Commercial advertisement, as an intermedium between commercial products and consumers, is a product of commodity trading. According to the American Heritage Dictionary (2000), advertising is "the activity of attracting public attention to a product or business, as by paid announcements in the print, broadcast, or electronic media." (Jef I, Curran, 2002) This definition indicates that advertising needs some medium to reach out to the audience and complete its mission of promotion. The way a medium interacts with the audience influences the way advertising functions. In addition to print, broadcast, and electronic media, business people around the world have applied many other creative mediums for advertising. The invention of new mediums innovated the way people approach advertising.
As a social activity, advertising is also influenced by certain social status quo. Different advertisements in different ages have been the mirrors of different social phenomena. People can always find some traces of a certain age from the cultural products produced at that time. In the case of China’s advertising development, political factors and social development phases are as significant as the development of technology.
This essay focuses on the Chinese commercial advertising produced in the mainland of People’s Republic of China since 1870. I will choose several technologies which changed the way people advertised and some dates which are important to the development of Chinese commercial advertising to reflect on how technology innovates advertising in China from 1870 to present. While discussing advertising at different ages, I discuss corresponding social phenomenon as important influencing factors. At last, I will argue that the introduction of new inventions and technologies such as printing, radio, transportation, and world wide web to China changed the way Chinese advertisers sold their products. Meanwhile, particular political movements and social ideologies influenced the way advertising functions.