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Outdoor advertising can trace its origin back to the earliest civilizations. Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians employed a tall stone obelisk to publicize laws and treaties. While formats have certainly changed and as advertising ideas have evolved, outdoor is still here.

Pic. 1.3. Printing press
In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing (pic. 1.3), and advertising in the modern sense was launched in the form of the handbill. When the lithographic process was perfected in 1796, the illustrated poster became a reality. Gradually, measures were taken to ensure exposure of a message for a fixed period of time. In order to offer more desirable locations where traffic was heavy, bill posters began to erect their own structures.

Pic. 1.4. Circus poster
The large American outdoor poster (more than 50 square feet) originated in New York in Jared Bell’s office where he printed posters for the circus in 1835 (pic. 1.4). In the beginning, American roadside advertising was generally local. Merchants painted signs or glued posters on walls and fences to notify the passersby that their establishments up the road sold horse blankets, rheumatism pills, etc. In 1850, exterior advertising was first used on street railways.

The earliest recorded leasings of boards occurred in the U.S. in 1867. By 1870 close to 300 small sign-painting and bill posting companies existed. In 1872, the International Bill Posters’ Association of North America was formed in St. Louis.

In 1891 the Associated Bill Posters’ Association of the US and Canada was formed in Chicago. The name was later changed to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. Their purpose:

· To promote a greater understanding of the poster medium.

· To provide an expanded nationwide organization for coordinating the services offered by member companies.

· To continue to address the ethical concerns of early industry leaders.

Pic. 1.5. Billboard construction
Michigan formed the first state bill posters association in 1871, followed by Indiana, New York, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, all of which had active state associations by 1891.

In 1900, a standardized billboard structure was created in America, and ushered in a boom in national billboard campaigns (pic. 1.5). Confident that the same ad would fit billboards from Connecticut to Kansas, big advertisers like Palmolive, Kellogg, and Coca-Cola began mass-producing billboards for the national market.

In 1913, the Association established a committee which served to encourage the industry to give public service advertising. The practice of filling “open boards” with public service messages has continued to this day. The National Outdoor Advertising Bureau (NOAB) was formed in 1915 to serve the outdoor advertising needs. In 1931 Outdoor Advertising, Inc. (OAI) was formed to sell the concept of outdoor advertising.

In 1925 the Poster Advertising Association and the Painted Outdoor Advertising Association joined to become the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) combining the interests of posters and bulletins into one association.

In the mid-twenties, the outdoor advertising industry was at last generally accepted by the banking community. New York’s Outdoor Advertising Company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

In 1925 the first major merger of outdoor advertising firms took place. The Fulton Group and the Cusack Co. combined to become the General Outdoor Advertising Company (GOA).

In February 1934, the industry established the Traffic Audit Bureau (TAB) to provide advertisers with data to determine outdoor audience size.

In 1958, Congress passed the first federal legislation to voluntarily control billboards along Interstate highways. The law was known as the Bonus Act because states were given bonus incentives to control signs.

In 1962, French outdoor company JCDecaux invented the bus stop shelter. A popular outdoor venue, shelters are built at no cost to municipalities and rely on ad revenue for their upkeep.

On October 22, 1965 the Highway Beautification Act was signed into law by President Johnson. It controlled billboards on Interstate and federal-aid primary highways by limiting billboards to commercial and industrial areas, and by requiring states to set size and lighting standards and requiring just compensation for removal of lawfully erected signs (pic. 1.6).

Pic. 1.6. Brands’ variety
In 1972, tobacco advertising was banned on broadcast media – leaving print and outdoor as its most popular venues.

In 1975, the Institute of Outdoor Advertising developed a campaign to measure billboards’ effectiveness. The concept featured Shirley Cochran, the newly crowned Miss America, on billboards that were displayed across the country. Her name recognition went up 940% after the campaign.

Pic. 1.7. Mobile advertising
Digital technology transformed the industry – hand-painted boards are replaced by computer-painted outdoor advertising formats. Outdoor companies offer an increasingly diverse selection of advertising formats including: bus shelters, transit and kiosks; airport advertising, mall displays and taxis (pic. 1.7).

In 1990, the State of California used outdoor for its state-wide anti-smoking campaign. OAAA limits placement of messages for products and services that cannot be sold to minors. In 1999, tobacco advertising is no longer allowed on outdoor.

In 2002, Arbitron and Nielsen began testing the feasibility of developing outdoor ratings.


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