No wonder it has been so difficult to establish transparency in the advertising industry. From its very inception advertising’s business model was based on secrecy. A history of more than 150 years is difficult to erase.
The first advertising “agent,” Volney Palmer, opened a shop in Philadelphia in 1843. Palmer essentially worked as a lead generation service for local publishers, sending ad copy written by the advertiser along with collected payment to the newspapers for which it was intended. There was no copy-checking, and no “truth in advertising” standard, and no creativity. If you paid for the space in the newspaper, the ad ran.
Palmer did not work on behalf of the advertiser at all. However, some time later, a man named Samuel Pettingill opened an agency in New York and changed the model to one of an independent space broker, taking his payment as a commission on the fees paid to publishers. Naturally the agent wanted to buy space from the publisher as inexpensively as possible and sell it to advertisers for as much as possible, without revealing the numbers to either party.
Because of this lack of transparency, neither side trusted the advertising agent in the 19th century. InThe Mirror Makers... Read more