The History of TV Advertising

On the 22nd September 1955 at 7:15PM, ITV began its first ever broadcast. Just over an hour later Gibbs SR Toothpaste aired the first ever advert on British television, promoting their new ‘tingly’ toothpaste.

However, the first TV advertisements were not heralded in quite the way we would have expected. Labour MP John Wilmott claimed television advertising was a “nightly poison… [that] is against the national interest.” Yet 60 years later TV ads are a part of our daily life and routine, with the unique ability of being able to generate buzz and even a fan-base of their own, and become a staple of the pre-Christmas build up.

The UK was, however, lagging far behind her American counterparts, who aired the world’s first ever TV advertisement fourteen years earlier in 1941. The 10-second long ad for Bulova Watches was a still image of a clock face with a voiceover declaring that “America runs on Bulova time”, and was thought to have cost their TV advertising agency a total of $9.00. In contrast, 2015’s Super Bowl XLIX peaked with over 120 million viewers, with TV Advertising costs running at $4.5 million for a 30-second long advertisement.

For the first 27-years of TV Advertising in the UK, options were somewhat limited. With only one commercial channel available, advertisers had very little choice, but the early 80s saw the launch of the third terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 and the UK’s first non-terrestrial channel Satellite Television, which was the first incarnation of what is now Sky 1. Suddenly TV advertising agencies had a choice for the first time and over time a more diverse channel mix began to appear in our living rooms. Now we have 269 BARB registered channels that specialize in everything from video gaming to equine pursuits to cruising. Never before has the UK’s TV channel mix been so diverse, giving advertisers the unique ability to accurately access all demographics, no matter how niche the interest might be.­

But what is in store for the future of TV advertising? The launch of Sky’s revolutionary new Adsmart technology has opened up a wealth of possibilities. Now Sky Adsmart gives TV advertising agencies the ability to show ads specifically targeted to different households while they are all watching the same programme based on your postcode, income, fashion choices and even whether you own a cat or a dog. This ability to cherry pick your audience will only continue to grow as this technology expands across further TV advertising platforms.

Since that first TV advertisement aired 74-years ago the technology has continued to develop; TV advertising agencies now have an abundance of resources available to them to ensure that they can create a targeted, sophisticated and successful campaign for advertisers. The vast channel mix and newly developed advertising technologies now allow any businesses need to be catered for while still maintaining the ability to keep TV advertising costs efficient. If you want TV advertising to play a part in your businesses future, contact TV advertising agency Guerillascope today.