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How long has window advertising been around? This tried and tested method of reaching customers is older than you think. The art of using a storefront to advertise has a colourful history leading up to the 3D and LED lettering, vinyl cut lettering, light boxes, sign panels and digitally printed signage of today.

Few people are aware of the fact that one of the earliest enthusiasts of window display advertising was none other that Frank Baum – better known as the man who wrote the Wizard of Oz. In the late 1800s, he created a monthly trade journal he called ‘The Show Window: A Journal of Practical Window Trimming for the Merchant and the Professional’. In fact, Baum can also be credited with creating an early, crude version of light box advertising with what he called an ‘illusion window’.

Up until this time in history, shop owners had to rely on crown glass if they had storefront windows – a process that had to be done by hand. Thankfully it was at this time in the early 1900s that the Industrial Revolution occurred, allowing plate glass to became more widely affordable and available for everyday shopowners, providing areas where they could display their wares in competition with each other.

As the early 1900s marched on, electricity was invented and became more widespread in use. Shopowners then started using it to light up their storefronts past closing time and at night, which lead to increased attention on the branding and shop name/logo being illuminated. This was combined with other popular means of storefront advertising which exist to this day, such as branded awnings. These electrical ads remain popular today.

The post-World War II era saw the introduction of plastic and acrylics into custom signs, again revolutionising the market. These signs promised longevity in any weather condition and did not require as much maintenance as those relying on electricity.

Throughout this period, artists such as Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Maurice Sendak all spent time as window display advertisers in their careers. With today’s shops using a combination of all the above signs, it’s easy to see the creativity inherent in display advertising that lives on today.