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Advertising isn’t a new practice. Ever since people have had products to sell, they’ve had to come up with unique ways to advertise them and beat out their competition. Think of ancient marketplaces and even door-to-door salesmen of the past. 

When most people think of advertising techniques today, digital marketing comes to mind. Everything from banners and video ads to social media marketing is extremely helpful when it comes to building a brand and selling a product. 


While it’s obvious today’s advertising efforts are different from those in the 18th century, have you ever thought about just how different? 


Let’s take a closer look at what common advertising looked like in the 1700s. You might be surprised by what’s different and what has remained the same. 

Similarities in Advertising

It’s easy to assume that all advertising techniques today are totally different from the 18th century, but that’s not exactly true. Content and display advertising are just as important today as they were back then. 


In the 1800s, content marketing was typically found in newspapers. Businesses could purchase ad space to have their content placed within popular publications of the time. The more they were willing to spend, the better their ad space was. While newspaper ads are still intact and relevant today, content marketing has shifted somewhat. Today, things like banner ads and blogs have taken the place of a 3x5 photo in a black-and-white newspaper. 


Display advertising is also just as relevant today. Today, display advertising refers to advertising through graphics on the Internet. It can come in the form of: 


  • Logos;

  • Banner ads;

  • Videos;

  • GIFs;

  • Images;

Obviously, things like banner ads and GIFs didn’t exist in the 18th century, but the concept was the same. The advertisements placed in newspapers, magazines, and even on storefronts were all used to entice customers to come in and make a purchase. Things like outdoor and print ads are still incredibly popular and effective. People have always been visual creatures, so building a brand using display advertising is something that works as well today as it did back then. 

Major Marketing Differences

Obviously, the biggest difference between today’s advertising and the techniques used in the 1700s is technology. We’ve continued to advance at a rapid pace over the last few centuries, and the digital world shows no sign of slowing down. While business owners have always been interested in low-cost marketing techniques, that looks different today. Some of the most cost-effective ways to promote a brand online include: 


  • Using social media platforms;

  • Optimizing web pages;

  • Working with influencers;

  • Trying location-based marketing;

  • Focusing on quality content development.


Low-cost marketing in the 18th century typically included things like posters and trade cards that could be handed out to consumers to promote a business and start a conversation. 

Relationships Lead to Results

One thing that has remained true throughout the centuries is the need for strong brand/consumer relationships. As stated above, businesses in the 18th century would send out trade cards to their target audiences to foster better interpersonal relationships. Since social media wasn’t around back then, businesses needed a way to engage with consumers that would make them feel seen and understood. 


Today, brands can do that by responding to a post on Facebook or sharing behind-the-scenes videos of what’s going on every day. Fostering these relationships builds brand loyalty. It’s much easier to keep an existing customer than it is to constantly work on bringing in new ones. 


Plus, word-of-mouth advertising is just as valuable today as it was in the 1700s. The way we communicate might be different. If you trust a particular brand, you might share their website or social media profile(s) with your friends and family via a messaging platform or over a text message. It’s a quick, easy, and effective way to support and talk about businesses you think deserve more attention. 


In the 18th century, word-of-mouth advertising was just that. People were more likely to talk with friends and family in person about different businesses. They might hand out a card or point out an ad in a newspaper, but most social advertising was done around the dining table or in small friend groups. 


What hasn’t changed is the importance of relationships, no matter how they are created and fostered. Today, more than ever, relationships are essential. The average person sees thousands of advertisements each day. It’s the brands that are willing to engage and build loyalty that will really stand out. 


There’s no question that advertising has seen some dramatic changes over the years. But, it’s interesting to look back on what was once popular and see how many aspects of the advertising world are the same, at their core, with a bit of tech thrown into the mix. People still respond to ads in similar ways, and even though creativity and ingenuity are essential, the basics of advertising have always stayed the same. 


Author bio: Miles is an independent writer with a background in business and a passion for psychology, news, and history. He has lived and traveled all over the United States and continues to expand his awareness and experiences. When he is not writing, he is most likely mountain biking or kicking back with a cup of tea.