Consumer alert- Haldimand County Museum&Archives kicks off early advertising exhibit.

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Capri's and a white phone: the idyllic scene and the perfect cover for the 1961 Eatons catalog

Haldimand County Museum & Archives presents the opening of a new exhibit “You Can’t Live Without It” January 26, 2012 1 pm
Haldimand County Museum & Archives, invites you to attend the opening of the latest exhibit, “You Can’t Live Without It” .January 26, 2012 at 1 pm. This exhibition focuses on the history of early advertising. The opening will kick off with a talk on the exhibit followed by light refreshments.

The exhibit will showcase early advertising from the first time someone hung out a shingle to signify that they were open for business to the use of radio, TV and social media to sell products. Wall or rock painting for commercial advertising was one of the first known forms of advertising. Archeological digs have found evidence of these early forms of adverting in Egypt, Asia, Africa, and South America. History tells us that out-of-home advertising and billboards are the oldest forms of advertising.

As the towns and cities of the Middle Ages began to grow, and the general populace was unable to read, signs that today would say cobbler, miller, tailor or blacksmith would use an image associated with their trade such as a boot, a suit, a hat, a clock, a diamond, a horse shoe, a candle or even a bag of flour. Fruits and vegetables were sold in the city square from the backs of carts and wagons and their proprietors used street callers (town criers) to announce their whereabouts for the convenience of the customers.

Packaging and branding were unknown and unnecessary before the Industrial Revolution. However, once technological advances enabled the mass production of soap, china, clothing etc, the close personal links between buyer and seller were broken. Rather than selling out of their back yards to local customers, manufacturers sought markets a long way from their factories, sometimes on the other side of the world. This created a need for advertising. Manufacturers needed to explain and recommend their products to customers whom they would never meet personally.

Newspapers provided the ideal vehicle for this new phenomenon, advertisements. New technologies were also making newspapers cheaper, more widely available, and more frequently printed. They had more pages, so they could carry more, bigger, ads. Simple descriptions, plus prices, of products served their purpose until the mid nineteenth century, when technological advances meant that illustrations could be added to advertising, and colour was also an option. Advertisers started to add copy under the simple headings, describing their products using persuasive prose.

In 1884 Timothy Eaton produced a small, pink, 32-page catalogue listing items and prices and distributed it to visitors at the Industrial Exhibition (now known as the Canadian National Exhibition) in Toronto. The next spring, a 6-page flyer announced Timothy Eaton’s new mail order department. While the Eaton’s catalogue was not the first mail order catalogue in North America, it was one of the first to be distributed by a Canadian retail store. This became one of the biggest forms of advertising which is still in existence today.

The 1884 Fall-WInter Eaton's catalog. image courtesy of Canadian Museum of Civilization

You could buy almost anything through a mail-order catalogue, from hairpins to houses. Manufacturers competed vigorously to have their products included in these catalogues. Another huge advertising forum was periodicals or magazines. By the mid 1800’s magazines had become a popular part of our culture, gearing their content to a variety of people. The advertising reflected the audience and thus we saw the birth of a massive advertising opportunity that continues today. Popular magazines that began in the 1800’s include Godey’s Ladies Book, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Farmer’s Advocate.

The invention of the radio, opened up a new advertising opportunity for manufacturers. The first actual commercial was broadcast in 1922 from radio station WEAF. Radio programs began to be sponsored by an array of manufacturers. We saw the birth of the radio jingle and Soap Operas were born thanks to their sponsors the soap companies.

The first television advertisement was broadcast in the United States on July 1, 1941. The watchmaker Bulova paid $9 for a placement on New York station WNBT before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. The 20-second spot displayed a picture of a clock superimposed on a map of the United States, accompanied by the voice-over “America runs on Bulova time.” Early programs were generally sponsored by one product, unlike today where we are subject to a series of short commercials for a wide range of products.

Testimonials from customers who are not famous have been effectively used in marketing for as long as marketing has existed. A past or current customer will present a formal “word of mouth” testimonial that a business can use in marketing and to build trust with future customers. Marketers have been using celebrities in commercials, print campaigns, and promotions for years, because done properly, it works.

Celebrities get the viewer’s attention. Early stars who pitched products included Mary Pickford, Shirley Temple, Bob Hope, and Dinah Shore just to name a few. Early television and radio programs were sponsored by a product, making the star of that program the pitch man. Bob Hope was famous for toothpaste and Dinah Shore pitched the Chevrolet. The billions of dollars spent per year on celebrity endorsement contracts show that celebrities, like Liz Hurley, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Britney Spears, and Tiger Woods, play an important role for the advertising industry.

Today we have an even larger way to reach the masses. Through the internet and social media advertisers can instantly reach millions of people with one click. The advent of You tube has made the art of advertising cheap and easy for even the smallest businesses to get their word out. Plan on visiting the latest exhibit and experience the history of advertising from its early beginning until today.

The exhibit will be on at the museum from January 19th until May 1st.

If you require further information please call the museum at 905-772-5880 or email:
Haldimand County Museum & Archives is located at 8 Echo St, Cayuga, ON.

Karen Richardson
Heritage & Culture Division

Haldimand County
Haldimand County Museum and Archives
8 Echo St, Cayuga, ON N0A 1E0

Tel: 905-772-5880
Fax: 905-772-1725
Silo Direct Link to HaldimandCounty website

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