The 20s.

Old black and white Coca-Cola print ad.

There was a new campaign with the tagline: “The more you know about the Telephone the better it will serve you” which aimed to enlighten people about the complexity of the telephone system and also ask for public cooperation to ensure a high standard of service. Bell began advertising in other formats, including newspapers and displays in prominent stores. Bell also opened offices to the public as part of “Telephone Week”, holding special events in multiple cities.

In the 1920s, communications technology continued to advance rapidly, and Bell advertisements remained focused on educating the public about the latest innovations, including long distance and dial service. Mr. Neill, at Bell’s commercial department, said: “We must inform people about our company and let them know the key role we play in the life of the community. We must continue to advertise to teach the value of telephone service”.

New advertising opportunities came from the growing popularity of long distance services. Bell’s advertising manager at the time, C.E. Fortier, wrote: “The company is planning to take advantage of every available means of advertising the telephone as the servant of the public, and long distance service is an untried field.” This led to the launch of major advertising campaigns to highlight Bell toll service. Though the first major campaign was addressed to the larger public, the company later adopted a specific approach directed at business people in various industries.

While marketing was emerging as a conscious business strategy, advertising matured as an important industry. As an orientation, marketing involved conceiving a company as an institution that sold goods as opposed to simply producing them. Marketing meant setting the firm’s strategy according to realistic observations of available customers and then organizing the firm to coordinate production, distribution, sales, and service according to those observations.

The maturation of advertising in the 1920s and the creation of marketing departments and marketing strategies by major firms both promoted consumer values in American society and reflected the rise of the consumer society. In 1919 advertising costs were 8 percent of total distribution costs in industry; by 1929, the share was 14 percent. In that latter year, advertising costs reached nearly $3 billion.

Marketing started changing, and a new conception began to appear that influenced business strategy and led to changes in the structure of American firms. In the 1920s and 1930s, pioneers in the marketing approach to management learned the importance of differentiating their products from those of their competitors, having a range of products to offer consumers, and of advertising heavily to influence customers’ behavior.

The dawn of the industrial revolution created massive changes to the world as we know it and with the Technological Revolution not far behind, we have advertising to thank for that expansion. What we know as advertising today founds its roots in a new national market. Companies now had the opportunity to more people than ever before thanks to the construction and operation of the Pacific Railroad in the 1860s. Mass production and the lowering of prices on consumer goods meant that more items were available to more people.

Companies were able to establish brand loyalties on a whole new level, with their consumers. Introducing a new product to the public, or more specifically, why they needed and deserved to own the product needed a new strategy beyond simply announcing its existence in the usual dry fashion. The strategy evolved from merely introducing a product to persuading consumers that they simply could not live without them. aimed at persuading. Advertising helped companies to gain repeat customers, this helped to sell other existing and new products to these same customers.

Publishers became heavily dependent on advertising, they drop their prices thanks to changes in print technology in the 1890s. Muckraking journals prior to World War One achieved widespread circulation by exposing corruption and greed in business and politics. Profitable magazines would see a rise in readership, but by 1914, advertisers objected strongly to the investigative articles, which reflected badly on their own kind. More importantly, readers started growing weary and bored with the campaigns for reform.

Post World War One, magazines would eventually drop the theme of reform and embed themselves in the culture of consumerism. Products such as Norman Rockwell’s paintings became popular fixtures in middle-class homes. Henry Luce began publishing Time in 1923 hoping to attract serious newsreaders and New tabloid newspapers launched after the war, such as the New York Daily News, achieved large circulation by covering crime, sports, and scandals. Advertisers started gaining traction, they were now reaching millions of consumers on a daily or weekly basis and started hiring movie stars and sports figures to persuade Americans to buy all types of products, yes, you guessed it, coffee and tobacco were infamous.

Bruce Barton’s 1925 book compared religion and business, The Man Nobody Knows, declared Jesus Christ’s parables as “the most powerful advertisements of all time…. He would be a national advertiser today.” Business had become America’s secular religion, thanks to advertising.

Advertising is an ever evolving industry, marketing is a process that finds new tools and platforms, new strategies, and methods of persuasion, but the intent is always the same. Marketing develops strategies for leveraging value, presenting the consumer with benefits, advertising is the messenger. These are big responsibilities and if the message is wrong, or false, accountability will come knocking.



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Phillip J. Clayton

Phillip J. Clayton


Brand Design & Development | Brand & Marketing Judge: | Writer | Art & Design | Advertising | Creative Director