The Evolution of Marketing Technology – Part 3: Mass Media Period

This is the 3rd part in our ongoing series, The Evolution of Marketing Technology. You can find the previous parts here:

Part 1 – Word of Mouth Marketing

Part 2 – Signage & Written Word Period

In the third installment of the Evolution of Marketing series, let’s take a look at mass media marketing and how the industrial revolution made it necessary to communicate effectively on a much larger scale than before. Word-of-mouth advertising, signs, and the gradual spread of the written word were the foundations of early marketing techniques that are still used today. While effective, these tactics were limited in reach. This wasn’t a problem at the time because the modern industrial system and corporation didn’t exist. A blacksmith could only support a small local population or neighborhood. There was no need to advertise to a wider population if it wasn’t possible to support them all. However, as cities grew, manufacturing improved, and the industrial revolution began its steady march toward capitalism, a way to capture a larger audience was needed.

This problem of mass communication and marketing was first solved 14th and 15th centuries with the invention of typographic block printing and the printing press in Ancient Korea. Copying and printing by hand would limit you to a few dozen copies per day compared to the over 3,600 copies a single renaissance printing press could produce daily. The spread of the printing press lead to a never before seen boom in the sharing and advancement of human knowledge.


Pages from the London Gazette; advertisements are listed on the bottom right.

However, due to the general illiteracy of the population, the printing press was slow to spread throughout Europe and Asia. It wasn’t until the 17th century that a German language printed newspaper emerged in a format that we could recognize today. It took another hundred years for newspapers and magazines to feature advertisements and classifieds. This turn of events lead to the establishment of the first ever advertising agency by the London Gazette in 1812.

The next big leap in communication technology and mass media marketing was the radio. Radio was initially used very similarly to newspapers — relaying information about important current events, presidential election, and overseas wars. It wasn’t until 1921 that the first commercial radio station license was awarded and a year later in 1922, radio advertising began.


The first TV advertisement by Bulova Watch Company aired in 1941.

Twenty years later, the first TV advertisement premiered before a Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. Bulova Watch Company paid $4 to run a promotional spot before and after the sports broadcast, creating an advertising industry that today brings in just under 500 billion dollars today.

Companies quickly realized the power that mass media marketing had to influence consumers nationwide. Because of the advancements brought by the industrial revolution, products could be mass produced and sold in quantities never thought possible. Mass media marketing helped create many iconic brands such as Procter & Gamble, IBM, and Coca Cola, and cemented their legacy to this day.

Coca-Cola’s campaign, #ShareaCoke

Successful mass media campaigns have become the standard bearers of advertising even in the age of more interactive digital and social media campaigns. In fact, mass media advertisements such as the recent #ShareaCoke campaign can cause a social media frenzy and make a huge impact in sales.

Join us in the next part of the series where we look at how marketers were able to begin a new and more precise way of reaching audiences through digital advertising in the mainframe period.

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