History: the first TV advert ever

We talk a lot about Tv adverts, how to make them, how much they cost, and what advice you should follow… But do we truly know where TV commercials originated? Probably not, which is why we’re going to go over the very first tv advert ever.

1939: First in the world

Although not considered the first ads, NBC (USA) released some trial commercials during a Brooklyn Dodgers game in 1939.

These were done, however, before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was allowed to charge money for commercial purposes in 1941. So that is why we cannot consider them to be the first ads.

1941: First legal

We’ll now discuss the first-ever recognised television commercial.

To do so, we must return to July 1st, 1941, in New York City. The WNBT (now WNBC channel four) broadcasted an advert for the watchmaker Bulova, before a baseball game.

A watch with a face inside a black & white map of the United States, with the title “Bulova Watch Time,” could be seen in the 10-second commercial. “America runs on Bulova time,” said the voiceover at the end. But only a few thousand people are estimated to have witnessed the event.

But the best thing is that it only cost $9, with $5 going to the station and $4 going to the airtime. However, given current inflation rates, we may estimate that the current cost of this advertisement is roughly 182.39 dollars.

1955: first in the UK

On the other side, we’re going to speak about the very first tv ad ever broadcasted in the United Kingdom.

A Gibbs SR toothpaste commercial ran on September 22, 1955, the same day as the inauguration of the ITV broadcast.

However, Uniliver, the brand’s owner, did not choose to be the first UK TV commercial to run, since they just wanted to be on the opening day of ITV. The thing is that ITV chose them at random to be the first ones to appear.

When it comes to its influence, we can state that, even though not many people had TV at home and were unable to watch it, the effect on sales was favourable.

One distinguishing feature is that it lasts around one minute longer than other current commercials. Furthermore, we may remark that it is in B&W and has a forced narrative and an ambiguous style, which is typical of early advertisements. If we had to sum them up in a nutshell, we can say they were just moving newspaper advertisements.

All of this is due to the UK’s lack of experience with TV commercials, as well as the fact that they didn’t want their commercials to appear like American ones. So they had to figure out which style they wanted to follow. However, this was only the beginning of a lengthy history of UK television commercials.

1969: first in colour in the UK

Finally, we’ll look at the first colour television commercial in the United Kingdom. It aired on November 15, 1969, to sell Bird’s Eye Peas, and myth has it that the advertisement time only cost them 23£ (equivalent to 337.78£ now).

We hope you have found this blog interesting. Thank you very much for taking the time to read it,



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