“Turnover is the applause of the customers”, Götz W. Werner once said. But those who want to sell their products must first draw attention to them. Advertising is the key word here – in this article we deal with the path advertising has taken from its beginnings to the present day and how strategic content was defined in the past. But let’s start with one thing: no matter how advertising and the media used have changed so far, the objective has remained the same: Sell!

From market criers to performance marketing

If we define advertising as a “sales promotion measure”, then we can already assign it to ancient times. Today’s advertisers are the market criers of the old world. The methods have changed, products are no longer advertised loudly to casual customers, but the intention was the same: then as now, potential customers needed to be convinced of the company’s product. But we don’t want to go back that far in this article – 150 years is quite enough – around this time the advertising system we know today was established. First posters on advertising pillars or in shop windows appeared and represented the next evolution stage of the advertisers; they guaranteed their advertising customers that their posters are visible to potential customers for the entire booking period.

Advertising pillars are still in use today and are a nice change in our digitalized world. Shop window advertising has held up just as well. It is used by retailers to promote their own products: Clothing (shoes, dresses), outdoor equipment and musical instruments are just a few examples. In contrast to advertising on pillars, advertising spaces are not sold to third parties, but only used for self-marketing in order to become better known and to advertise the qualitative superiority of one’s own product. The fact that print advertising, for example, was already a booming business and essential in the past is shown by the conditions around 1900 in Germany – some daily newspapers contained around 80 percent advertising.

First steps towards “personalized” advertising – Story Telling

The term “storytelling” was far from established, but telling a story was already invaluable! After all, it was much more difficult to reach the consumer due to the small number of media. Only concise slogans and logos were able to assert themselves, the radiance of which still reaches today: What do you associate with Nivea? Exactly, day cream! Another example: Coca Cola was then as now a world-famous brand. Marketed in the colonial era as an exotic drink with healing powers, this turned into the complete satisfaction of people’s needs in times of economic upswing. The advertising goal and motif were primarily housewives who enjoyed the refreshing lemonade after their daily visit to the supermarket. Advertising began to address different target groups within a brand.

In 1982, Coca Cola introduced the calorie-free Cola Light to appeal primarily to female consumers. The appropriate product advertising contained important themes of the increasingly emancipated woman and was part of the emerging pop culture. More and more, the advertising industry addressed the supposed needs of consumers and made them understand: “You need this product!” Another classic example is the Persil commercial broadcast on German television in 1956 (the first ever advertisement). We don’t have to comment on the clip any further, but you can see the clear target group addressed and the message here. In the relationship between consumer – advertising – company, the trend towards personalization was therefore discernible early on.

Advertising in the Internet Age

With the personalization of products, the social perception of advertising also has changed. Advertising is omnipresent and visible on so many channels. There is a consensus on the Internet in particular that websites have to advertise in order to stay online. What consequences will this have for advertisers if the Internet as a medium becomes more and more important? Not every advertisement is accepted equally. There are still advertisements that are perceived as annoying, or advertisements that do not quite meet the taste of the user; advertisements that do not fit the respective channel or advertisements that have nothing to do with the respective target group that is currently broadcasting them. Accordingly, there is occasional criticism of companies and this is often spreading rapidly in the social media.

The above-mentioned Coca-Cola housewife advertising from the 1960s and also the Persil advertising would today trigger a gender debate with strong negative consequences for the brand and would undoubtedly give rise to heated discussions. Apart from the fact that we live in completely different social structures and that there was no Internet at that time, advertising at that time, despite its target group orientation, imposed a certain role on the specific group.

Personalized advertising: I am what I consume

And nowadays? Consumers see brands as part of their individual lifestyle and therefore identify much more strongly with companies and their products. Brands that perceive their customers as individuals, take their personality into account and do not assign them a specific role within society are popular. In addition, social media such as Instagram, TikTok, etc. contribute to advertising becoming a self-runner. Whether placed or not, users/influencers advertise with products. Of course, companies want to profit from the followers’ reach and invest some of their advertising budgets in advertising on different platforms – in any case, certain target groups no longer seem to be reachable via traditional advertising media. Television is increasingly competing with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime; radio is far too uncool for the spotify generation and besides, many people nowadays primarily inform themselves about news and the latest trends on social media.

About the Author

Alexander Hencel
Marketing Assistant at HBI Helga Bailey GmbH – International PR & MarCom

Alexander Hencel has been part of HBI’s marketing team since 2018. He is responsible for content management such as the creation of specialist articles, managing social media channels and supporting online marketing campaigns for customers and HBI.

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