Evolution of Video Advertising: From the Bible to the Age of YouTube

Although television advertising has become ubiquitous in today's world, it has a relatively short history of only 80 years. Over this time, it has undergone significant changes, evolving from propaganda-driven messaging to more sophisticated image-based and positioning advertising techniques. With the advancements in modern technology, television advertising has emerged as a powerful and fully-fledged tool for promoting businesses.

Who came up with the idea of selling goods and promoting them on television?

The very first advertisement in the world has not been physically preserved, but scientists believe that it was the ancient Romans and Egyptians who were the first to depict goods and services through announcements, selling slaves. Thousands of years later, a wave of print advertising swept through London and Europe in the 1440s, when the first printing press was created, and the first advertisement was for the sale of a church prayer book. Several centuries later, in 1920, video recording was invented, and in 1941, during a baseball game, Americans saw the first 20-second black-and-white advertisement for Bulova watches. It cost the advertisers around 9 dollars.

From Images to Video: 1940s-1990s

In the 1940s, televisions were only owned by 4,000 American families and advertisements were often read out by program hosts. By 1948, animated video clips started to appear on screens. In 1956, the American company Ampex introduced the world's first video tape recorder, the VR-1000, giving entrepreneurs the ability to shoot video and distribute their advertising videos on television.

By 1977, revenue from television advertising made up 20% of all advertising in the United States ($7.5 billion). Other countries also picked up on the trend: Japan aired its first advertisement in 1953, and the United Kingdom in 1955.

Soon, video ads began to literally copy themselves, and products of the same category were described by different manufacturers with the same words. For example, the Ford Motor Company spent a huge amount of money promoting their new mid-sized car model, the Edsel, and did not receive a response from the audience. This led product manufacturers to create image positioning on television so that the item would be unique and associated with something positive: Cadillac became a symbol of success, and Marlboro cigarettes created an image of masculinity with their legendary cowboy. By the way, the latter still manages to occupy leading positions in sales to this day.

Full monopoly on television. How did advertising come to the USSR?

The USSR, along with Europe, lagged behind the rest of the world due to World War II. Television experiments were conducted in the 1930s, but the first TV channel appeared only in 1976. Here, unlike in other countries, television was monopolized and commercial ads began to be shown only in the last years of the existence of the USSR. The first Soviet TV commercial appeared in the 1970s and was about corn. However, it is still unclear what it was actually selling since there were no direct competitors or other advertisements on television at that time.

Cult classic video advertisements have become an integral part of our culture, with some commercials becoming even more famous than the products they promote. These ads have a unique ability to capture our attention and leave a lasting impression on viewers, often becoming part of our collective memory. Examples of such iconic ads include the Apple "1984" commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, Coca-Cola's "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke," and the Old Spice "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign. These ads not only promote products but also tell a story, elicit emotions, and make people laugh or cry. The success of these cult classic commercials has led many advertisers to strive to create ads that stand the test of time and become beloved parts of pop culture.

During the 1990s, television advertising witnessed a surge in ingenuity and influence. Advertisers transcended the boundaries of mere product demonstrations and jingles, and began crafting narratives and producing short films to captivate the audience.

One of the most memorable campaigns of the decade was the Budweiser "Wassup?" commercial, which featured a group of friends greeting each other with the now-iconic catchphrase. The commercial spawned countless parodies and imitations and became a cultural phenomenon.

Another standout campaign was Nike's "Bo Knows" series, featuring legendary athlete Bo Jackson. The ads showcased Jackson's prowess in a variety of sports and popularized the now-ubiquitous phrase "Bo knows [insert sport here]."

One of the most expensive TV commercials ever made was the 2004 ad for Chanel No. 5 perfume featuring Nicole Kidman. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the ad reportedly cost $33 million to produce and run, making it the most expensive commercial at the time. The ad features Kidman in a beautiful gown wandering through a vast, dreamlike space as Luhrmann's signature opulent visuals unfold around her. The ad's cost included Kidman's reported $3 million fee, a custom-made gown by Chanel, and the use of the song "Nature Boy" by David Bowie, which cost $2 million for the rights. Despite the high cost, the ad was a success and helped cement Chanel No. 5's place as one of the world's most iconic perfumes.

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