In an engaging talk on Monday, historian, author and translator, A.R. Venkatachalapathy, traced the origins of the ubiquitous advertisement in the region, the technologies used to print them, their mention in literature of the time, and its varied purposes back then. Interspersing his talk with famous print advertisements of Amrutanjan, Pilot pens and Lux, he spoke about how in the early days, a newspaper once told its readers the publication had nothing to do with the product being advertised, how ads would be booked on a weekly or monthly basis back, and the difference in the ads which appeared in Tamil and English publications. Then came the era of drama notices, when small notices would be distributed by those on a cart.

He spoke about Value Payable Post, and the frauds associated with it, how publications borrowed expensive blocks from one another to print ads, and the advent of celebrity endorsements. “Gandhiji once had to give a notice in Young India that he did not endorse any beedi or cigarette because his name was being used owing to his popularity,” he said. Later advertisements of films brought in a lot of money, with some even taking 4-page supplements to advertise their films, said Mr. Venkatachalapathy.

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