Marketing in the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the 20th century
Before chronology, advertisements existed only in a primitive form in the culture of humanity. In the Middle Ages, due to illiteracy, in contemporary marketing, advertisers mainly used different trade-signs, symbols and loud shouting. The “shouting marketing” method was typical not only in the case of market-women. In the 12th-century Europe, in France among others, the profession of wine-crying was also widespread. Wine criers can be regarded as real marketing-experts of their era. In fact, their activities were in kinship with those of hucksters and common criers, who also played a key role in promulgating different things lacking other communication channels. Wine criers roamed the city in well-organised groups, shouting and offering free wine-tasting. 15th-century British sources also mention advert criers, who caused discord by outshouting one another. Book printing and the spreading of literacy resulted in the propagation of written ads. Adverts in books tried to advertise the cheap price of the book in the beginning. The ads – taking the present meaning of the word – can be connected to the appearance of journals and different kinds of magazines.
“The advertisement should be bright as the sun, colourful as the flower of gardens and loud as the roar of cannons” – Aladár Holbesz, 1936.
Vitamin of business life
One of the real forerunners of advertising trade was Thomas J. Barrett, who is considered the father of brand building. Barrett’s own brand was the Pears soap that he sold with great success during the 1800s. His extremely creative, innovative and successful method was that he had his soap brand montaged on popular paintings, whose copyright had been purchased by him earlier. Thus, buyers connected the advertised soaps to illustrious and genteel lifestyle. Owing to this trick, Pears soap became a luxury product soon. It was not only Barrett, who experimented with creative and innovative marketing methods that time:
“An alert New York Yankee invented a new method to propagate advertisements. Using the boards of park benches for advertising is not a novelty, but to force those wanting to relax to read the ad is a brand new idea. A sharp small nail must be applied in the middle of the ad standing upwards, and when a person, who sits down, gets in touch with the sharp nail, jumps up to see what stung him or her – and Victory! – the advert (…) drew the angry attention of the person.” – Szabolcs, 1874.
The real boom of advertising trade can be linked to the spreading of the possibility to buy or rent advertising surfaces, as of the second half of the 19th century, which was hallmarked by the appearance of advertising companies and advertising agencies like Calkins & Holden in 1890.
“Advertisement has a huge significance (…) it makes the blood circulation of the entire business world move, - the advertisement is actually the vitamin of business life.” – Magyar Országos Tudósító, 1936.
Centrum, Aranypók and Fabulon that is the guard of your skin
At the beginning of the Hungarian advert history, creators put so much emphasis on the use of artistic motifs when making advert illustrations that they were as announcements framed in fine art rather than adverts illustrated with artistic elements. Naturally, among the primitive advertisements published in black and white magazines, there were such simple ads that consisted of only text messages. It is true that they allowed popularising not only goods, but also services of professionals like cesspool cleaning entrepreneur Alajos Hause or milliner Karolina Link. By the 1910s, the historicizing character of adverts copying artworks was effaced and humour came into prominence increasingly.
Later, during the communist dictatorship, “competent comrades” identified the refined and fancy style with the dude style of the capitalist system stigmatized as exploiting. Thus, the spirit of the age demanded simpler, more ordinary adverts. The bottom of advertising culture was during the 1950s, when party politics propaganda interlaced the world of ads. This age lasted until the “Shoes from the shoe shop!”- type period of catchpenny slogans arrived.
Although there was some improvement from the hollow point of advertising in the sixties. Posters of Centrum Department Store and Aranypók imitated the western advertising world and the form world of the round letters on Beatles’ record covers. The awkwardly dumb slogans and graphic solutions typical of the eastern bloc in the seventies are mentioned by experts as casebook examples of anti-advertisements nowadays. Among them, the advert slogan of the Fabulon body lotion product family is an exception, and it proved to be the most successful Hungarian slogan ever (“Fabulon a bőre őre, ezt használja nyakra, főre!”). The propaganda leader of the factory in Kőbánya Mrs. Gábor Veres intended the slogan as a theme starter joke at the brainstorming session on advert plans. She did not think that nobody would have a better idea than that finally.
“When we had the brainstorming session, I started with the thought that I wanted to open the meeting with a good slogan. Something like this “Fabulon a bőre őre” – of course not as absurd as this. Some hours later we agreed to it after all.”
Of course, the slogan needed a good advertising face, like Ági Pataki. The Fabulon body lotion product line and its ad became a huge success finally, because 40 thousand items were sold just in the first year.
Translated by Zita Aknai