The first advert was aired in 1941.¹
It ran for nine seconds, and cost only £9!
Let’s set the scene: The Brooklyn Dodgers are playing the Philadelphia Phillies at Ebbets Field on July 1, 1941, and the game is being aired on WNBT-TV (later to become WNBC). Before the game begins, TV viewers see this: a 10-second advertisement for Bulova clocks and watches. The ad shows a clock and a map of the United States, with a voice-over that says, “America runs on Bulova time.” This litte spot (which ran at 2:29 pm, if you’re keeping Bulova time) marked the advent of something much bigger — commercialized television. Earlier in 1941, the FCC had approved a plan to turn TV into big business. When Bulova paid $9 dollars to plug its brand, the plan was actualized. Every advertisement seen since (for better or worse) has a common lineage in this moment.²
Pausing for a moment, this is actually the first advert in America (which has effectively started all the advertising we know today), and thus, the world!
But, what about England?
I shall do a hunt, and get back to this blog on that!
¹ Mashable, This is The World's First TV Ad, http://mashable.com/2013/08/01/first-tv-commercial-bulova-video/
² Open Culture, Watch the First Commerical Ever Shown on American TV, 1941, http://www.openculture.com/2013/08/watch-the-first-commercial-ever-shown-on-american-tv-1941.html.