Right this way to buy a thing…


Whose idea was it to advertise? Who was the diabolical mastermind who first said “Hey you! Come buy my thing. It’s the best thing ever! You need this thing, otherwise you will not have a thing.”

When I ask Siri on my iPhone what was the “first advertisement,” she tells me that the “worst sad wise Bent” was my Great Uncle Gilbert Bent on my Father’s side. She then shows me a map on how to get to his grave, an article on his development of a gasoline powered pressure cooker, and pictures of the explosions.

Not as helpful as I had hoped, and not a great advertisement for voice recognition.

A quick query to the good people down at the Google returns some more useful information. Some think that the first advertisement was from ancient Egypt as a call to look for a missing slave that went something like “Have you seen this slave? Last seen on the Fourth of Akhet running towards freedom. If found, please return to Bob the slave master, three doors down from the Anubis temple by the Devry Scribe Institute”

I don’t count that as an advertisement but more of a lost and found announcement like the ones stapled to neighbourhood trees about a missing pet like a cat or boa constrictor.

I’m more inclined to think the first advertisement is the engraving in the marble road in Ephesus, which lies in modern day Turkey, that dates around the 1st century AD. It shows directions to the city’s brothel and is located near the docks where it could be viewed by the sailors as they disembarked from their vessels. “Now that you got off your boat, get off at Bob’s Brothel. Follow the marble feet.”

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This carving in a road in Turkey marks the beginning of advertising in my mind and we can thank Bob of Ephesus for opening the Pandora’s Box of persuasion, greed, and marketing techniques. In fact Bob can be credited with one of the credos of modern marketing; sex sells.

The location of his advert was very clever too; on the docks close to where the sex starved ancient sailors would see it, heads bowed, looking down at their feet, forlorn in the fact that they were so far from home and stuck in stupid Ephesus with nothing to do. Bob knew his demographics

It makes me wonder what other marketing techniques Bobby used in antiquity to sell his bordello.

Did Bob’s have a logo? A graphic that could be carved into wood and hung in front of the establishment, or printed on coasters or ancient matchbooks?

Did he buy commercial time during the local Dionysus competition? A little jingle in between the satyr play and the tragedy? “When I’m in Ephesus, I always visit Bob’s brothel where they always make me feel important.”

Or did he use product placement? During the new Gaius Maecenas Melissus comedy did one of the actors exit the stage and mention “If you need me I’ll be at Bob’s Brothel”? Or maybe the logo was sewn into one of the thespian’s tunics?

Did he have frequent customer cards? A stamp for every visit and the tenth boink is free? Or maybe a rewards card? Bob’s Patron Poking Points?

Did he sponsor events under the guise of giving back to the community but actually just wanted to curry favour with the parents of the Pee Wee gladiator league and plaster his logo all over their uniforms? Did he pay for the pizza after the matches, win or lose?

Well, I guess if the mini-gladiators lost there would be no need of a post-match pizza party.

Were there surveys that could be filled out upon checkout? “How did we do? Fill out this survey, complete with your boat’s berth number on the dock, and you could win a Bob’s Brothel tunic!”, and then send out stone tablet flyers to all of the ships, infuriating the Captains and weighing down the vessels?

Did Bob invent the infomercial?

Whatever the influences those early adverts had on the sailors that had arrived in the port, I’m sure that other merchants caught on quick saying “Look what Bob do!” and started their own carvings in the road talking about the fresh catch at Joe the Fishmonger’s stall, the fabulous fabrics at Charlie’s Silks n Sashes, and the able bodied repair men at Jimmy’s Ship Shape Ship Shop. Soon the highway department would sell ad space on the road to generate more money for the town, and BLAM… suddenly you can’t get away from the ads…

And you can blame it all on Bob of Ephesus and his “Hey sailor, follow the footprints” ad campaign. I can hardly wait to see what he has in store for us during the Superbowl of gladiators, coming to Ephesus in 2 A.D.

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3 thoughts on “Right this way to buy a thing…

  1. Too funny 🙂 wow your posts have given me a great start to the day!

  2. LAMarcom says:

    “Bob of Ephesus”
    Really?!
    Lovin’ it!

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