The First Television Advertisement Was For?
It’s nearly impossible for a modern reader to imagine such a magical thing, but once upon a time there were no ads on television. Prior to 1941, no distinct commercial as we now recognize them had appeared on the air (although occasionally announcers for television programming would note, in the style of radio shows, that a particular television show was sponsored by a company). In May of that year, the Federal Communications Commission issued their first batch of commercial licenses to ten U.S. stations. The license went into effect on July 1, but only one station aired a commercial that day.
WNBT, now WNBC, in New York City aired a simple ad for the Bulova Watch Co. The segment, called the “Bulova Time Check”, was a short, simple spot that focused on a watch face with its second hand ticking while a voice over told viewers what time it was. The segment was aired before a Brooklyn Dodgers game and cost the Bulova watch company nine dollars. Not a bad price for not only a good ad slot, but a page in the history books.
Image courtesy of The Early Television Museum and Foundation.