoover in an address to The Association Advertising Clubs in 1925 called Advertising “a vital force in our national life” and Government support of Advertising became unparalleled. They first turned their innovation to wireless broadcasting. ‘Wireless’ of course, meaning without wires.
Italian Marconi’s first transatlantic radio transmission was actually in 1901 but the development of radio was not the work of one man, it was the work of many. Although, it was Marconi who first showed interest in long distance wireless transmissions.
In 1888, a German, Hertz, critically had proved that electromagnetic waves could be airborne based on Maxwell’s theory of 1864. Known as ‘Hertzian waves’ these created interest amongst other inventors. In particular Marconi, who in 1894 built the first wireless telegraphy based on Hertzian waves (and patented it in 1896). In 1897 Marconi built a radio station on the Isle of Wight and in 1909, received the Nobel Prize for his radio work.
In 1900 a Brazilian priest, Roberto de Moura, had transmitted the human voice, wirelessly. Bose, an Indian physicist had published a series of papers showing that messages could be transmitted without wires. Popov built the first radio receiver in 1895.
In 1906, the first radio transmission on Christmas Eve, was broadcasted to ships who heard ‘O holy night’ on what was, AM radio.
The American inventor Thomas Edison had sold his wireless ship-to- ship transmission electromagnetic patent to Marconi in 1876 but it was not until 1912 that Marconi opened his radio factory to build radios for homes, in Chelmsford, England.
Edison’s electromagnetic induction was in turn, based on a principle developed in 1831 by Michael Faraday – Faraday’s law.
A Serbian-American, Nikola Tesla in 1893 had also proved wireless transmission but his work fell into obscurity until the 1960’s and mainly post 1990’s when there was and is a resurgence of interest in his work. Notably of course, Tesla cars named after him.
Telefunken was founded in 1903 who built radio towers in New York with Tesla supervising their construction.
So early Radio invention happened around the 1900’s but didn’t develop until 50 years later because of the Wars and the Great Depression.
Again, throughout this time, you can see Britain as the home of invention and mechanisation so much so, that an Italian, Marconi, would feel it right to base his business in England. But you can also see that radio is built on one invention after another.
The first radio news transmission was in 1920 in Detroit by station 8MK. Sports broadcasting followed in 1921 and regular broadcasts from Marconi in 1922.
Commercial Radio was, however, a long time coming.
The War Years hold back media development.
Advertising progress is also, always dependent on economic activity.
Advertisers need to advertise when they think there is a market to buy their products. Recessions and pandemics crush consumer spending which in turn, crushes advertising activity both for Media Owners and for Advertising businesses.
Furthermore, as demand shrinks so too will supply (manufacturers of products) contract, because there is less demand for their products. They will reduce output.
Reductions in demand, create a downward spiral for advertising. The continual and greater the demand reduction (like in a recession), the more advertising plummets.
Added to that, advertising decisions and advertising spend itself, is easily turned off early, like a tap. So de facto, Advertising downturns are an early barometer of future planned economic activity. A dramatic reduction in advertising spend is still the earliest indicator of a coming market reduction.
In the 1930’s, The Great Depression limited all economic activity including critically Advertising. It is first cost to get ‘switched off’ as we have seen many times since. Once incomes falters, consequently, as students of Supply/Demand theory will know, the opportunity to increase demand, through advertising, will be negated. The demand curve shifts to the left.
The Great Depression had consequently caused a lack of advertising demand as so too, the First World War and the knock-on effect were to dampen the development of the new radio media.
If advertising money was going to be curtailed, by war or depressions, the opportunity for commercial advertising dependent media, was also depleted.
World War Two was even more significant in its effect on advertising and media.
Therefore, the development of radio (and television), whilst actually started at the turn of the century, was stymied by the Great Depression, WW1 and most notably, WW2.
Both TV and Radio had actually been developed in the 1920’s you might be surprised to know, and they would have developed much sooner without these hiatuses. Therefore, it was not until the two world wars had ended, that Radio and TV would not emerge as a ‘proper’ advertising option.
Indeed, not until the 1950’s when they helped create the Advertising golden age. In other words, post-war, but their development had started long, long before.
The history of Radio is the history of technology and it was on foot of developments in Radio technology and thinking, that Television was born.
So the commercial development of radio and other media such as TV, is in tandem with the development of Advertising and the Advertising Agencies whom controlled it.
It is only therefore, post the Second World War that we see the halcyon days of Advertising Agencies in the 1950’s ‘Madmen’ era and the full development of the advertising ecosystem with global Agencies.
The early radio inventions were put on hold commercially during the World Wars but intrinsically the wars also helped their infrastructural development. Every cloud.
In the First World War, aircraft had used AM Radio for navigation but it was primitive and short range only up to 2,000 yards. Using heavy and bulky vacuum tubes with large antennae, they were very visible to enemy forces.
The transmitters, produced by Marconi in fact, were so bulky they needed two men to move them around.
During the war too, US private citizens could not have radio sets and the navy censored telegraph messages much to the chagrin of Marconi who challenged it as “freedom of speech censorship” in itself. Which of course it was, but a deliberate war time measure.
Whilst the US was war neutral at that time, Marconi had also handled ‘un neutral’ British ship messages from the frigate ‘Suffolk’ at his station in Massachusetts, USA. War was bringing Marconi business.
Counter radio measures too, used on the battlefield, brought a new ability to create false radio messages, deliberately to confuse enemy pilots and seemingly, seven German Zeppelins were lured to their death as a consequence.
Radio, using Morse code, was also used in the trenches to identify enemy positions for gunners and to create early warnings of gas attacks, allowing soldiers to quickly don their gas masks. The American, Samuel Morse had developed code to run over the telegraph developed in 1838. SOS.
Songs were broadcasted to ships too in WW1, created on 28th street New York – Tin Pan Alley. Open Air musicals with full orchestras were often performed from the trenches live, to entertain the troops. So Radio played an important role in WW1 although still in its commercial infancy.
In World War 2, Radio played a bigger role in propaganda including ‘Voice of America’, Tokyo Rose and William Joyce ‘Lord Haw Haw’ calling his show “Germany calling”, where propaganda radio messages could be broadcast into other enemy territories to sway the local population.
Edward Murrow’s battlefield reporting in The US stands out for mention, as his broadcasts helped bring America into the war and Roosevelt’s own radio broadcasts are best remembered as the ‘fireside chats’. After the attack on Pearl Harbour, his broadcast on radio to Americans, marked America’s entry into the war.
Radio informed the population.
The Nazis too, under Goebbels, saw Radio power and distributed cheap radio sets to the German population so they could widely broadcast. As Goebbels noted;
“It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio…It is no exaggeration to say that the German revolution, at least in the form it took, would have been impossible without the airplane and the radio…[Radio] reached the entire nation, regardless of class, standing, or religion. That was primarily the result of the tight centralization, the strong reporting, and the up-to-date nature of the German radio.”
Of course, too, Radio navigation was a critical part of World War Two so investment was made during the war in the technology, the infrastructure.
The RAF developed ‘GEE’ a radio navigation system introduced to Bomber Command in 1942. In the 1930’s The Luftwaffe had developed their own ‘Lorenz’ radio navigation system and this radio navigational war was known as ‘The Battle of the Beams’.
However, as The First World War had dampened newspaper publishing as ink/newsprint became scarce as indeed, young reporters were drafted in to fight, the Second World War significantly dampened the development of commercial Radio and TV.
But war had also helped in producing a backbone of radio investment.
The two world wars themselves of course, dampened brand advertising too but helped a political advertising boom notably by George Gallup the vice-president of The Young & Rubicam Agency (established in 1923 and moved to Madison Avenue).
Of course, too, after the wars, over 60 million had died and infrastructure, essential to business, lay in ruins.
The ending of WW2 in September 1945 with the defeat of Japan, Germany had surrendered the previous May, became complicated between the triumphant powers. Germany was divided into four zones, refugees (displaced persons) returned on masse, countries were in ruins.
The 1943 Conference between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt held at The Soviet Embassy in Tehran, had started the distrust for a post war world. Promises to invade Europe (D Day) to open a ‘second front’ to relieve pressure on Germanys ‘Barbarossa’ invasion of Russia, made to Stalin, had not been met and so there was a fear that he might again agree a new peace deal with Nazi Germany, instead of being a peaceful post war partner.
It was Churchill’s fear of that Allied invasion of Europe, because he was the significant decision maker of a previous failed seaborne invasion in Gallipoli (and indeed the disaster at Dieppe) and that had meant the invasion promises to Stalin had been postponed. Or not met. But Stalin had to be satisfied and Roosevelt’s consequent charm offensive with Stalin, left Churchill feeling out in the cold.
So the post war relationships between the superpowers became frosty and ultimately chaotic, in a chaotic post war world.
It was this chaos that led to The Korean War in 1950, The Cold War and the East/West Germany issues. The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 marking the new fear between former WW2 Allies and which culminated in the Kennedy/Khrushchev Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
It was an era of Cold War spies.
In fact it was Russian spy, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky’s that first alerted the USA to missiles in Cuba and indeed was instrumental in providing Kennedy the priceless information as to how to handle Khrushchev’s bluff. It was Penkovsky who was actually critical in the Cuba crisis not becoming World War Three. He was consequently executed by the Russians for spying in 1962.
Therefore, a huge post war spending on rebuilding military defence began, as the superpowers rebuilt their armies fuelled by this Cold War distrust. And that meant post war grand investment.
The appetite, as you can appreciate, for Media and Advertising was low on the list of reconstruction tasks after 1945.
But that said, the stimulus of war had an acceleration of invention including penicillin, microwaves, computers and of course, the atomic age. Russia had tested its first atomic bomb in 1949 and it in fact, was built on information provided to it by many US spies in turn, notably Klaus Fuchs.
The rebuilding took time and consequently, the emergence of media took longer. It was not therefore until 1957 with the advent of the transistor, that Radio came to the mass public attention when the new Sony company mass produced pocket transistor radios, small enough to be carried.
The wars cannot be underestimated in slowing the growth in media, the growth in brands and obviously in consumer spending. It is therefore not until post-war, in the 1950’s, does Advertising and media come back into its own. Which of course, is referred to as the ‘Madmen’ era. So, the building of brands and now a new explosion of media post war, drove the glory days of Advertising.
You can see for example, that from Marconi’s first radio transmission in 1901, it is not until over 50 years later in 1957, that radio really becomes available to the masses, because wars had intervened.
But in the 1920’s as radio originally started, it was quickly recognised as a new potential Advertising medium largely because the stations depended on it, as not being licence fee supported. Advertising was their only income, so they sought it out, encouraged it.
During the war too, brands like Bell Telephone Systems and General Motors continued to advertise products that could not be bought. They simply were not available. Although portraying their patriotic wartime support credentials, these brands wanted to continue to keep themselves in the public eye for when the war was over. However, it is still often quoted that brands, who advertise during a depression or recession or war, will do better once it is over and these are often quoted as the classic case studies.
In my view, that’s nonsense trotted out as an Advertising sales pitch because it makes no sense. If there is no demand because of systemic issues like income or infrastructural collapse, there is no need nor rationale for Advertising.
The 1940’s were years of some advertising encouraging people “to fight the Nazis”.
These Businesses had wanted to counteract any poor image of their companies which existed during The Great Depression of the 1930’s, when corporate America was blamed by the public for greed. Not an unfair criticism either, so by turning their brand/corporate image to patriotic fever, helped rebuild trust in them. That was the reason, patriotism reflecting on corporate values and not to advertise to sell, because the products could not be bought. It was not that they thought that advertising during a recession would ultimately pay sales dividends, so often trotted out. It was patriotism.
And of course recruitment Advertising was used in the Wars. Classically in 1916 with Uncle Sam saying ‘I want you’.
And Rosie The Riveter for Westinghouse in 1942.
Post war too, an impression existed that Americans were loud and aggressive. We even know it also to be a factor in the JWT Agency venture into London when it deliberately played down its US heritage as early as 1899 as it opened its London office.
But the image of Americans and therefore, their Advertising Agencies, did not go down well in Europe although Madison Avenue reigned supreme until British Advertising in the 1980’s really emerged.
The end of the war and here comes ‘I love Lucy’
Once the Second World War had ended, brands were in place, more sophisticated Advertising Agencies were ready, and media innovation was poised to reach mass consumers. More extensive Newspapers, Radio and particularly, TV.
Colour Television actually began post war in 1953 but like radio, had originally been first ‘invented’ in the 1920’s.
Television had first been demonstrated by Scotland’s John Logie Baird having developed a prototype in Trinidad, showed a ‘silhouette’ TV demonstration in Selfridges London as early as 1925.
Basic colour television was tested in 1928 (although not publicly until 1940) and based on a ‘disc transmission’. Farnsworth had demonstrated the first electronic television system in 1934. But Television was grounded in the birth of radio waves. TV was fundamentally founded on the notion of the development of radio, so you can see them both develop in tandem.
After all, the thinking was that if you could transmit sound wirelessly, then why not pictures?
So, radio (as was often known as ‘The wireless’ in homes then) was the technology bedrock for TV.
Baird’s first outdoor TV transmission was of ‘The Derby’ a horse race in 1932 and CBS began TV experimenting in 1940.
The BBC had started under Baird, live in 1932 and in 1936 it started the world’s first regular TV transmissions from Alexandra Palace in London, with an average of 4 hours a day broadcasting until 1939 when the second world war began.
Nazi Germany had seen the power of film too, for propaganda, notably through producing the 1935 film ‘Triumph of The Will’ by Leni Riefenstahl bringing their Nuremberg Rallies to the big screen.
The first German TV broadcasts happened in 1935 in order to broadcast the 1936 Olympics. Hitler in seeing the film, understood the power of TV for propaganda but access to TV sets was extremely limited and so Radio remained the Nazi main broadcast focus during the war. Indeed, one must think of the war years with families gathered around radio sets listening to Churchill’s wartime broadcasts. Never was so much owed to so many, by so few.
In 1947 there was 16,000 TV sets in America, by 1949 there were 4 million and a year later in 1950, 11 million. America loved the new TV. Most homes had ugly rooftop antenna but a new world of ‘cable’ television appeared with TV being literally wired into homes via coaxial cable, improving the signal.
Television resurrected itself until after the war in 1946 and the BBC returned to broadcasting (their 1937 Coronation broadcast had been the biggest outdoor broadcast ever attempted) in time for the 1948 London Olympics. The first live European broadcast was not until 1950 by The BBC from Calais, France facilitated by 5 Radio link stations, using Microwaves and hosted by broadcaster, Richard Dimbleby.
The 1953 Queen Elizabeth coronation was watched live by 27m on largely gathered around 8 inch black and white TV’s which cost €120 (or 3 months wages). Cameras were not allowed to show a close up of the Queen but the broadcast happened largely thanks to 32 year old Richard Dimmick who had persuaded the royalty to broadcast. He became the first ‘Grandstand’ sports show presenter and he died in 2015 at 94. Interesting to note that his interest in TV came from being a son of a radio manufacturer.
Only 2m TV sets were owned in the UK so a TV ‘event’ like the Coronation, brought friends and neighbours together to watch.
It was a big deal.
The first live UK/US satellite transmission was not until 1962 via Telstar (a satellite launched from Cape Canaveral), with a 20 minute broadcast from Seattle’s World Fair. And it attracted 200 million viewers. (Telstar failed in 1963 and still orbits the planet).
Although the first TV Commercial (for Bulova watches) were broadcast during a baseball game was in 1941 (under the headline, ‘Bulova Watch Time’) and another followed for Seiko watches in Japan in 1953 but it was not until 1955 in the UK, with Ads for Gibbs Toothpaste on ITV, did TV advertising really emerge.
Of course, too, the precursor to TV commercials as we now know them, was product placement in programmes through sponsored spots and live TV commercials. Indeed, live sponsored TV and Radio programmes were the early Ad building blocks.
Brands naming sporting venues for example (such as Chicago’s Wrigley Field in 1927) were an attempt to get their name (naming rights) conveyed in radio broadcasts, before proper TV Advertising commercials as such. Radio Sports Commentators would mention the brand name of the venue on broadcasts, advertising in itself.
It was only in the late 1980’s/90s that cable television and MTV particularly, heralded a new TV era. But by the 1950’s a few short years after the war had ended, TV had arrived into a more comprehensive media market of radio, newspapers and outdoor posters. Ideal Advertising territory.
Post WW2 Prosperity and picket fences.
Post-war therefore, brought a new prosperity, a fertile feeding ground for these new, more sophisticated Advertising Agencies whom by now, had developed into creative structures and were steeped in Media buying. They were ‘full service’ and saw the potential in Radio and TV but with a post-war boom, they were about to take-off.
It is known as ‘the golden age of capitalism’ as it created massive economic expansion.
Depopulation had fuelled employment rates, oil and commodity prices had tumbled to become therefore, more affordable and so manufacturing surged. Factories previously dedicated to wartime outputs, had now returned to producing consumer goods.
Huge GDP growth across the world, Japan notably, coupled with low interest rates and that new massive military spending in the face of a new Cold War.
As US factories moved from the war effort back into normal production of consumer goods, it fuelled low unemployment too.
The US Marshall Plan in 1948 pumped 12 billion (129 billion today) into Western Europe to aid recovery. Other investment and initiatives followed, creating new money to spark commerce including GI ‘loans’ creating affordable housing mortgages. Of course, too, pent up demand for products that had not been seen in the war years, fuelled consumer consumption. Rationing had ended, Americans were ready to spend and the ‘baby boom’ began.
The IMF and The World Bank were created. Farming became a big business to feed the new demand. New car sales grew with 75% of US households owning a car by 1950 allowing them to freely migrate from cities to the new ‘suburbs’ as they were called.
The GI loans which helped people buy houses meant home building surged too and those homes needed to be filled with new goods.
A raft of new housing (some newly ‘prefabricated’ as a concept) in the new ‘suburbs’ brought conspicuous consumption on housing, clothing, furniture, automobiles and cosmetics. The new white picket fenced houses, washing machines, and fitted kitchens. Air Conditioning, Dishwashers, garbage disposals, clothes and of course, colour TV. All in the new suburbs which saw retailers build new local Shopping Centres and Malls for brands accessibility.
The new US Highway Act of 1956, the largest public investment in US history, brought new roads to link the new suburbs.
The UK even welcomed immigrants to deal with labour market shortages and to do tasks, like drive buses, that returning soldiers were not prepared or ‘expected’ to do. Of course, too, men of a working age had been killed in the war. Between 1948 and 1970, nearly half a million people left the Caribbean (Commonwealth countries in fact) for Britain to fill the post war labour shortages. The 1948 ship which first brought people from the West Indies was called ‘Empire Windrush’.
The ‘Windrush’ generation.
As the working population increased, so too did GDP. Education properly returned too. New travel markets opened, motels started, but the introduction of fashionable mass Television in the 1950’s changed the Advertising landscape entirely.
Shows appeared like ‘I love Lucy’, ‘The Mickey Mouse Show’, ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Perry Mason’, ‘Dragnet’, ‘Bonanza’ ‘Abbott and Costello’ and Jack Benny, brought a newly sophisticated form of entertainment. ‘Lassie’ even saved the day too.
For Advertising Agencies, not only had they now the birth of sophisticated TV and its shows, but they were also in a market economic boom. New products, new lifestyles, new media, new brands, required their services. Advertising businesses had seen and helped with the development of brands but now with a new Radio and TV media surge, it was the last building block to their new heyday.
Money was not short and consumer demand for products was rampant.
Advertising Agencies were ready to help fulfil the American Dream. A house in the suburbs, a family and a steady job.
So we can see that it’s the resurgence of America that meant American Advertising Agencies on Madison Avenue, New York in particular, became central.
The 1950’s we refer to the ‘madmen’ era of Advertising and ‘men’ they most certainly were. The role of women is clearly one of subservience and domestication in these new suburban homes. Men did the work, women looked after the home.
I remember my mother ‘fixing herself up’ with makeup and a change of clothes, to welcome home my advertising agency father as he returned from work in the evenings. It was the way it was. Slippers and a ready pipe at the ready were not a cliché, but grounded in truth. Important perhaps to note too, that women didn’t even get the vote until 1918 in the UK and 1920 in the US. Old habits die hard. Actually it wasn’t until 1980 that women voted in the same percentage as men. They had a vote that generally, they didn’t use.
Women’s ‘lib’ didn’t start until 1960 in fact, so we can see that the ‘gender gap’ and consequent, pay gap, was only beginning to be realised at this time. Women’s lib was about equality in all areas but including pay and jobs.
Madmen The 1950s
‘Madmen’ did not mean they were just ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’, but rather to explain that they were the men of Madison Avenue, the heart of New York Advertising. Men from Madison Avenue, Madmen.
They too had seen the power of TV and scrambled to understand to new medium as a new Advertising option.
My father in Saatchi’s at the time, was flown from Dublin to Harvard University no less, for a weekend ‘course’ on how TV worked. One of his legendary advertising colleagues subsequently always called himself ‘a graduate of Harvard University’. Only a white lie.
In 1952, CBS became the top advertising medium in the world and by 1959, using TV advertising in ‘segments’ advertising could reach 90% of American households – a powerful medium at that. It was now the focus of people’s evenings at home. Programming came from three national networks – NBC, CBS and ABC broadcasting live. Brands like Tide, Kraft and Lipton were early adopters of TV Advertising with commercials often performed live too. They are extraordinary to look at now.
The power of TV was seen in political circles quickly too. The 1960 Nixon/Kennedy US presidential campaign was touch and go, until a televised debate, where Nixon looked unshaven and sweaty and he lost to Kennedy. It was a key moment in the power of Television. Roger Ailes, a then republican daily TV show producer and the now infamous founder of Fox News, for the next 1968 Nixon presidential run for President, consequently developed a massive Television political strategy for Nixon.
This time, Nixon won. Again, showing Advertisers how powerful TV could be.
With TV you could broadcast both sound and pictures, a heady new advertiser mixture and it got the attention of brand marketers. And it got directly into people’s homes. In fact, Television created such a revolution in homes and lifestyles, that Advertising and the Agencies, surged on the back of it as ‘experts’ in this new medium.
The Civil Rights movements of the 1950’s and 60’s had an impact on creative style with most advertising being light skinned, but Pepsi Cola started to embrace that new black market ahead of its competitor, Coca Cola. They used black jazzmen like Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton to give brand mentions, on stage. Generally, post war Advertising reflected the white consumer with Aunt Jemina’s pancake mixture (which started in 1889) and Uncle Ben’s rice using stereotypical black folk as a nod to the new and white, wealthy suburban consumer. Of course, only recently ‘me too’ rebranded as just ‘Ben’s’.
Agencies run by black or coloured staff where seen as niche for those markets rather than mainstream. Women, who worked, typed in the advertising agency ‘pool’.
Automobiles and cigarettes were the highest advertising spenders in the 1950’s.
In the 1950’s too, cancer ‘scares’ regarding tobacco, advertisers who were a mainstream Client of Agencies, caused more than concern. Notably a highly publicised Medical Research Council report in 1954, that linked smoking to cancer. It was combatted by reassurance from tobacco manufacturers, based of course on their own research, that the threat of cancers was well combatted by filters and low tar. Hence the new advertising proposition of ‘filter cigarettes’ and Agencies were tasked at developing strategies to recruit the new ‘entrant smoker’.
A deluge of advertisements offered reassurance from recognised celebrities and even, dentists and doctors combined with a Public Relations drive to combat the scare (It was not until 1971 that they were taken completely off air on radio and TV).
So Ad Agencies boomed in this 1950’s post Second World War – the infamous ‘Madmen’ era.
Bill Bernbach from New York City helped found Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) in 1946 with a focus on ‘creative’ advertising characterised by ‘simplicity’. “Tell it like it is”, creating iconic campaigns for Volkswagen. As a copywriter he made one of the great edicts, still valued and valid today;
“There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately, they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier reading. They can give you fact after fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there is one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art”.
Leo Burnett (a navy man in World War one) famous for ‘Tony The Tiger’, the Marlboro Man and a long line of campaigns for Coca Cola and McDonalds, started his Agency in 1935 as The Leo Burnett Company. In 1963 towards the end of his tenure he delivered his “when to take my name off the door” speech which every Burnett employee must watch to this day, and he died in 1971.
Chiat Day opened in 1968. Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, JWT were there of course.
Between the two World Wars, Agencies had also continued on their process known as ‘globalisation’ driven by the demand from their exporting Clients. They had opened offices throughout the world and notably McCann Erickson which started in New York in 1902, opened in Europe in 1927, South America 1935 and Australia in 1959. Publicis, a little known French Agency founded by Marcel Blanchet, began to bloom after 1945 in promoting France’s post-war economic boom with close links to the French Government, but notably benefitted from the fact that American Agencies did not go down well in French business circles, as they did not like the American ‘tone’.
As we have said too, it is not a coincidence that J Walter Thompson London, shed its ‘American’ image and deliberately became ‘British’. That is how it has become to be seen as ‘British’, a deliberate stroke. Indeed, JWT’s expansion globally for example, excluded France for that very reason.
Even in Britain post-war, American ‘brashness’ was feared and of course BBC radio and television were off advertising limits as they were ‘ad-free’, depending on a licence fee public instead.
In Germany during the war, advertising had been seen as propaganda, useful propaganda, and came under the ministry headed by Goebbels. But the Ad Agencies had learned from Nazi techniques and promotion such as the Volkswagen, Hitler’s favourite people carrier (the automobile for the people).
Italy post war welcomed American Agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam.
Dentsu the Japanese Agency had started in 1901 producing the first newspaper ads and TV commercials in Japan but it was not until 1946 that it opened multiple Japanese offices before its global expansion, largely through acquisition.
It was therefore in the 1950’s that the Advertising Agency business clearly had a future and across the globe.
DDB Volkswagen campaigns with headlines like ‘Lemon’, ‘Think Small’ (which I have frankly, never understood) and ‘Ugly’. Avis ‘We Try Harder’, Esso ‘Put a Tiger in your tank’, Alka-Seltzer ‘I can’t believe I ate the whole thing’, Lucky Strike ‘It’s toasted’, Ronald McDonald, The Pillsbury Dough Boy.
The Marlboro Man appeared in 1954. David Ogilvy’s book ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’ appeared in 1963. The Pepsi Generation in 1964.
It is therefore, only post the Second World War that we see the halcyon days of Advertising Agencies in this 1950’s ‘Madmen’ era and the full development of the advertising ecosystem with global Agencies.
It’s is not until much later through the 1990’s that we see the corruption of advertising. Once Advertising had reached a stable but sophisticated plateau, it was ripe for financial rape.
A switch too from Media Brokering into a new world of ‘Agents’ and hence the title ‘Advertising Agency’. They became Agents for Media owners and in return, through selling their media space, were paid a ‘commission’ by the media owner for doing so. Normally, 15%.
So, this fertile ground of these new, by now legendary, Advertising Agencies flourished on the back of brands, new media (Newspapers, Radio and especially TV) and an economic uplift.
Post war in the 1950’s they saw the emergence of a new consumer with pent up brand demand and a baby boom. The government investment in services to rebuild countries made new cash available. Agencies had already become more global and profitable providing creative services and media buying under one roof.
Not only that, this new Advertising ‘dark art’ in the 1950’s was in high demand and a myth was created. Fuelled by imaginative TV campaigns primarily it must be said. TV was Advertising Agency gold dust. The 1960s to the 1980’s is often, and rightly, seen as the real golden era of Creative Advertising but it developed from this 1950’s madmen era.
This new level of creativity created more and more demand and attention for advertising services. It created a new ecosystem.
But these were stand-alone, generally privately owned Advertising businesses that thrived, founded originally by the creative madmen. They knew their business, attracted highly talented creative people, and they did good brand work.
That is undisputed and they contributed to a new consumer economy which brought a ray of sunshine into people’s daily lives. And they were honest.
They did a good job and got paid for it, albeit lucratively between creative costs and media commissions.
But that is where the connection to today’s Agencies ends.
Despite that some still retain the founder’s brand or name over their doors, it is nothing more than an image attempt to convey creative heritage – because the Agencies of today, have nothing in common with those of these years.
In most cases, if not all, Advertising Agencies have been re-sold or merged many times since the days of these founders.
To say they are at a distance now from the values of those founders is an understatement.