An advertising agency, often referred to as a creative agency or an ad agency, is a business dedicated to creating, planning, and handling advertising and sometimes other forms of promotion and marketing for its clients. An ad agency is generally independent from the client; it may be an internal department or agency that provides an outside point of view to the effort of selling the client’s products or services, or an outside firm. An agency can also handle overall marketing and branding strategies promotions for its clients, which may include sales as well.
Typical ad agency clients include businesses and corporations,non-profit organizations and private agencies. Agencies may be hired to produce television advertisements, radio advertisements, 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.
Volney B. Palmer opened the first American advertising agency, in Philadelphia in 1850. This agency placed ads produced by its clients in various newspapers.
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 was the oldest advertising agency in America and dissolved in 2002. 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.