Abstract: What Was Advertising? The Invention, Rise, Demise, and Disappearance of Advertising Concepts in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Europe and America

Stefan Schwarzkopf


The article introduces a model of changing and competing advertising concepts and frameworks in order to replace dominant but limited periodization models of the historical development of advertising. I argue that different conceptualizations of advertising (as art, science, service, salesmanship, symbolic communication, creativity, and relationship-building) have existed in different forms throughout the last two hundred years. Historians and marketing researchers might learn that 1880s or 1920s practitioners meant different things when they insisted that "advertising works." Since 1800, emerging advertising frameworks and concepts have had competing perspectives on advertising's efficiency within the marketing process, and competing concepts of the social and political. Ideas about advertising are inherently political and pertain to specific visions of society. Advertising concepts relied on rhetorical strategies that legitimized and delegitimized opposing social and political structures. These allow us to complicate often undertheorized narratives proffered in advertising management textbooks. A conceptual history of advertising also shows how the triadic relationship among firm, advertising agency, and media has grown.

BEH On-Line Paper