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5 Surprising Facts About the History of Advertising


We live in a world full of advertisements. They sway our decisions and shape the way we think about certain products.

Advertising may have even shaped the ways of our modern world. Keep reading to learn about the history of advertising.

The Fascinating History of Advertising

When did advertising start?

The history of advertising dates back to ancient civilizations. Let’s look at some of these ancient advertisers.


Babylonian advertising began with King Nebuchadnezzar, circa 3,000BC, as he created beautiful landmarks, like the Hanging Gardens, to improve the status of Babylon.

Merchants in this gorgeous city also used advertising. They hung signs over doorways to indicate what ware they sold.

We still use these basic forms of advertising today! However, we have cool inventions, like the foil stamping machine, that allows us more creativity and artistic style.


This highly civilized culture also plays a large role in advertising history. They used papyrus paper to create ad posters.

Some archeologists argue that the first advertising slogan came from Thebes. They say, that a merchant, Hapu, posted on papyrus a golden reward for anybody who brought back a runaway slave to his store where roughly translated, he wove the most beautiful fabrics to fit each persons’ taste.

This witty merchant created an ingenious way to draw customers to his store while making them believe they were reading a simple reward poster. This tactic continues to work for companies today! Think giveaways and in-store events.

The Egyptians also carved outdoor public notices into steel. We evolved to do something similar using vinyl, making the billboards we see on every highway around the country. 


The Romans also used storefront signage to draw in customers. In fact, historians report finding ancient advertisements all over the streets of Italy.

As advertisers know today, “sex sells”, and the Romans used that concept quite literally. The brothels painted signs with sexual acts to show customers what they could purchase from their ladies.

In Pompeii, they also ran crude political campaigns with advertisements. Historians may hold the first political attack ad created by a group of prostitutes, urging people to vote differently.

Octavian, Julius Ceasar’s son, reportedly used propaganda to grow his power. Was he the father of this darker form of advertising later used by the United States in Birth of a Nation, which led to fear of “colored people” and lynchings?

Interesting Facts About Advertising

Due to the very nature of advertising, the history of the practice continued to unfold in an interesting manner. Let’s look at some fun facts:

  • ‘Logo’ derives from the Greek word ‘logos’, which means plan
  • People recognize logos from a distance and much faster than they can read
  • Johan Gutenberg’s printing press gave way to the newspaper, the first form of mass-media publishing
  • Ben Franklin printed the first American magazine ad in 1742, in his General Magazine
  • Bulova aired the first-ever television ad on WNBC before the start of a 1941 Dodgers-Phillies baseball game

We live in a world so run by ads that it is difficult to imagine life without them. These rudimentary concepts continue to work so well that we have plastered the world in them.

Live to Learn

Next time you see an ad, think about its origins! The history of advertising offers a peek into the birth of modern capitalist societies.

Learning will always expand your consciousness in a satisfying way! Read more amazing facts on our website!

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