History of Advertising in the Early 20th Century

About the history of advertising in the early 20th century or 1900s, birth of copy writing, World War I ads, Ford uses advertising.


In 1900, Albert D. Lasker, who became one of America's leading advertising practitioners, turned copywriting into a big business. From then on, the production of carefully researched and constructed ad copy became perhaps the central concern of advertisers. This was the beginning of the persuasive, hard-sell era. Lasker and his partner, Claude Hopkins, "researched" market areas and found out what people wanted from products. Then they advertised that their client's product offered exactly those characteristics desired.

During the 1st years of the 20th century, the Ford Motor Company produced thousands of cars, accompanied by extensive free publicity as well as carefully planned advertising. By 1928, 15 million Model Ts had been sold. A 1906 ad read: "We are making 40,000 cylinders, 10,000 engines, 40,000 wheels, 20,000 axles, 10,000 bodies, 10,000 of every part that goes into the car--think of it! For this car we buy exactly 40,000 spark plugs, 10,000 spark coils, 40,000 tires, all exactly alike."

During W. W. I, advertising was used effectively in Britain to marshal war energies--enlistments, conservation, etc. The same approach was used in the U.S., but not quite so successfully. Wartime references also infiltrated commercial ads, such as an ad for Cat's Paw Rubber Heels based on the slogan "Stepping On to Victory." Here is the text of a poster that was distributed by the British Government and its ad agencies: "1) Have you a Butler, Groom, Chauffeur, Gardener or Gamekeeper serving you who at this moment should be serving your King and Country? 2) Have you a man serving at your table who should be serving a gun? 3) Have you a man digging your garden who should be digging trenches? 4) Have you a man driving your car who should be driving a transport wagon? 5) Have you a man preserving your game who should be helping to preserve your country? A great responsibility rests on you. Will you sacrifice your personal convenience for your Country's need? Ask your men to enlist today."

An American W.W. I ad shows a smiling doughboy smoking a White Owl. "Did I bayonet my 1st Hun? Sure! How did it feel? It doesn't feel! There he is. There you are. One of you has got to go. I preferred to stay. . . . Bullets and bayonets are the only kind of lingo a Hun can understand!"

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