On Aug. 28, 1922 -- 92 years ago -- radio station WEAF in New York City aired a ten-minute pitch promoting affordable co-op apartments in Jackson Heights, Queens. The developer paid AT&T, which owned the station, $50 for the airtime.
It was the first ad on radio in the U.S., bringing dramatic change to a new form of mass communication.
The ad helped the developer sell several apartments, which brought the interest of retailers including Macy's and Gimbels, who soon became sold on the power of radio advertising.
It's interesting that David Sarnoff, who headed RCA, which soon after bought WEAF, had been vehemently against using broadcast stations for commercial purposes. RCA established stations and aired free programming simply as a way to create consumer demand for the Radiola radio sets that RCA built and sold. He eventually gave in and NBC, which Sarnoff built, had stations throughout the country whose programming was used to sell ad time, eclipsing revenues that came from selling the radio sets themselves. For decades, primetime programming on the major radio networks was produced by ad agencies and paid for by their clients.
That $50 spot 92 years ago has evolved into a $140 billion industry, with ads supporting 11,350 radio stations throughout the U.S. -- 4,726 AM stations and 6,624 FM outlets.
Even David Sarnoff didn't see that coming.