From the Vault #1: Bulova, Gibbs SR and the beginning of TV advertising

This week we’re kicking off a new segment on the Tracks & Fields blog. From The Vault sees us digging back into the archives of video advertising to bring you the best of the 20th century. From absolute classics to forgotten gems, to the historically significant and the just plain absurd, we have you covered.

For week 1 we are going back to where it all started; with the first ever television advertisements in the USA and the UK respectively.

History was made on July 1st, 1941 when American watch company Bulova placed a nine second spot on WNBC. The ad, which aired during a match between The Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies, purportedly cost just $9 to air. While admittedly we’ve come a long way since the fairly uninspiring video below, it’s always important to remember your beginnings and that this humble little spot kicked off what has now become a 10 billion dollar a year industry.

Perhaps in a slightly more spectacular fashion the United Kingdom was introduced to TV advertising on September 25th, 1955. With colour television not hitting the mainstream until the 60´s the ad was broadcast in black & white on ITV, a brand new commercial station. The spot for toothpaste company Gibbs SR, ran in at just over one minute and was complete with cuts, voiceover and even a bar graph! Unlike the Bulova ad, music plays a more significant role, with dreamy, muted, Disney-esque strings working to influence the viewer, conveying the magic of the product.

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