We live in a world that is absolutely drenched in all sorts of strange ideas and noise. The noise doesn’t have to be just physical noise, either. Sometimes it’s noise we don’t notice till later after we fall asleep. You might not think that advertising affects you but it almost certainly does and in ways you certainly don’t expect. Even basic forms of advertising like marquee signs for schools or outdoor church signs affect the way you think about the world around you. This doesn’t mean that these advertising practices are a bad thing, however. Far from it. These practices help businesses grow and individuals stay afloat and feed their families. It’s just our responsibility as responsible consumers to know about how advertising works and, more importantly, how to be critical of it. We need our marquee signs for schools just as we need our signs for government and signs for municipalities. These are all necessary just as our ability to stay safe and informed is necessary. But the question remains, how did we get here? How did we get to the point where large scale advertising is such a common and accepted practice? The answer might surprise you.
- Going far back to the very beginning
To answer this question, we need to go a ways back to the beginnings of capitalism and the rise of industries. Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with something so seemingly trivial as marquee signs for schools or signs for churches or fast food restaurants but the connections are definitely there. They’re just hard to see unless you look very very closely. There’s no one good place to start with this historical idea but that doesn’t mean we can’t start in a few places that are connected by thematic elements. The places we start might even surprise you. For instance, did you know that as far back as ancient Sumeria, one of the very first agricultural civilizations, there has been instances of simple advertising? A lot of people don’t know this but it’s very true. It’s also true for several other places in the ancient world all of which relied on these brief bits of advertising for a general growth in their various economies. But, in these places and times without, say, marquee signs for schools, electricity or mass media, how did people get the word out?
The first true and interesting answer to that question is actually graffiti. Yes, the crude, sometimes strange and whimsical paintings on the side of buildings and tunnels today have always been around in some form but they didn’t always serve the purely artistic purposes they serve today. In these ancient times, they were seen as a necessity for ancient professionals to spread the word about their craft. For example, a blacksmith might pay someone, a young girl or boy, to carve or draw his name and services onto the wall of an official government building that many people are going to pass by each day. The government officials weren’t exactly going to be happy about this, of course, but it would ensure that anyone who saw it would know that this blacksmith was open for business should the need for her services ever arise. It didn’t have to be just blacksmiths either. A lot of different other professions used this tactic to spread the news about their specific good or services. Maybe a priest would encourage people to worship at his temple. Builders of wagons or tamers of horses would use graffiti to spread the word about their excellence at their respective professions.
Getting to the present
So how did we go from this simple form of advertising to marquee signs for schools and led billboards? The answer to that question is a long road that involves technology and industry. Over time we invented larger scale structures and brighter, larger mediums for conveying information. It took some time but it’s one of the basic methods that created the global civilization we live in today. Advertising is not always thought of in such a manner but it really did change all history.