Adland – the history of the global advertising industry

Adland – the history of the global advertising industry

Having worked in marketing for most of my career – and having undertaken more professional qualifications that I can remember in that time – I’ve enjoyed learning about the theoretical and academic side of marketing.
Over the years I’ve been a keen reader of the marketing trade press and that, combined with personal contacts in the business, has helped me see the development of the industry since 1998. But one area that I’d never really known much about was the origins of the industry we now work in.
Adland – the second edition of a book by journalist Mark Tungate – is a fascinating read that charts the history of the advertising industry. It starts in the mid-1800s and follows through the development of the global advertising giants through to pretty much the present day.
Based on extensive research and interviews with key industry players, Mark’s book is an easy read. It’s written in an accessible journalistic style that tells some great stories about some of the key moments in the development of advertising.
It charts the major split in the industry that occurred when the business of media buying became detached from the creative side of things – and how more recently this divide is becoming less relevant as the more recent integrated and media-neutral agencies have thrived.
Going back a bit further in advertising history, one particular thing that struck me was that right from the early days of the industry there was a tension between the creative, freewheeling side of the business and the more academic and research-driven side of things.
I’d always assumed that the use of research and evidence in advertising was a relatively recent phenomenon as the industry thrived in the post-WW2 economy, but actually it goes back much further than that.
What becomes clear as the story unfolds is that the most successful agencies have been those that have been able to combine epoch-defining creativity with the research and evidence to give campaigns the greatest chance of delivering the desired end result. Plus of course success depends on commercial and professional risk-taking by the agencies themselves, with the stakes getting ever bigger for the major global groups that dominate the industry today.
The development of the advertising industry is also a tale of perpetual renewal – as agencies start small and nimble, grow and are acquired by larger groups, with a never-ending stream of new start-ups taking their place at the bottom of the pile – and more often than not driving the creative and sector development through their innovations.
So if you work in marketing or advertising, I’d recommend Adland as a great primer for the background to the way the advertising industry is today. Plus there’s plenty of great insights into how great campaigns came about that we can all learn from in our day-to-day work.
Disclosure: Free publisher review copy supplied


I work with founders and senior leaders in rapid growth businesses. My focus is building resilience, coherence and high performance in teams and organisations to enable sustainable business growth.

2 thoughts on “Adland – the history of the global advertising industry”

Leave a comment