The Psychology of Advertising

The only method of advertising known to the ancients was the word of mouth. The merchant who had wares to offer brought them to the gate of a city and there cried aloud, making the worth of his goods known to those who were entering the city, and who might be induced to turn aside and purchase them. We are not more amused by the simplicity of the ancients than we are amazed at the magnitude of the modern systems of advertising. From the day when Boaz took his stand by the gate to advertise Naomi's parcel of land by crying, "Ho, ... turn aside," to the day when Barnum billed the towns for his three-ringed circus, the evolution in advertising had been gradual, but it had been as great as that from the anthropoid ape to P. T. Barnum himself.

As soon as printed symbols were invented the advertising man made use of them to give publicity to his merchandise. We find advertisements engraved on walls and tombs, written on parchment and papyrus, and printed by the first printing presses. Although these various forms of advertising were employed, but little thought and care seem to have been expended upon them. Postells, painted signs, street-car placards, booklets, calendars, almanacs, handbills, magazine and newspaper advertising have now become forms of advertising so well established that we look upon them as a necessity, and are surprised to learn that most of them are modern innovations.


The first advertisement printed in English appeared in the Imperial Intelligencer in March, 1648. Advertising in magazines was not begun until comparatively recent times. For instance, the first advertisement appeared in Harper's Magazine in 1864. In this magazine more space has been devoted to advertising during the past year than the sum total of space for the twenty-four years from 1864 to 1887, inclusive. Indeed, advertising may be said to have been in its swaddling clothes until about the year 1887. The most rapid development has taken place during the last fifteen years. The change has been so great that the leading advertisers say that in comparison with to-day there was in existence fifteen years ago no advertising worthy of the name.


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