Today almost everywhere we turn we are inundated with ads over television and radio, in film theatres, on billboards and our computers, and magazines and store fronts. We simply cannot escape the messages put out by individuals and businesses trying to get us to buy their products and services.
The situation was the same in Jane Austen’s day. When shoppers walked to a shopping area in a city the streets would be indundated with shop signs, hired walkers wearing advertising boards, and hawkers. Advertising merchants dealt in trades that are both familiar and unfamiliar to us today: silversmiths, coal dealers, shoemakers, scum boilers, boarding houses, brewers, tavern keepers, silk merchants, coffee houses, cabinet makers, bakers, mattress makers, curriers and dealers in grindery, warper, hair dressers, woollen drapers and dealers in trimmings, victuallers, livery stable keepers, grocers, music sellers, linen drapers, beer sellers, dealer in rags, tripeman, tobacconist – well, the list goes on.
There were leaflets, handbills, posters on bricks walls and glass windows seemingly almost everywhere, and advertisements in newspapers … and of course the inevitable street criers.
Bill stickers, or external paper hangers plastered blank walls, empty shops and wooden hoards and fences with advertisement bills. But these activities were taxed. And thus enterprising merchants turned to mobile advertising and paid people to wear sandwich boards and hand carry placards. – London Street Advertising
Extensive improvements on the printing press meant that newspapers and printed products could be churned out swiftly and more efficiently than before. Bills and posters were printed speedily and cheaply. There were frequent misspelling of words, and if more than one color was used, a frequent misplaced overlay of one color over the other. Printed ads and posters were designed to promote an event or sale, and were meant to be discarded. Bills plastered on walls and fences would soon be covered over by newer announcements.
Newspapers and advertisers focused on products that appealed to a mass market. They generally targeted themselves to the middle and upper-middle classes. By the mid-eighteenth century, the variety of ads began to increase. Ladies’ fashions as well as silver, brass, and copper items became subjects of advertisements.” – Place an Advertisement
Trade cards were another way that merchants informed the public about their wares. These cards came with a combination of image and text, which provided information about the location, goods and services of an establishment or business. – Eighteenth Century Centre
More on the topic:
- History’s newstand blog
- Selling Consumption in the Eighteenth Century: Advertising and the Trade Card
- British Museum: Trade Cards
- The National Archives: Records of Sun Fire Office
- London Street Advertising