The Evolution of Advertising

“We can do it!” These are the words from the famous Rosie the Riveter poster of WWII. When we think of advertisements that have stood the test of time, this one comes to mind first. To recruit women in the workforce during WWII, the US government made a genius move and created this ad that has remained an iconic symbol of working women today. 

Advertising is something that has been around for centuries. We see the first magazine and newspaper ads date back to the early 1700s. In 1882, one of today’s leading suppliers of beauty, health, and home products, Proctor & Gamble, began advertising for their ivory soap. Eleven years later, in 1893, we see the emergence of a magazine called Printer’s Ink, the first authority to define what exactly is meant by “untrue, deceptive, or misleading,” advertising. This print source laid the foundation for the primary statute that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would be formed around in 1914.

The birth of radio and television took us to new heights in the 1920s. And then, of course, we have the world-changing emergence of the personal computer in 1975. This technology took the advertising world by storm, opening up new real estate to be claimed by advertisers everywhere. Search engines, websites, email, and social media were the new territory everyone was and still are scrambling to invest in. 

While the way we advertise has evolved, the premise that advertising laws were built on has not changed. Just like the advertising regulators of the late 1800s expected, it is still required for all advertisers to market their products based on truth, evidence-based facts. Whatever seems deceptive or unfair is subject to litigation and high-priced fines, no matter the intention. 

With the unavoidable presence of social media, advertising has ventured into new terrain. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, we are graced by our favorite influencers sharing the things they love. As long as we follow them, we’re bound to know what their preferred products are. Or at least the products they’re being paid to endorse.

Influencer endorsement is all the rage in the world of digital advertising. However, the same laws that apply to the traditional channels of advertising apply to the world of social media. The Bistro podcast presents The Power of the Influencer, an episode featuring Pamela M. Deese, partner, and attorney at Arent Fox, LLP. She led us in an in-depth discussion on what it means to be a social media influencer and how FTC advertising regulation pertains to them. 

This hot topic recently received some heat in the promotion of Frozen 2. Allegedly, paid Japanese influencers promoted this wildly popular movie series but forgot to mention the “paid” part in their posts. US law states that the FTC requires full disclosure. According to a Wall Street Journal article, Japanese advertising does not explicitly require the paid promoter label. Furthermore, the artists claimed Disney instructed them not to label their ad post as paid promotion. Disney then released a statement saying this had been a “failure to comply with internal marketing guidelines,” without stating who exactly caused the oversight. 

These kinds of scenarios are what we can expect to see debated and ironed out as we continue venturing into the international waters of paid influencers and the laws that regulate them. 

For a closer look into what the FTC asserts about influencers in advertising, check out their resource, Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

In the meantime, tune into this episode