In its broadest definition "to advertise" means to make publicly known. The first forms of advertising differed tremendously from what we see today. Advertisements in the 18th and 19th centuries were like children just beginning to grow. Advertisements first started as handbills on hoardings. Advertisements, composed mainly of texts, were given to space brokerage firms to place on hoardings. Another form of advertising was to sell your occupation to the public. The local blacksmith or shopkeeper could be said to advertise simply by means of establishing a business with the purpose of attracting customers; a traveling street vendor advertises his trade by simply displaying his merchandise.
In its first stages, advertisements were uncommon in the middle-class press, mainly because advertisements seemed to lack respectability. Advertising was thought to advance fraudulent claims and to promote products of poor quality. It was seen as a necessary evil. Confronted with promises of financial gain and pressure from advertisers the middle class press succumbed to the display of advertisements. 
After 1850, newspapers began to advertise brands. Brands inspired the creation of new forms of advertising. Companies now had a way to stand out. . Between 1850 and 1880 was when advertisements began to change. New techniques of illustrations a recognizable and expanding middle-class market, the rise of the press, and the professionalism of technical and creative assistance produced an unparallel advertising craze. Advertisements went from full text to pictures. The printing prices decreased dramatically, leading advertisers to rely on images. Advertisers developed greater precision and control in their efforts to attract customers. The main objective of advertising theorists was to capture the attention of buyers. Advertisements began to be seen everywhere.
Ad agencies expanded by exploring the idea that the commodity is a spectacle. Companies sold the idea of consumption. By seeing consumption as a modern art form and the consumer ad an original artist, agents of the market went forward to produce discriminating and disciplined individuals be fitting the civil public. By the 1890s, advertising had transformed completely. Advertisements went from a print medium to a largely visual culture. Advertisers also changed the focus of advertisements. The promotions no longer focused on the idea of persuading clients about the value of the products but now contrived to tap into and manipulate consumer's hidden, irrational desires. 
Women were the audience for most 18th and 19th century advertisements. The woman was perceived a careful critic. Most advertisers turned their focus completely to the woman and almost entirely left men out of the picture. Lori Anne Loeb, in her study of Britain advertising, states, "The male voice was rarely an important feature of the Victorian advertisement. To reach the customer advertisers knew they must attempt to reach her at home." Women found advertisements for all the latest fashions, for companies that could furnish a home, for cocoas, beef, and lemonade, to name a few. Women read advertisements that promised to lessen household labor, with sewing machines, manglers, and knife cleaners. This was a great plan for advertisers to reach all women at once. What women did not want products to ease her labor? Women were also tempted by advertisements for lavender colognes, almond skin creams, and walnut dyes. Children seemed to be the next target. It was easy to persuade a child. The children poured over illustrations of dolls, trains, model engines, and "conjuring trucks." The idea of a family was a big seller. Most commercial setting advertisements sold the idea of consumption as a family enterprise. Advertisements used the presence of a husband or a child to "represent the shopper's objectives as unselfish and to confer domestic wholesomeness on the scene." The advertisements gradually changed from focusing on need to focusing on fantasy. Babies sold wholesome products from soap to cocoa. The commercial view of the baby praised redemptive innocence. Even older children were a source of joy.
The range of advertised products expanded to reflect extensive brand-name differentiation and an increasing interest in innovation, novelty, and luxury. Brand names promised standardization. Society was concerned that not every box was the same. Odol toothpowder's advertising strategy was to promise every box was the same. Another concern was adulteration, other items being mixed in with a product was a main concern for a consumer. Customers were afraid of shopkeepers mixing in sand with sugar to help profits. Brands promised no adulteration. Crisco launched a major advertising campaign with this idea alone. Crisco, an artificial fat, was something people did not need to buy. They did not need artificial fat. Being that Crisco was a clear substance, the campaign was it could not be adultered. If it were, the consumer would see it.
There were all sorts of advertising campaigns. The one most popularly seen was the advertisement that focused on consumer fears. Parents were afraid of what was in the products they gave to their children. Parents wanted to be reassured that the products given to their children were not only pure, but would help the children last long. Bovril promised to be "Liquid Life," while Cadbury's Cocoa could give "staying power and impart new life and vigor to growing children and those of delicate constitution." Hudson's soap enabled "sanitary washing at home." Pears on the other hand, offered a "caution to parents about soap Commonly adulterated with the most pernicious ingredients." Keatings medicine used the caption "No Fear Now" over the picture of a sleeping child because the fear of premature infant death was especially prone to be sensationalized. Mellin's Food featured gruesome pictures of children in various stages of starvation. Children were described as "wasting food,"and dramatic testimonials predicted that a child without Mellins Food "will not last long."  Raw milk was portrayed as "one of the Most Dangerous Foods...Milk that has been improperly sterilized is such a dangerous food that those who allow it to be served to their families take a great responsibility." 
"The main idea of [the late nineteenth-century advertisement] is...making life easier. This ought to be a great recommendation in this nineteenth century when we all want to save ourselves from toil and use our engines in pleasure." The ultimate ideal of prosperity was portrayed in an advertisement for Foot's Adjustable Chairs. "The Library Lounge" pictured an older man, smoking a cigar, feet up reading a book. The image represented leisure, freedom from care and from the restraints of labor. Bird's Custard Powder was a "great luxury" because it reduced toil. A woman would be making custard without eggs. Freedom from toil would be the stepping stone to happiness, to a life of leisure in a literary chair, clustered around a piano, sipping lemonade by the tennis court. Advertisements fixated on urban celebration and leisure. 
Advertisements also drew on a heavily romanticized view of domestic toil. Sinclairs Soap advertisements promised that it "Saves Money, Saves Labour, Saves Time, Saves Fuel...the Family Wash without the Misery of a Steamy House." This advertisement's intent was for the consumer to imagine that washing would be an easy, indeed a relaxing and pleasurable task with Sinclair=s Soap. Advertisers hoped to associate their products with positive imagery: angelic children, the wholesome outdoors, peaceful doves, even heavenly angels.
The gathering of industrial product, female consumer, and male agents crystallized an important vision of the good life. Now consumers were interested in what would enhance their lives and give them the ideal life style. Advertisements defined four ideals: the ideal setting, ideal activity, ideal human nature, and the ideal society philosophers contended are the essential elements of the good life. The print advertisement clarified middle-class values in the 19th century. 
"The collective force of advertising's agenda sometimes went beyond an individual merchant=s intentions; however, they created tension and contradictions in their messages." [15 As profit motivated owners of businesses, advertisers clearly wanted to encourage material aspirations in the public at large. The overall effect of advertising's attempts to reach gender specific audiences did not always coincide with individual intentions. For the population as a whole, advertising seemed to offer a life of individual luxery.