DIARY SPECIAL: A brief history of sales - Those much-hyped millennium celebrations - thank God they’re over. But the art of selling has been practised for much longer than one thousand years. Mark Tungate looks back in wonder

1,600,000 BC Homo Erectus emerges in East Africa, unaware that his name is about to become the butt of schoolboy jokes for thousands of years.

1,600,000 BC Homo Erectus emerges in East Africa, unaware that his

name is about to become the butt of schoolboy jokes for thousands of


40,000 BC Modern man (Homo Sapiens) begins to design tools, barter and

create art. When he swaps a club for a cave drawing depicting himself in

the act of slaughtering a mammoth, media sales is invented.

15,000 BC The first domestic settlements lead to the invention of the

plough, the cart and the words: ’I’ll be home a bit late, I’m going for

a quick drink after work.’

3,150 BC First Egyptian dynasty. Hieroglyphics create the first comic

strip, in which a pet dog is mistaken for the god Anubis, with hilarious


214 BC The Great Wall of China is constructed, creating fantastic

ambient media opportunities.

Approximately 4 BC Jesus is born. The actual date is uncertain but the

time of year is likely to be around Christmas.

868 The earliest printed book is prepared in China. The advertising

department asks for the first right-hand page, forgetting that Chinese

script is read backwards.

1066 The Norman Conquest of England. The Bayeux Tapestry is created,

with a premium advertising slot next to the scene where Harold gets it

in the eye.

1086 The Domesday Book is compiled. To cope with demand, the first

classified advertising sales team is formed.

1400 Geoffrey Chaucer dies. English will now have to be written in a

form people actually understand.

1476 William Caxton sets up his printing press at Westminster.

Advertising sales people rejoice, as they can now tell clients: ’Sorry,

the printers cocked it up.’

1498 Vasco Da Gama discovers the sea route to India, bringing back the

recipe for curry. Media types now know where to eat after having a

skinful at the Dog and Duck.

1577 Sir Francis Drake begins his voyage around the world. Sales people

bite their nails as they await his return with tobacco.

1665 The Great Plague of London is quickly followed by the Great Fire of

London. A year later The London Gazette launches, having missed the two

most important stories in the city’s history.

1693 Ladies Mercury, the first women’s title, is founded. It contains

ads for clothes, cosmetics and miracle diets, and articles on finding

the perfect man, keeping him amused in bed, interior design and planning

dinner parties.

1731 Gentleman’s Magazine, the first men’s title, is founded. It

contains ads for razors, aftershave and hair restoring products, and

articles on achieving the perfect bedroom performance, boxing and

pulling at office parties.

1841 Punch is founded - its mascot is a funny little man who loves

beating the establishment around the head with a sausage.

1846 The Daily News is launched, but advertisers fear its content might

be too racy as it is edited by pulp novelist and celebrated ’lad’,

Charles Dickens.

1857 The Daily Telegraph invents the box numbering system for classified

advertisements. This paves the way for mysterious ’media sales’ job ads

that don’t give the name of any publication.

1895 Guglielmo Marconi broadcasts the first radio message. Advertising

agencies grit their teeth, as they will soon have to find a way of

making clever, relevant and effective radio ads. They will never


1900 Pearson launches The Daily Express. Advertisers are outraged, as it

is the first paper to put news on the front page instead of ads.

1914-18 The First World War. That bloody poster of Kitchener pointing

his finger appears for the first time. It is destined to turn up in

histories of advertising for decades to come.

1931 The Audit Bureau of Circulations is formed. Sales teams retire to

the pub to discuss their strategy.

1936 BBC TV is launched to a universal lack of interest from


1939-45 The Second World War. Those bloody ’careless talk costs lives’

posters appear for the first time. They are destined to turn up in

histories of advertising for decades to come.

1955 ITV is launched. That’s more like it, say advertisers.

1958 Dr Vivian Fuchs attempts to cross Antarctica. This is of no

interest, apart from generating the headline: ’Doctor Fuchs off to


1964 The Daily Herald becomes The Sun, giving media sales people - and

everybody else - something entertaining to read for a change.

1966 The Times finally begins printing news on its front page.

1969 The first independent media agency launches. Sales teams retire to

the pub to discuss their strategy. Some simply retire.

1978 The Times suspends publication for 11 months due to industrial

action over those new-fangled ’computers’. Spies look for somewhere else

to place enigmatic small ads.

1982 Channel 4 launches. But judging by the large number of gaps in

which nothing happens, advertisers are less than impressed.

1986 There’s a jobs jamboree for people working in media sales, as

Today, The Sunday Sport and The Independent are all born.

1989 The Sunday Correspondent is launched. However, it fails to find a

market for a shambolic, badly designed tabloid Sunday newspaper, and

closes the following year.

1994 The Electronic Telegraph becomes the first national newspaper on

the internet. Media sales people wished they’d taken a computer studies

GCSE instead of opting for art because it looked like a doss.

1997 Channel 5 hits TV screens. Advertisers are enthralled by its

mixture of blockbuster films, quality drama, ground-breaking comedy and

well-crafted documentaries.

1999 Campaign Media Business launches, to the delight of a bunch of

media hacks who have been looking for a decent job for ages.

2000 and beyond. With wireless application protocol, interactive digital

TV and electronic paper all on the horizon, media sales people begin

retraining as rocket scientists.


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