Origin of Billboards

I was walking through the streets of Fort Area in Mumbai, prolly one of the most high-profile areas in Mumbai and was wondering looking at the signages and billboards.. I stand on every street, however un-inhabited it is and realize that there are atleast a dozen billboards staring at me asking for attention. When did this whole concept of a billboard start?

According to About.com

Billboards are collections of large photos. Some are funny; some are strange. Still some come out as ironic. However we see it, we have to face the fact that billboards are a constant reminder to us that there is life out there that is worth living.

Billboards can trace its lineage back to the earliest civilization. We could trace human genealogy along with the history of billboards and outdoor advertisement.

Egypt’s Stone Obelisk: Man’s First Outdoor Advertisement

Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians used a tall stone obelisk to publicize laws and treaties. This is the early form of outdoor advertising. With the advent of publication through the obelisk, people have their first advertisement. Political and more it may seem, but still advertising nonetheless.

Early Stages of Advertising

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing in 1450, modern advertising was introduced through the handbill. And in 1796, the first illustrated poster was made when the lithographic process was perfected.As time goes by, people are looking for more desirable locations to ensure constant exposure of their message for a fixed period of time. Thus, bill posters began to erect their own structures in locations where there is heavy traffic.

First U.S. Billboard Erected When Circus Came to Town

In the beginning, Americans used roadside advertising for local purposes. Businessmen and merchants painted signs or glued posters on walls and fences to advertise their establishments and what they have to offer.It was in New York where the first large American outdoor poster (more than 50 square feet) was posted. Jared Bell’s office printed posters for the circus in 1835. In 1850, exterior advertising was first used on street railways.

Public Service is a Billboard Thrust

In the 1900s, there was a boom in national billboard campaigns. Big advertisers began mass production of billboards for the national market. From toothpaste and soaps, to breakfast cereals and sodas, billboards were made to advertise in big bold pictures and images. And in 1913, the practice of filling “open boards” with public service advertising has continued to this day. During the war, there was a concerted effort from the industry to help in the mobilization. While in peacetime, the concern was focused on efforts to generally improve the way of life.

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