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An advertising agency is a service based business dedicated to creating, planning, and handling advertising (and sometimes other forms of promotion) for its clients. An ad agency is generally independent from the client (it may be an internal department or even an internal agency) and provides an outside point of view to the effort of selling the client's products or services. An agency can also handle overall marketing and branding strategies and sales promotions for its clients.
Typical ad agency clients include businesses and corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies. Agencies may be hired to produce television commercials, radio commercials, Online Advertising, out of home advertising, Mobile Marketing and AR Advertising as part of an advertising campaign.
The first acknowledged advertising agency was William Taylor in 1786. Another early agency, started by James 'Jem' White in 1800 at Fleet Street, London, eventually evolved into White Bull Holmes, a recruitment advertising agency, that went out of business in the late 1980s. In 1812 George Reynell, an officer at the London Gazette, set up another of the early advertising agencies, also in London. This remained a family business until 1993, as 'Reynell & Son,' and is now part of the TMP Worldwide agency (UK and Ireland) under the brand TMP Reynell. Another early agency that traded until recently, was founded by Charles Barker, and the firm he established traded as 'Barkers' until 2009 when it went into Administration.
In 1856 Mathew Brady created the first modern advertisement when he placed an ad in the New York Herald paper offering to produce "photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes." His ads were the first whose typeface and fonts were distinct from the text of the publication and from that of other advertisements. At that time all newspaper ads were set in agate and only agate. His use of larger distinctive fonts caused a sensation. Later that same year Robert E. Bonner ran the first full-page ad in a newspaper.
In 1864, William James Carlton began selling advertising space in religious magazines. In 1869, Francis Ayer, at the age of 20, created the first full service advertising agency in Philadelphia, called N.W. Ayer & Son. It is the oldest advertising agency in America. James Walter Thompson joined Carlton's firm in 1868. Thompson rapidly became their best salesman, purchasing the company in 1877 and renaming it the James Walter Thompson Company. Realizing that he could sell more space if the company provided the service of developing content for advertisers, Thompson hired writers and artists to form the first known Creative Department in an advertising agency. He is credited as the "father of modern magazine advertising" in the US.
- Mackay, Adrian (2004), The Practice of Advertising, London: Butterworth-Heinemann, ISBN 0-7506-6173-9. p.70.
- "RECORDS OF R.F.WHITE AND SON LTD" (PDF). National Archives. 1983. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History. "Emergence of Advertising in America: Timeline". Durham, NC: Duke University Libraries. Archived from the original on 2011-02-28.
1841 - Volney B. Palmer opens the first American advertising agency, in Philadelphia.