How TV advertising has evolved (1950-1980)

In Western Europe TV ownership is almost at 100%, many households own more than one TV, this makes TV advertising a powerful form of media.

By, Gavin Whale | Date: 10/06/2017 | Updated: 02/07/17

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Fun Fact:

The first TV made by Baird was made from a hat box, the lights from a bicycle, scissors, darning needles, a tea chest and sealing wax. The 1966 World Cup Final holds the record for most viewers of a single programme in the UK.

humans evolving

In Western Europe TV ownership is almost at 100%, many households own more than one TV, this makes TV advertising a powerful form of media. In the UK the cost of a 30 second nationally networked advertisement can easily cost £300,000 (Blythe, 2006). So how has it evolved to become the advertising giant it is today? In this article we will take a look at how TV advertising has changed since the 1940’s and how advancements in technology has shaped the way it has evolved into what it is today.

TV Advertising in the 50s

In the 50s TV advertising became a much sought after medium of marketing for companies, due to the increase of televisions in the homes of families (RETMA, 1954), organisations began to sponsor programs to publicise their company and products. In the 50’s television was black and white, adverts in the 50s generally consisted of one line and then a long explanation of the product describing how the product was made and or what it does.

Adverts in the 50’s often were infomercials, for example an advert for coca cola in 1954 (Coca-Cola), starts with a salesman talking about Coca Cola, where you can buy it, how you serve it, how there are no substitutes for Coca Cola and he exclaims how natural Coca Cola is and that its ‘Naturally everybody’s favourite’ Coca Cola. This style of advertising was very popular in the 50’s and would be replaced in the 60s with Technicolor and the new style of the era, more jingles, which would make adverts more interesting and draw in consumers (Advertising Age, 1969).

TV Advertising in the 60s

The adverts in the 60’s were very much in the same vain as those of the 50’s, as they were modelled on those of the 50’s. In 1961 the television network ABC increased its breaks between shows from 30 seconds to 40 seconds, the other networks soon followed (Advertising Age, 1969). This shows the effect that TV advertising was having on businesses sales and product interest. In 1963 a ‘November Roper Poll’ was carried out and the results indicated that 36% of Americans found TV to be a more reliable source of information, compared to 24% of Americans who believed that print was more reliable (Advertising Age, 1969).

In 1964 there were 1 million homes in America that were wired for cable TV (Advertising Age, 1969). This seemingly is a very small amount of homes; however there were not many people who individually owned televisions in 1964 so in actuality 1 million home reached a very large amount of consumers, when you accounted for friends and families crowding around one television set (Advertising Age, 1969).

In 1965 Technicolor was introduced and it was such an important revelation , 96% of the television night programmes on the network NBC became colour (Advertising Age, 1969).

By 1968 there was an increase of TV sets produced for the people of America making the total 11.4 million sets, which is double the amount of sets made in 1960, which proves Televisions were easier to acquire and cheaper to purchase at this time and that television advertising was an increasingly more important and successful way of advertising products.

The very same year during the U.S presidential elections, there was a staggering $27 million dollars spent on TV advertising, which was an increase of $17 million from 1960 (Advertising Age, 1969). With Technicolor being introduced in the 60’s adverts became more fun to watch and would draw people’s attention to the advertising and thus making more people see the adverts which would have an adverse effect on sales.

TV Advertising in the 70s

In the early 1970’s full colour graced the screens of people all over the world, more than 75% of households with TVs could receive colour picture and one of the most iconic TV adverts is born. Coca-Cola’s ‘I’d like to teach the World to Sing’ advert which was recently remade and changed to ‘I’d Like to Give the World a Coke’ to take advantage of the colour revolution.

The advertising in the 70’s was more sophisticated, shorter and had a faster pace than those of the 50’s and 60’s. In 1971 advertising time was shorted from 60 seconds to 30 due to organisations buying out both slots and having entire breaks being dedicated their products, this was known as ‘Piggybacking’ (Advertising Age, 1969). As of the 2nd of January in 1970 there was a ban on TV and radio advertising cigarettes, which took away $220 million in advertising business. With the quality of televisions improving because of the introduction of full colour, adverts became more creative, interesting and eye catching.

TV Advertising in the 80s

Television adverts in the 80’s had more of a story, more songs and more slogans. The 80’s was the era where the speed of adverts using catchy lines was effective. These lines or catchphrases were essential in promoting a product in a short space of time.

In 1984 Apple computers introduced a 60 second commercial for their new Macintosh. The advert was shown during the Super Bowl and cost Apple $400,000 to produce and a further $500,000 to broadcast once (Advertising Age, 1969).

Later that same year Michael Jackson features in two famous Pepsi commercials. This starts off a trend of using celebrities to sell products. Pepsi had to pay $5 million dollars for the rights to the ad and a further $2 million for the space on TV (Advertising Age, 1969).

TV advertising became more popular and was highly demanded. Evidence of this is seen by an advertising slot during the Cosby Show setting a company back $350,000 to $400,000 for a 30 second advertising slot. However these high prices had a negative impact on the sales of advertising spaces as ABC, CBS and NBC had trouble filling their commercial times for their sports programming, and for the first time ever the rates for NFL (National Football League) advertising dropped by 15% from the previous year of 1985 (Advertising Age, 1969). The decrease in the cost of advertising is evident when you see the viewing figures from 1989, only 55% of all TV audiences tuned in during July of that year, showing television the popularity of television was decreasing (Advertising Age, 1969).

The use of graphics and animations in adverts began the 80’s. Adverts became more sophisticated than previous decades and had reached an ability to reach a wider range of audiences and not just families. The advances in the 80’s led the way for future advertising to evolve.


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