60 Years of Television Advertising


In this special report, we’ve detailed the early days of TV advertising, and engaged some of the best and the brightest in TV advertising today to assess where we are and where we’re going. You can download PDFs of the pages of this special section after each story.

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  • Integrated Marketing: The Brand-New 60-Year-Old Idea
      The 1947-48 TV season was a watershed time in TV history. In the spring of 1947 a major advertiser, Kraft, for the first time made a commitment to sponsor a weekly drama anthology—“Kraft Television Theatre” on NBC. Its success as a vehicle to get viewers to buy products was instantaneous and palpable—enough so that the show stayed on the air for the next 11½ years, week in and week out, without taking a summer hiatus. On. pg. 2
    • Serling's 'Patterns' an Icon of Lost Era Anyone who seriously wonders why they call it the Golden Age need only screen a play like “Patterns,” which a young upstart named Rod Serling wrote for “Kraft Television Theatre” in 1955, to enjoy a lovely epiphany. Everything about it seems so gratifyingly right. ...On pg. 12

    Below is a clip from Rod Serling's "Patterns":

    • Ad Agency Created Art In an article published March 7, 1955, Jack Gould, The New York Times’ first TV critic, wrote, “The notion that an advertising agency must be a corporate dolt in television theatrical matters is not standing up too well in one quarter. The J. Walter Thompson Co., one of the largest agencies, is quietly walking off with some major honors for distinguished TV drama. It’s time the Thompson boys received their due.” ... On pg. 8
    • Jack Paar's Bufferin Explosion When live TV commercials were a mainstay on TV, anything could happen—and it often did. One of the more fun disasters occurred on “Tonight” in the summer of 1958. Jack Paar hosted the show then; in fact, it was known as “The Jack Paar Show.” ... On pg. 10
    • The Once and Future King The television business today faces daunting challenges. But it’s moving quickly—and often smartly—to meet the demands of a digital marketplace. Reports of the medium’s demise were clearly exaggerated. The industry is determined to reinvent itself and remain the channel of choice for advertisers. ... On page 14. And page 16. And page 18.
    • Early 'Recipe' Reveals TV’s Darker Side TV shows from the late 1940s and the early 1950s, when the programs were produced by advertising agencies on behalf of their clients and were broadcast live, make up a large portion of what has been referred to as the “Golden Age of Television.” Lest we forget, however, not every program was a gem. ... On page 6.
    • Smoking Gun Most TV viewers today are familiar with the Coca-Cola cups that sit on the judges’ table on “American Idol.” Some say it’s the quintessential example of product placement on TV today. ... On page 10.

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