THOSE FROM AN Anglophile background tend to regard the English-speaking world as the cultural centre of advertising. But a history of advertising called Born in 1842 focuses attention on a different European, and specifically French, vision. Published by the Paris-based Publicis Groupe primarily for internal distribution, it’s truly a global history of advertising since 1842 – when the doors of the world’s first advertising agency were opened by Volney B Palmer in Philadelphia.
Palmer’s agency later became part of Publicis, which today is one of the big four marketing communications groups alongside WPP, Interpublic and Omnicom.
Though global and academic in scope, examples of advertising, branding and marketing are drawn from past and current agencies and clients of the group, which include London Press Exchange, Saatchi & Saatchi, Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, Leo Burnett, Fallon McEligott, BBH and Hal Riney – a pretty good cross-section of the world’s best agencies over the past 170 years.
Included is the story of the De Beers slogan: “A diamond is forever”. One of the great campaigns of advertising history, it was created by NW Ayer & Son, which became another Publicis agency. The campaign, launched in 1949, helped reverse the decline in popularity of diamonds in engagement rings until, by 1951, diamonds were the choice of 80% of engaged couples. Great artists, including Picasso, illustrated the ads, followed by the greatest photographers of the day, such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.
Another fascinating story is the invention of Father Christmas. The bluff, evercheerful, red-coated, white-bearded, rosycheeked figure we know so well was a creation of the ad industry. Illustrator Haddon Sundblom, commissioned by the D’Arcy agency, drew him in 1930 for Coca-Cola. Clutching as many as six bottles of the product, and always garbed identically, he became the central figure in Coke’s Christmas campaigns until 1964.