At first, agencies were brokers for advertisement space in newspapers. In order to profit from this higher rate of production, industry needed to recruit workers as consumers of factory products.It did so through the invention of mass marketing designed to influence the population's economic behavior on a larger scale.

An idea that was effective a generation ago would fall flat, stale, and unprofitable if presented to the public today.

Not that the idea of today is always better than the older idea, but it is different – it hits the present taste." As the economy expanded across the world during the 19th century, advertising grew alongside.

In the 1920s, under Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, the American government promoted advertising.

Hoover himself delivered an address to the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World in 1925 called 'Advertising Is a Vital Force in Our National Life." An important tool for influencing immigrant workers was the American Association of Foreign Language Newspapers (AAFLN).

Modern advertising originated with the techniques introduced with tobacco advertising in the 1920s, most significantly with the campaigns of Edward Bernays, considered the founder of modern, "Madison Avenue" advertising.

Commercial messages and political campaign displays have been found in the ruins of Pompeii and ancient Arabia.

The actual presentation of the message in a medium is referred to as an advertisement or "ad" for short.

Commercial ads often seek to generate increased consumption of their products or services through "branding", which associates a product name or image with certain qualities in the minds of consumers.

"[The] general principle, that men are very largely actuated by motives which they conceal from themselves, is as true of mass as of individual psychology.

It is evident that the successful propagandist must understand the true motives and not be content to accept the reasons which men give for what they do." In other words, selling products by appealing to the rational minds of customers (the main method used prior to Bernays) was much less effective than selling products based on the un-conscious desires that Bernays felt were the true motivators of human action.

The AAFLN was primarily an advertising agency but also gained heavily centralized control over much of the immigrant press.