7 Interesting Historical Facts About America's Advertising Industry

You can't walk down the street...

without being bombarded by advertisements and branding. And whether you realize it or not, the messages big business is sending you every day are leaving an impression -- although not always positive in nature.

The advertising industry has always fascinated the consumer. Since the 1960s, consumers have been wise to the tricks of the trade. But nevertheless, advertisers know human nature, and they know how to tap into it for commercial gain (no pun intended).

As these 7 interesting facts about advertising in America demonstrate, the industry itself is every bit as fascinating as the ads it creates.

1. IKEA Aired the First U.S. TV Commercial Starring a Gay Couple

Swedish furniture retailer IKEA took the bold step of using social diversity to sell its products, at a time when commercials were the domain of the quintessential American family. The 1994 ad featured a male couple shopping for a dining room table. Sadly, the backlash included death threats against IKEA stores, and the commercial was pulled shortly after it aired. Nevertheless, the Swedish company received lots of praise -- paving the way for more diversity on television.

2. The Internet Has Made the Industry a Lot of Money

According to Statista, revenue from online advertising in the United States was just a little over $8 billion a year. Fast forward to 2017, and that figure stood at $88 billion. A combination of social media, online video and the increasing use of mobile devices are believed to be responsible for this exceptional rate of growth.

3. Mars Missed Out on a Fortune Because of an Ugly Alien

The original script for Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial included a scene in which Elliot lures the little alien from the woods with a trail of M&Ms. This was a great example of product placement that worked perfectly with the storyline. However, confectionery giant Mars thought the alien was ugly, and refused to allow their product to be associated with it. Instead, Reese's Pieces stepped up to the plate -- and enjoyed a sales increase of 65 percent shortly after the movie's release.

4. Billboard Advertising Owes Some of Its Success to Ford

Until Ford launched its famous Model T production car, motor vehicles were very expensive -- and beyond the budget of the masses. As a result, roads in America were relatively quiet places. Of course, billboards had been around for decades in 1908, but the sudden increase in traffic created by Ford's groundbreaking vehicle increased the demand for them significantly.

5. The World's TV Ad Was for a Watch

The Brooklyn Dodgers were taking on the Philadelphia Eagles in New York. The year was 1941, and the channel was WNBT (an NBC subsidiary). The simple TV commercial features a clock superimposed onto a map of America, showing the time on the east coast. The narrator says: "America runs on Bulova time." This simple ad for a watch company changed the world.


6. The Most Expensive TV Ad Ever Was for Perfume

Max Luhrmann's 2004 commercial for Chanel had a bigger budget than many Hollywood movies in production at the time. The two-minute ad features Australian actress Nicole Kidman as she struggles to cope with the constant attention of Paparazzi. In scenes similar to those in Kidman's Moulin Rouge, she jumps into a taxi to escape the photographers, and meets a young writer with whom she falls in love. The commercial purportedly cost $33 million to produce -- which included Kidman's $3 million fee.


7. The First Watch Commercials Depicted the Same Time

When commercials for watches first started appearing on our TVs, advertisers set the time depicted on their products to 10:10. Doing this spread the hour and minute hands equidistantly to showcase the brand name. In an effort to set themselves apart from the crowd, Apple now sets the time on its devices to 10:09.

These seven mind-blowing facts demonstrate that the industry itself is just as fascinating as the campaigns it creates.