advertising, in general, any openly sponsored offering of goods, services, or ideas through any medium of public communication. At its inception advertising was merely an announcement; for example, entrepreneurs in ancient Egypt used criers to announce ship and cargo arrivals. The invention of printing, however, may be said to have ushered in modern advertising. After the influence of salesmanship began to insert itself into public notice in the 18th cent., the present elaborate form of advertising began to evolve. The advertising agency, working on a commission basis, has been chiefly responsible for this evolution. The largest group of advertisers are the food marketers, followed by marketers of drugs and cosmetics, soaps, automobiles, tobacco, appliances, and oil products. The major U.S. advertising media are newspapers, magazines, television and radio, business publications, billboards, and circulars sent through the mail. With the advent of the wide availability of electronic mail and access to the World Wide Web in the 1990s, the Internet has also become an important advertising venue. Since many large advertising agencies were once located on Madison Avenue in New York City, the term "Madison Avenue" is frequently used to symbolize the advertising business. The major criticisms of advertising are that it creates false values and impels people to buy things they neither need nor want and that, in fact, may be actually harmful (such as cigarettes). In reply, its defenders say that advertising is meant to sell products, not create values; that it can create a new market for products that fill a genuine, though latent, need; and that it furthers product improvement through free competition. The Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, both founded in 1917, are the major associations.
See M. Mayer, Madison Avenue, U.S.A. (1958); R. Glatzer, The New Advertising (1970); R. Hovland and G. Wilcox, ed., Advertising in Society (1988); W. Wells et al., Advertising: Principles & Practice (4th ed. 1998); J. B. Twitchell, Adcult, USA (1995) and 20 Ads That Shook the World: The Century's Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How It Changed Us All (2000).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.