How has advertising changed since 1919?

When Stuart Hirst Limited first opened its doors the First World War had just ended and George V and Queen Mary were on the throne. Stuart Hirst, a former employee of Yorkshire Post Newspapers established the first independent advertising agency outside the USA. Since that time Stuart Hirst the company has been in the vanguard of most advertising and marketing techniques and technologies but its values and competencies remain as fresh today as they were back in the early part of last century. But just how has advertising changed since then?


Advertising as a concept has been around ever since humans have been providing each other with goods and services, those days advertising was limited to word of mouth (the most basic but most powerful form). Advertising in any other form began appearing in the 17th century along with the introduction of newspapers. It was in this medium that Stuart Hirst first set up his advertising agency in 1919.


The 1920s were an important period in the development of modern advertising, and many advertising agencies capitalised on the appearance of the sudden demand for companies to promote and brand their products. There are many differences between advertising in the 1920s and advertising today, however there are many similarities aswell. The introduction of radio during this period also provided an alternative medium for advertisers.


Throughout the 20th Century, from the ‘recruit’ propoganda campaigns for the wars, the ‘madmen’ of the 50s and to the technology revolution we are seeing today, it has been proved that adverts with a clear, simple message are usually the most effective. The audience will not remember a message if they don’t understand it. However, the message must also be distinctive and creative enough so that it holds the audience’s attention while they decipher its true meaning. The following two Rowntree Fruit Pastilles examples are an excellent example of the similarities of advertising throughout history. One advert is from 1925, the other from 1991.



However, advertising has had some major developments since the 1920s. Advertising has now reached a mass and global scale, it is estimated that the average british consumer could be exposed to over 1000 advertising messages a day. Social shifts and the far greater sophistication of both advertisers and audiences have all led to changes in advertising. With so much choice, audiences are becoming decencitised to advertiser’s messages meaning consumers are likely to feel as if they are in control of which products they buy and with adverts they choose to pay attention to. Whether they are in control or not is another debate, however, it is clear that advertising campaigns that engage their audience, interact with them with user-generated content and give them the impression that they are in control are becoming increasingly popular. Take Marks and Spencer’s hugely successful shift from their traditional logo to their more modern, consumer focussed ‘Your M&S’ strategy for example.




Of course, another huge change in the advertising world is the technology advances. In 1919, Stuart Hirst would have never predicted the communication channels and new media that are now available for advertisers to reach their audiences. With so many mediums available to them, many advertisers are unsure which to choose, however, often an integrated marketing approach through a wide range of channels is the most succesful. It is important for advertisers to keep up to date with the latest trends and to reach consumer’s in unexpected channels again to give that impression that they are in control. Hence why advertising has now taken a huge shift to the digital era; the internet, social media, blogs, mobile applications are all huge markets for advertisers and provide cheap, easy access to reach a global audience, something that was never possible before. This is the major driving force behind the changes of advertising in recent years, it means that the advertisers job is much harder than it was 80 years ago.


However, technology has also arrived that has helped the advertisers. Advertisers and marketers are now able to track exactly what consumers are buying what products, how much they are buying and when and where they are buying it. Market research technology such as consumer panels and EPOS data monitoring can also tell a company exactly how successful their advertising campaign is, allowing them to measure their return on investment, hence why companies are now demanding more from their advertising.


So with all these changes to the way we think, act, do business and advertise our products, one can only guess where the future will take us. The modern consumer gets bored so easily and demand quick information, there is likely to be a huge shift toward online videos promoting products as this allows a company to get their point across in just a matter of seconds with little effort for the consumer. One thing is for sure though, there will always be advertisers like Stuart Hirst keeping up to date with the latest trends, staying ahead of the game and finding new, innovative ways to reach audiences.


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