TV advert evolution across time

The TV advert evolution has been significant throughout the years, from their format to their style and feel. In a recent blog, we discussed which were the earliest TV advertisements, which is why we are continuing this chronology and explaining how the oldest advertising has influenced and evolved over the years to get the ads we have today.

The 1950S: the beginning

As we discussed in a previous blog, the first television commercial shown in the United Kingdom was for Gibbs SR toothpaste in 1955.

Aside from the fact that they were in black and white, we can claim that they were considerably lengthier and stilted than modern ads. The key feature, however, is that advertisers could use every single frame in the commercial with a written caption and make it a newspaper advertisement. Many analysts believe they were simply moving newspaper advertisements.

Food brands and soap powder makers were among the first to use this kind of advertising more than others. For example, Persil, a soap powder maker, made several early 1950s advertisements that were just videos identical to their posters.

But, while it wasn’t ideal, it marked the start of a new age of TV commercials in the United Kingdom.

Video: Persil TV Advert

The 1960S: the why and the establishment of the standards

The appearance of presenters in television ads highlighted this decade. These were well-known TV show hosts or even theatrical performers. Companies were attempting to demonstrate the efficacy and credibility of their statements by using them.

Finally, they would summarise why the product should be purchased. Although we now regard this as a simplistic structure, it was creative and extremely efficient at the time.

This decade saw the birth of advertising magazines (admags) such as Jim’s Inn, which allowed small marketers to showcase their items and explain why customers should buy them. They were able to complete 300 weekly 15-minute episodes with familiar faces and a welcoming environment. However, in 1963, Parliament made them illegal.

Interesting fact: due to secret cartel agreements among manufacturers, there were no automobile or alcohol commercials throughout this decade.

Video: Jim’s Inn TV Advert

The 1970S: evolution and introduction of colour

We can clearly see the TV advert evolution throughout this decade. Instead of informing the viewers why they should start using the product, they felt that demonstrating to them how to use it would be more effective.

Another significant difference from the previous decade is the level of creativity, which is likely due to the fact that people were already bored with simple commercials and demanded higher-quality ones. And, as with everything else in life, what customers demand is what companies supply. Furthermore, advertisements adopted colour throughout this decade.

During the 1970s, competent authorities overturned the automobile cartel agreement, so there were plenty of television commercials from the sector. Newspapers, such as The Sun, were another business that began to employ television, followed by the Mirror after The Sun’s popularity.

Finally, a new form of advertising was developed: corporate advertising.

Video: The Sun TV Advert

The 1980S onwards: the era of regulations

Prior to this decade, there were several limitations on which products could and may not be promoted. As a result, the Adam Smith Institution issued a study declaring that the cigarette, betting, charity, and religious organisations, should be free to sell themselves on television.

We’ve discussed how, in the 1960s, advertisements focused on why people should buy the product. And then how in the 1970s, they focused on how they could use it. In the 1980s, interactive advertisements began to appear, such as the Mazda advertisement, which invited viewers to record the advertisement in order to enter into a competition to win a car.

An interesting fact: the bank First Direct conducted an experiment. It was about broadcasting the same ad on ITV and Channel 4 at the same time. However, one had a favourable outcome and the other a bad one.

Video: First Direct Bank TV advert

How it is today

There has been a huge TV advert evolution, but it has been accompanied by laws. There are more laws now, thanks to the establishment of the Advertising Standards Authority, which enforces the BCAP Code. Furthermore, video advertising covers not just television but also other channels such as social media.


As we have seen, television advertising has changed dramatically throughout the years and developed to where we are now. But it’s more likely that in a few decades, we’ll look back at today’s advertisements and think the same way we do about 70s and 80s ones.

We hope you enjoyed this trip back in time to the past decades. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.


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