Walking through advertising

When we hear the word advertising what strikes first to the mind? An advertisement promoting a brand. Well, advertising is just not that rather it has more layers to it. In its purest sense, as quoted by the Art Historian, James Laver, Advertising is any device that arrests the attention of the passer by and induces in them an idea of mutually advantageous exchange. He focuses on the antiquity and breadth of advertising. If we look at India, specifically rural India, we see men/women selling spices on the footpaths or in weekly markets and there they have their products displayed openly for the passer by(s) to have a look, hence arresting their attention leading to a mutually advantageous exchange that is money for spices. The most basic ingredients that seem most prominent are: attention, mutuality and exchange. To quote an ancient instance of advertising, we would have to go back to the Ancient Roman Civilisation. Recent excavation from the ruins of Italy, Herculaneum, where cities were buried, archaeologists found a painting of series of bottle over the wall signifying that they have wine inside.

Giving an interesting take to the world of advertising, Radium Williams, a social theorist says advertising is the ‘official art’ of a capitalist society. And unlike Laver’s point of view, it is linked to a specific social context, focuses on modernity and is a sponsored art. For instance, in the Soviet Society, huge posters of Stalin could be viewed, here the art was sponsored by the state termed socialist art. Whereas, after the Soviet Union collapsed, the same places would have posters of coca cola and similar companies on the hoardings, replacing socialism by capitalism.

John E Kennedy, an advertising copywriter defined advertising as salesmanship in print. Prior to the advent of print, advertising was solely based on salesmanship, for example, a person trying to buy a glove in the 20th century would go to a shop where the salesperson would educate the buyer on different kinds of material for the gloves etc, therefore a conversation between the consumer and the salesman leading to an exchange of information that has the potential to result in a sale. He explains that the advertising adopts this phenomenon of salesmanship which was present for the longest time and pours it into a new medium that was print like newspapers and delivers the message that could have been conveyed through interpersonal communication that is face to face communication.

Advertising of this salesmanship began in 1800(s) where the salesmanship of interpersonal communication saw a shift by coming in the print form. Until 1920(s) photographs were not used in advertising. With the arrival of the radio after the 1920(s), we witnessed a shift from the print to radio and then later to television in the 1940(s) as the new advertising mediums. We can conclude that advertising is heavily dependent on the medium through which it will be presented. Starting the shift from the interpersonal , face to face salesmanship to print, then to radio and television and now to internet, advertising has walked a long way.

Categories: News