The Fashion of Advertising – the future in 1903

We’re all immune to billboard advertising – but are we really ready for the personalised, localised, niche advertising we’re expecting to hit us as we walk down the high street clasping our mobile phones, not to mention the use of augmented reality apps to entice us into the stores? Whether these prospects excite us or make us feel a bit uncomfortable spare a thought for London in 1903 when the fashion of advertising had just taken hold.  It was, apparently, all the fault of ‘the modern spread of education’

‘Even the muffin man’s bell, so welcome in the winter afternoon’s gloom, seems now more seldom heard… Yet one’s ears are no longer so generally deafened, and the reason for this is not far to seek.  For London is now so gay with advertisements that in every direction our eyes meet strange, gaily-coloured hoarding and sky signs; and the manifold attractions of various articles, instead of being cried in the streets, now cry at us from the walls, or shout discordantly at us from out of the blue of heaven, from ugly black wires and glaring brazen letters.  We cannot go out of doors without being asked a hundred times, in varying type, such silly questions as “Why does a Woman Look Old Sooner that an Man?” “Why Let Your Baby Die?” “Why Pay House Rent?” or other such idiotic queries…  In shops, or on railways, it is the same.  For at least several miles out of London you travel in the constant company of “Pears’s Soap”, and “Colman’s Mustard;” and outside eating-shops you see in large letters the cunning legend, “Everything as Nice as Mother Makes it.”  The Art of Advertisement is everywhere paramount… This mania for posters has, of course, largely resulted from the spread of education: for of what use to ask such questions in old days, when few could have succeeded in reading them?  The fashion of advertisements is still growing, the Americans are encouraging it to preposterous proportions; and we shall soon, indeed, live in a mere criss-cross of lettered wires, not unlike Mr. Wells’s idea of a future Utopia.’  Highways : & : Byways in : London by Mrs. E.T. Cook

You do wonder what she’d have made of this possible future:

About Janet

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