Advertising history from the year you were born

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December 9, 2020
GraphicaArtis // Getty Images

Advertising history from the year you were born

Advertising and marketing goods and services have been around since the dawn of time, with business practices and branding evolving into an industry that generated $118 billion in 2018.

The ever-changing landscape of technology has also massively changed how advertisers reach their target demographic. In just one decade, they have gone from primarily appealing to consumers through magazine and newspaper endorsements to crafting television and radio spots to making the most of the digital advertising age, particularly on social media giants like Facebook and Instagram.

However, the era that many are most familiar with—particularly thanks to shows like “Thirtysomething,” “Mad Men,” and “Bewitched”—is the “Golden Age of Advertising” from the 1960s to the 1980s, with its lavish lunches and high society ad agency figures.

But since then, advertising has changed significantly, not just in terms of technology and techniques, but also in terms of how it treats women and people of color. While ads were often white-washed and demeaning toward women during the 20th century, recent viral campaigns and memorable ads have focused on topics like toxic masculinity—in Gillette’s “The Best A Man Can Get” campaign, female empowerment—during Always’ “Like a Girl” spot, and African American NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s stand against police brutality and racism—through Nike’s 2018 campaign.

To identify key advertising milestones from the past century, Stacker turned to news articles, scholarly journals, and information databases to compile this slideshow of notable advertising history from the year you were born. The list includes numerous advertising topics that have remained prevalent over the years, encompassing famous ads, burgeoning technology, and the laws and regulations that affected them, particularly in regard to tobacco advertisements.

Scroll through to see how the industry’s taglines, agencies, and campaigns have evolved over the decades, from Listerine’s “Tragic Edna” to 2020 repercussions at the independent agency The Richards Group.

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1921: Listerine used Tragic Edna to sell products

In an effort to transition their product’s reputation from antiseptic to a more general pharmaceutical product, the Lambert Pharmaceutical Company hired advertising professional Gordon Seagrove. It ran a series of ads centering on the everyday embarrassments that someone with halitosis might deal with, and the most well-known of this campaign is “Tragic Edna,” who never found love due to the condition. This strategic use of sociodramatic advertisements helped Listerine sales rise from $100,000 to $4 million between 1921 and 1927.

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1922: The first radio commercial was broadcast

The $50 commercial was broadcast on the station WEAF New York. Because direct selling was still prohibited at the time, host H.M. Blackwell instead indirectly spoke for 10 minutes about the benefits of living at Queens’ Hawthorne Apartments.

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Time Magazine

1923: The first issue of Time magazine is published

With the rise of the Technological Revolution, magazines began appealing to consumers’ need to purchase goods and services. When Henry Luce and Briton Hadden established Time magazine in 1923, movie stars and famous entertainers began to join the mix and persuade everyday Americans to purchase products.

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1924: Ford promised freedom to the woman

Ford understood that women were key consumers early on, and began to design automobile advertisements directly geared toward them. In one ad, featuring the tagline, “Freedom to the woman who owns a Ford,” a woman is seen gathering an armful of leaves in the wilderness, with her trusty car behind her. This pushes cars as a symbol of freedom and autonomy, which is still a common advertising trend today.

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miss_curse_10 // Flickr

1925: Burma Shave Company innovated out-of-home advertising

Burma Shave Company created a memorable example of an early out-of-home advertising moment when it erected a series of sequential, rhyming billboards across highways across the country. At one point, there were 7,000 of the signs around the continental United States.

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1926: Wheaties aired the first singing radio advertisement

Before Wheaties became the “breakfast of champions,” the brand made a name for itself with the Christmas Eve song "Have You Tried Your Wheaties?" The tune is believed to be the first-ever radio jingle.

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1927: TVs were introduced to the public

Television has become a key advertising medium, but it was first introduced to the public when AT&T, then known as Bell Telephone Company, first demonstrated a television transmission in 1927. It broadcast an image of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover from Washington D.C. to New York, and while televisions didn’t become a commercial success until the 1940s, the demonstration cemented television as a permanent part of the cultural imagination.

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1928: Earhart endorsed Lucky Strike

Viewers sometimes doubt whether a celebrity or well-known figure endorsing a product actually believes in what they’re selling. One example where this was not the case is Amelia Earhart, a nonsmoker, endorsing Lucky Strike cigarettes in a series of ads.

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1929: The stock market crashed

The country, and the advertising industry, faced major unforeseen challenges when the stock market crash heralded the economic crisis that came to be known as the Great Depression. In response, many ads went on to promote the American war effort, and promised to deliver goods to consumers at the end of the war.

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1930: Reeves coined a term

Rosser Reeves was building on Claude Hopkins’ previous “preemptive claim” theory. Now a commonly used advertising idea, a company’s “unique selling proposition” is a characteristic that sets a company apart from others, and this message should be emphasized in marketing.

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1931: Outdoor Advertising, Inc. was founded

Outdoor Advertising, Inc. (OIA) was created to promote out-of-home advertising, and was later merged with the Outdoor Advertising Agency of America. Today, the out-of-home advertising industry is worth $7.8 billion, and includes things like billboards and transit advertising.

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1932: Oldsmobile found a way

During the Depression, Oldsmobile found a way to survive by emphasizing that its cars were worth the hefty purchase as “a larger, finer six … and a brilliant new straight eight.” Its advertising campaign emphasized the cars’ affordable, competitive prices and impressive new technological advances, from double-action hydraulic shock absorbers to an oil temperature regulator.

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1933: Camel made claims

Camel made many audacious claims in its advertisements throughout the years, but one of the more egregious examples is its 1933 ad in which it insists that 21 of the 23 Giants baseball World Champions smoke Camel cigarettes. The 1930s were a decade in which sports figures appeared more and more frequently in tobacco ads, which were enjoying the benefits of having little to no restrictions imposed on their hyperbolic advertising claims.

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1934: Wheaties debuted another campaign

The cereal company introduced packaging that centered on famous baseball player Lou Gehrig, encouraging kids that they could grow up to be like their favorite athletes if they also ate the “breakfast of champions.” Over the years, other athletes like Michael Jordan and Billie Jean graced the packaging.

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1935: Gallup began conducting market research

Creator George Gallup first founded the American Institute of Public Opinion during his time as an employee at the agency Young & Rubicam. Today, the company is known for conducting worldwide public opinion polls, which help companies and advertisers improve their customer and employee strategies.

[Pictured: Budweiser fortune teller advertisement from 1937.]

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1936: Woodbury used nudity in advertising

The Woodbury advertisement was photographed by Edward Steichen and featured a nude woman sitting on stairs in the sunshine, with her back turned toward the camera. The ad’s text told consumers that Woodbury’s formula was enriched with “filtered sunshine,” and that the product was “amazing scientific soap.”

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1937: Lucky Strike teamed up with Hollywood

In 1935, after the Federal Trade Commission no longer required that testimonial payments to stars must be disclosed, the cigarette brand Lucky Strike began buying testimonials from Hollywood studio stars of the time en masse. It was a fruitful time for the tobacco industry and Hollywood’s collaboration in general, as American Tobacco paid actors at least $218,750—the equivalent of roughly $3.2 million in 2008—from 1937 to 1938.

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Dorothea Lange // Library of Congress

1938: Osborn invented brainstorming

Alex Osborn coined the term “Think Up,” which refers to when a group works toward finding a solution by compiling ideas from all of its members. The widely familiar technique was then popularized in his 1953 book “Applied Imagination.”

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1939: Illegal commercials hit TV

Although the first official TV commercial debuted in 1941, shorter, “illegal” commercials notably aired in 1939, when Socony-Vacuum, General Mills, and Procter & Gamble received free advertising spots during the first televised baseball game. The companies were reportedly not fined, because they were radio sponsors of the Dodgers baseball team.

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1940: R.J. Reynolds introduced the doctors campaign

Starting in 1940, R.J. Reynolds came up with the idea of creating a Camel cigarette campaign insisting that doctors themselves preferred the cigarette brand. The doctors were never specific people like celebrities or athletes in advertisements, because practicing professionals could risk losing their licenses for appearing in such an ad.

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1941: The first legal TV commercial

The first approved television commercial premiered on WNBT in New York, right before a Brooklyn Dodgers game began airing on July 1, 1941. The nine-second ad advertised Bulova watches, using the slogan, “American runs on Bulova time.”

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J. Howard Miller // U.S. National Archives

1942: Rosie the Riveter encouraged women to join the workforce

Once World War II began, men’s departure meant that there was a large gap in the American industrial workforce. To convince women to join the workforce, Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company created a poster with the iconic Rosie the Riveter character, empowering women to work for the company. The character encouraged many women to aid the aviation and munitions industries—“We can do it!”—and is still a well-known American figure today.

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1943: Ads sell war bonds

One major source of World War funding was war bond drives, in which citizens essentially took out loans to help fund the American war efforts. The second such war bond drive raised $18.5 million, over $5 million more than the first, largely thanks to the thousands of dollars spent on advertising the bonds in magazines and newspapers.

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1944: Smokey the Bear debuted

The famous mascot was created by the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council when the two teamed up to teach the public about forest fire prevention. Today, the Smokey Bear campaign is hailed as the longest-running public service campaign in American history.

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1945: CBS created the Television Audience Research Institute

The Television Audience Research Institute gave advertisers access to TV studios and personnel for the first time in American history. They were able to test new commercial video techniques and ensure that they would hold up during real television broadcasts.

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1946: Camel didn’t give up

The tobacco company continued to incorporate physicians into their advertisements to reassure the public that smoking cigarettes was in line with medical advice. Such advertisements even appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, with advertiser R.J. Reynolds paying for surveys to be conducted at medical conferences. The surveys asked doctors what their favorite cigarette brand was, immediately after they were gifted with a free pack of Camels.

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1947: The Lanham Act took effect

Passage of the Lanham Act allowed ordinary citizens to introduce lawsuits against companies who they felt had used false advertising to deceive them into buying a service or product. It was also created to help fight trademark infringement in the industry.

[Pictured: French-born American industrial designer Raymond Loewy (1893-1986) with some of his designs: the Lux Flakes box, the packaging for Lucky Strike cigarettes and Pepsodent toothpaste, and the logo for Frigidaire refrigerators, March 1948.]

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1948: Ogilvy was founded

British advertiser David Ogilvy is often called the “Father of Advertising,” and created one of the most prominent international ad agencies. In fact, Ogilvy & Mather eventually became one of the biggest agencies in the world.

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1949: McCann-Erickson appointed four women vice presidents

At a time when very few women held leadership positions in the advertising industry, McCann promoted four women into leadership positions. These women, who had previously worked in the creative and account departments, were Alberta Hays, Dorothy B. McCann, Florence Richards, and Margot Sherman.

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1950: The first political TV ad aired

The first political television ad was made to promote Governor General Thomas E. Dewey of New York, who was running against Harry Truman. Dewey later encouraged presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower to utilize political TV ads to the best of his advantage.

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1951: Alka-Seltzer introduced its mascot

To help get their product on the map, Wade Advertising hired artist Robert Watkins to design a “Mr. Alka-Seltzer” mascot to popularize the brand, resulting in the redheaded, singing character named Speedy. The character appeared in a plethora of ads, before Alka-Seltzer also introduced the memorable tagline, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

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1952: Advertising shifted to accommodate the baby boom

In 1952 alone, 3.9 million babies were born, with an average of 4 million babies born in the following years. This pushed advertisers to target women in new ways, particularly through body image, weight, and dieting amidst higher birth rates.

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1953: Women opened ketchup bottles

The 1950s were part of an advertising boom, but it was also host to a number of poorly aging, misogynistic ads aimed at women during the age of household gender norms. One good example is a 1953 Alcoa Aluminum advertisement for its bottle cap, which included the tagline, “You mean a woman can open it?”

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1954: The face of Kool-Aid was introduced

Kool-Aid’s iconic anthropomorphic, red pitcher mascot was introduced in a 1954 ad featuring a mom serving the drink to a group of excited kids. She informed them of all its benefits, encouraging viewers to “drink the Kool-Aid” in more ways than one.

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1955: Leo Burnett launched the Marlboro Man campaign

The Leo Burnett ad agency was hired to create a campaign that would draw men toward Marlboros, which had gained a reputation as feminine cigarettes. It’s widely regarded as one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time, but also created conflict due to the number of people who died of smoking-related causes.

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1956: The first Black-owned ad agency was founded

Vincent T. Cullers and his wife, Marian Cullers, opened Vince Cullers Advertising, the first full-service, Black-run advertising agency in the United States. The company impacted the industry by running “ethnic-targeted” ad campaigns, and worked with clients like Kellogg and Sears.

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1957: Clairol asked the question

Clairol’s campaign slogan—“Does she … or doesn’t she?”—became widely successful, as it encouraged American women to dye their hair in a time when doing so was an exception to the norm. The idea was created by Shirley Polykoff, one of the foremost female advertising figures of the 20th century.

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1958: The National Association of Broadcasters banned subliminal advertising

Subliminal ads include messages that supposedly impact buying behavior subconsciously—one famous example is market researcher James Vicary’s 1957 movie theater experiment, in which he claimed to have flashed 0.03-second ads that encouraged moviegoers to buy popcorn and Coca-Cola. While considered a gimmick by many, the National Association of Broadcasters banned them.

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1959: First lady endorsed margarine

During a time when butter ran the risk of upstaging margarine sales, Ogilvy’s vice president of broadcasting convinced first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to film a margarine commercial. The message was meant to inform working-class families that the U.S. economy was improving, and they no longer had to rely on meager bread and butter to survive.

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1960: Herzog assumed two top positions

Pioneering researcher Herta Herzog played a key role in developing the concept of focus groups, as well as numerous qualitative advertising techniques. She gained two major positions, becoming a founding partner of think tank Jack Tinker & Partners in 1960, and a chairman of Interpublic’s Marplan research branch the following year.

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1961: Pepsi marketed itself for those who think young

In a time when Pepsi was increasingly associated with married couples, the brand sought to appeal to the increasingly defined segment of young people with the campaign, “For those who think young.” “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner singled it out as a campaign that “exemplified advertising’s influence in creating the phenomenon of youth-obsessed consumerism.”

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1962: Papert, Koenig, Lois went public

Agencies began to transition into public ownership as the advertising industry grew and changed in the early 1960s. The first major Madison Avenue agency to do so was Papert, Koenig, Lois in 1962.

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1963: McDonald’s introduced Ronald McDonald

McDonald’s efforts to attract families looking for affordable meals resulted in the 1963 introduction of the iconic character Ronald McDonald. Later, the corporation launched the Ronald McDonald foundation, which supports families with sick children and the organizations that help them.

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The LBJ Library

1964: The Daisy commercial debuted

In the commercial, which was part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential reelection campaign, a young girl counts down to 10 as she plucks petals off a daisy. The camera then zooms in her eye, and the countdown reverses, resulting in a nuclear bomb getting detonated. The jarring commercial drew from Americans’ fears during the Cold War and took aim at Johnson’s pro-war opponent Barry Goldwater.

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1965: A cigarette act passed

Advertising for cigarette companies gradually became more difficult thanks to the passage of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. This act mandated that cigarette packages feature the label, “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” However, it would be four years before television and radio cigarette ads were banned.

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1966: Mary Wells Lawrence launched Wells, Rich, Greene

Advertiser Mary Wells Lawrence made history by becoming the first woman to own, run, and found a prominent ad agency. Under her guidance, Wells, Rich, Greene created memorable campaigns such as “I Love New York” and Ford’s “Quality is Job One.”

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1967: Lansdowne inducted into the hall of fame

While Helen Lansdowne is considered the first female copywriter, she wasn’t inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame until three years after her death. Lansdowne came up with the 1911 soap ad slogan “A skin you love to touch,” which is known as one of the first instances in which an ad used sex appeal.

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1968: Tootsie Pop’s ad aired

In a well-known advertisement, a young boy and wise old owl attempt to figure out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. However, the owl gives into temptation after only three licks. By 2015, a team of researchers from Florida State and NYU figured out that it actually takes approximately 997 licks to get the lollipop’s center.

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1969: Sanchez became the face of Juan Valdez

Actor Carlos Sanchez portrayed the Colombian coffee farmer Juan Valdez as a man dedicated to caring for his crops, which was a far cry from the stereotypical Colombian drug lords that loomed in the cultural imagination. Although actor Jose F. Duval initially played the character when the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency first created it, it was Sanchez who made Valdez a memorable character for Colombia’s National Confederation of Coffee Growers for nearly 50 years.

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1970: Cigarette ads were banned

Cigarette advertisements were banned on April 1, 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act. However, cigarette ads continued to appear on billboards, as well as in newspapers and magazines.

[Pictured: A representative of Vantage cigarettes hands out free samples of Vantage 100's on Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, April 1977. ]

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Coca Cola

1971: Famous Coca-Cola ad aired

In what was the most expensive TV commercial ever made at the time, people from all backgrounds gather on an Italian hilltop to sing about their love of Coca-Cola. The song, which was written by Bill Backer of McCann Erickson, reached #7 on the Billboard charts, and its messages of peace and unity appealed to Americans going through the Vietnam War. In the AMC series “Mad Men,” fictional ad executive Don Draper was credited with creating the Coca-Cola ad, which is often regarded as one of the best TV spots ever made.

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1972: Agency coined the Eggo catchphrase

The iconic Eggo slogan—“Leggo my Eggo!”—featured a debate between a parent and a stubborn child, and was the first Eggo commercial that was created by the Leo Burnett agency. The slogan remained the brand’s catchphrase until 2011, and was brought back in 2014.

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1973: Miller Lite gained recognition

McCann Erickson came up with the idea of getting retired athlete and former 1969 “Super Bowl hero” Jet Matt Snell to endorse its new lite beer with the phrase, “Lite Beer from Miller is all you ever wanted in a beer … and less.” Snell went on to note that it was “less filling,” as the lite beer contained fewer calories. The agency continued to cast well-known athletes in the campaign, making Miller Lite instantly more recognizable.

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1974: Big Mac earned a jingle

In the 1970s, McDonald’s did business by introducing a number of catchy jingles in its advertisements. The first and one of the most notable is the song “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun,” which was created and performed by Mark Vieha.

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1975: Kodak hit the Billboard chart

The Kodak advertisement focused on capturing the small, special moments in life, set to Paul Anka’s “The Times of Your Life.” The song subsequently got to #7 on the Billboard chart due to the ad’s popularity.

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1976: The Supreme Court ruled to protect advertising

In 1942, a Supreme Court opinion suggested that “commercial speech” constitutes an exception to the First Amendment’s usual regulations. By 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that advertising was protected under the First Amendment.

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1977: New York slogan was created

On the way to a meeting at Wells, Rich, Greene, focused on coming up with a campaign to advertise New York State, graphic designer Milton Glaser wrote down the simple slogan, “I Love New York.” The logo has become a mainstay on New York City merchandise, and became popular once again in the wake of 9/11.

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1978: Thuerk sent the first email spam

Spam advertising is the bane of many internet users’ existence, but the first email spam was actually sent by Digital Computer Corp. employee Gary Thurek in 1978. It was sent to around 400 of the 2,600 individuals who had email accounts on the military-funded ARPANET, with Thurek alleging that his email led to $12 million in new sales.

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1979: The Account Planning Group was founded

The Account Planning Group, an international account planning network, originally appointed ad exec Charles Channon as its chair. The role of account planner became increasingly common in the 1980s, and today members from around the world can apply for APG Membership, which was created in the United Kingdom.

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1980: Calvin Klein ad stirred controversy

In 1980, Calvin Klein featured the 15-year-old Brooke Shields in a series of controversial, sensual ads composed by Richard Avedon. She said the line, “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

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1981: Viewers encouraged to reach out and touch someone

In the company’s classic 1981 “Joey called” ad, a father assumes that a telephone call from their son meant trouble. However, the mother begins crying, because Joey had simply called to say “I love you.” The N.W. Ayer & Partners-created tearjerker instantly set AT&T apart from new competitors like MCI and Sprint.

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1982: American account planning launched

If you have an American career in account planning, you owe a lot to Jay Chiat and Jane Newman, ad execs who made it a widespread career in the U.S. By 2014, Newman became the first account planner to be inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Fame.

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1983: Agency boosted Hispanic-owned company

Supermarkets had been hesitant about stocking Goya Foods Inc.’s Carribean cuisine. This changed when Paula Green Advertising created the English campaign slogan, “Goya, Oh-Boy-a!” The slogan was meant to appeal to the children of Hispanic immigrants, and later made Goya one of the leading Hispanic-owned companies in the country.

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Apple Computers

1984: Chiat/Day agency’s Apple Super Bowl commercial aired

In what some consider to be the best advertisement of all time, a dystopian world based on George Orwell’s “1984” is destroyed by a woman with a mallet, before the release of the Macintosh personal computer was announced. After initially airing during the 1984 Super Bowl, the ad led to $155 million in sales within three months of debuting.

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1985: Campaign changed perceptions of Rolling Stone

Fallon McElligott Rice’s “Perception vs. Reality” campaign argued in more than 60 ads that Rolling Stone readers were no longer hipsters and hippies, but sophisticated and affluent everyday people. During the campaign’s first year, Rolling Stone ad sales soared by almost 50%.

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1986: Beers became the first woman to head 4A’s

Charlotte Beers served as chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) from 1986 to 1988, and prioritized female empowerment in the workplace, a common theme in her book, “I’d Rather Be in Charge.” Shelly Lazarus became the second female 4A’s chairman when she took over from 1999 to 2000.

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1987: Your brain on drugs campaign

The first ad in a massively influential Partnership for a Drug-Free America campaign used an egg sizzling in a hot pan to stand in for a human brain damaged by harmful drug use. Time magazine went on to name it one of the most influential public service announcements.

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1988: Nike introduced its new slogan

In 1988, Nike tasked Wieden+Kennedy with attracting more customers beyond the archetypal male athlete type. Inspired by the last words of a convicted killer, “Let’s do it,” the campaign slogan “Just Do It” has become one of the most instantly recognizable brand slogans in modern advertising.

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1989: The first advertising handbook was published

“How to Plan Advertising” is a handbook that recommends the best planning practices and techniques to succeed in the advertising industry. A second edition was published in 2001.

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1990: Pepsi and Budweiser aired dueling Super Bowl commercials

Pepsi and Budwiser competed to create more successful ad campaigns not only for the Super Bowl, but also throughout the 1990s in particular. With the help of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn (BBDO), Pepsi included ads with a passionate Coke delivery man, Ray Charles, and Cindy Crawford. Budweiser utilized the Budweiser Clydesdales.

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1991: Consumer protection passed in Congress

Telemarketing as a form of advertising became more difficult in 1991, when Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It involves enforcing firmer rules about telephone solicitation, like banning artificial voices in phone sales pitches.

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1992: Red Bull launched cartoon campaign

Red Bull has released hundreds of TV spots for its cartoon campaign, and the idea was initially created by Kaster & Partners in the form of a “Leonardo” ad. The spot depicts the famous artist painting a can of the energy drink centuries before it became commonplace.

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1993: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners launched milk campaign

The ’90s “Got milk?” campaign featured a series of celebrities and famous fictionals with milk mustaches in order to promote milk consumption. At the height of the ad series’ popularity, an estimated 80% of all American consumers saw the ad on any given day.

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1994: The first online banner ads debuted

On Oct. 27, 1994, the digital publication HotWired debuted a small banner that read, “Have you ever clicked your mouse right here? You will.” The goal was to generate revenue to pay staff writers. This marked the beginning of banner ads, and at the time, advertisers bought space on certain websites for a set period of time.

[Pictured: A Calvin Klein advertisement is displayed on a billboard in Times Square August 23, 1995 in New York City. The advertising campaign, which included print ads and television spots, incited nationwide controversy because of its similarity to child pornography.]

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1995: Gates promoted Windows 95

Bill Gates reportedly paid around $3 million to use the Rolling Stones’ song “Start Me Up” in the first Microsoft television commercial. It launched Microsoft’s reputation as a household software creator as computers became more and more mainstream.

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1996: First report released on internet ad spending

When the internet began emerging as a potential major advertising medium, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) reports reflected its increasing prevalence. Although internet ad spending was only $157 million in 1996, it grew by 263% by the 1997 report.

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1997: Pop-up ads briefly got the spotlight

Although pop-up ads are often referred to as the most hated advertising technique nowadays, they had a brief heyday in the late ’90s when Ethan Zuckerman first created the code that enables them. Zuckerman created them as a way to capture viewers’ attention in a time where banner ad clickthrough rates were down, but reactions were so poor that web browsers soon came equipped with pop-up blocking abilities.

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1998: The PPC model began

GoTo.com’s Bill Gross introduced the paid placement model (PPM), in which ads appeared alongside search results from an online search engine. This idea was a precursor to the now-common PPC model.

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1999: First pay-for-placement search engine service introduced

GoTo.com, which was later acquired by Yahoo, first gave advertisers the ability to bid for their ads to be among the top search engine results for certain keywords. This evolved into the pay-per-click advertising model.

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2000: Google debuted AdWords

Originally operated under a pay-for-placement model, AdWords stood apart from GoTo.com by introducing a Quality Score model. This tool evaluated an ad’s clickthrough rate in order to decide its placement on Google’s search results page, even if the advertisement itself had a lower bid.

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2001: BMW and Clive Owens teamed up for internet series

BMW took online marketing to the next level by creating “The Hire,” eight action-packed short films that each spotlighted different features of BMW cars. Clive Owens played a professional driver in the spots.

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2002: The silhouette campaign promoted iPods

In order to promote the upcoming release of the iPod, Apple hired TBWA/Chiat/Day to create a “silhouette” campaign, which depicted dark figures listening to their iPods with bright white headphones.

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2003: The CAN-SPAM Act was passed

The CAN-SPAM Act banned the use of false header information in marketing emails, although it proved difficult to enforce. In fact, spam emails went from making up 8% of email inboxes in 2000 to 95% of inboxes in 2009.

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2004: Microsoft launched the first major corporate blog

Microsoft’s video blog Channel 9 follows the latest endeavors of Microsoft creators and engineers. It’s still running today, and marks one of the first times that a major corporation appealed to its followers by sharing behind-the-scenes information.

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2005: Criterio began doing business

Criterio is credited as one of the earliest demand-side platforms in the online advertising business. A demand-side platform refers to a system that allows digital advertising customers to manage multiple ad exchange accounts on a single port.

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2006: Goldsmith featured for Dos Equis

In the long-running campaign, actor Jonathan Goldsmith sets out on daring adventures, while drinking Dos Equis beer. The EuroRSCG-created series increased Dos Equis sales by 22%, and made Goldsmith famous as “the most interesting man in the world.”

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2007: Facebook was founded

While Facebook began as a Harvard student’s project, it has grown into one of the most influential social media channels and advertising forums in the world. According to Statista, Facebook has an estimated 2.7 billion monthly active users, making the ad potential endless.

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2008: Flo became the face of Progressive Insurance

Working with Arnold Worldwide, Progressive Insurance came up with the idea of creating an ad presenting insurance as a neat superstore, in contrast to the stressful experience that many consumers associate with buying insurance. At the center of the campaign was cashier Flo, who became one of the most recognizable brand mascots of the 21st century.

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2009: YouTube aired ads in seven formats

YouTube began airing ads in seven formats, in part due to Google acquiring the company for $1.6 billion in 2006, and working to monetize videos on the platform. Today, the site is a prominent advertising platform, and draws 37% of mobile traffic around the world.

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2010: Snickers insisted you weren’t you when hungry

For a decade, Snickers ran a popular series of ads in which grumpy, hungry people were transformed into more menacing or grotesque figures before eating a Snickers bar, and then after eating a Snickers, they turned back into their normal selves. Its tagline, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” and the concept were developed by the Mars Strategy Department at BBDO, and helped the brand to appeal to a wider audience.

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2011: Super Bowl ad used some force

Deutsch’s “Star Wars”-inspired Volkswagen ad showed off a small child, dressed as Darth Vader, who attempts to use “The Force” on the family car. According to Deutsch, the ad paid for itself before airing during the Super Bowl, since it amassed 17 million views online before the big game.

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2012: Twitter Cards were introduced

Advertisers can customize Twitter Cards to drive traffic to their website or app. It works, too, given that Twitter advertising generally has an eight to 24 times higher clickthrough rate than Facebook ads do. Additionally, they can provide advertisers with a cost-per-click reduction of up to 92% in regard to online content.

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2013: Instagram ads were launched

After acquiring Instagram in 2012, Facebook initially only gave a handful of major brands permission to advertise on the social media platform. Starting in 2015, though, Instagram was opened to all advertisers.

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2014: Facebook made major changes to its advertising structure

Facebook implemented a series of structural advertising changes in the same year, beginning with the introduction of carousel ads and ad sets. Video ads on the site also became premium, and began playing as soon as they appeared in a user’s newsfeed.

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2015: Girls showed up at the Super Bowl

Filmed by documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, the Procter & Gamble Always commercial challenged negative gender-based stereotypes by asking several young interviewees questions like, “What does it mean to run like a girl?” The ad was also the first ad for menstrual hygiene products to air during a Super Bowl game.

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2016: Gender equality in advertising emphasized

At the annual 4A’s conference, CEO Nancy Hill challenged other CEOs to make gender equality and diversity major issues in company strategies. “Real change has to start with you, at the top,” she said. “If you’re the CEO, you are the chief diversity officer.” She went on to say that they need to start the conversation.

[Pictured: Madonna Badger, Ronald Ng and Nancy Hill speak onstage during "Sexism In Advertising and What Brands Should Do" panel at Thomson Reuters during 2016 Advertising Week New York, on September 28, 2016 in New York City. ]

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2017: Pepsi faced backlash for its Jenner-centric ad

A Pepsi ad featured Kendall Jenner seemingly solving a conflict between police and demonstrators by offering them a can of soda. It featured swift backlash for seemingly trivializing the issue of police brutality at Black Lives Matter protests, and Pepsi promptly pulled the ad.

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2018: Kaepernick became the face of Nike’s new ad campaign

Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who was previously heavily criticized for refusing to stand during the national anthem, was featured in a Nike print ad and TV spot with the slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.” While the campaign inspired boycotts, it also earned Nike a $6 billion increase in overall value.

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2019: Gillette challenged toxic masculinity in commercial

In combination with the burgeoning MeToo movement, Gillette challenged its traditional tagline, “The best a man can get,” to look at how toxic masculinity can hurt both men and their loved ones. The commercial was boycotted by some, but the company went on to donate $3 million to nonprofits working to change American masculinity expectations.

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2020: The Richards Group faces losses

The “old-fashioned” ad agency The Richards Group lost many staff members and a great deal of revenue after founder Stan Richards made racist comments that made numerous clients sever their ties with the company. The Richards Group also drew ire about some of its other practices, like all-male retreats and no available parental leave before 2019.

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