The İlancılık Advertising Agency was founded in 1909, soon after the Restoration of the Constitutional Monarchy in 1908. It is the first and only advertising agency in Turkey to have spanned the entire period from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Founded in İstanbul by David Samanon, it set for itself the goal of expressing in the most correct language the messages that companies wished to give about themselves, and publicizing them through the newspapers.
David Samanon chose a little-known firm as his first client and succeeded in bringing it so much recognition through his newspaper advertisements that its sales skyrocketed. Other firms were inspired by this success to hire Samanon, and soon they too were beating their competition.
In 1914, Ernest Hoffer —the director of Havas, Cairo’s famous advertisement agency— joined İlancılık, then still in its infancy, and helped it succeed by sharing his broad experience with his new partners.
The economy slowed down during the Balkan Wars and World War I, and so did the agency’s business. After the war ended, Jak Hulli joined the partnership. The company’s full name at the time was “HOSAH İlancılık Acentesi,” an anagram based on the surnames of all the partners. At a time when telephones were still a rarity, İlancılık obtained one of the first lines in the country; its telephone number was 94–95.
Boasting numerous creative works throughout its history, İlancılık used to advantage its status as the first advertising agency in Turkey. It did its best to develop and enrich the sector as a whole. Believing that newspapers alone were not sufficient as advertising media, it pioneered mobile advertising by employing the first “sandwich men” in Turkey. Selected from among tall males, they would carry two advertisement panels measuring 150×70 cm each and walk up and down Beyoğlu, thus publicizing the clients’ offerings.
Another innovation pioneered by İlancılık was the standardization of prices for newspaper advertisements. Until then, prices had generally been set collectively and somewhat arbitrarily; to ensure fair pricing, İlancılık established the cm/column system that is still in use today. After some negotiations with the newspapers, the price per cm for a single column was set at 30 to 50 kuruş, except for the front and second pages that were naturally more expensive at 250 to 400 kuruş. Of course these prices varied according to the circulation of the newspaper.
It did not take long for İlancılık to find new advertising media and to extend its purview. During the 1930s, before movies had become popular in İstanbul, a few French entrepreneurs opened cinemas. These early advertisements consisted of simple projections of text onto the screen, much like slide shows today; however, they were the first step in the development of a new medium.
N. İzidor Barouh, who would eventually become a shareholder, joined the Customer Relations department of the firm in 1932. Extremely hard working, he doubled his salary within three months and was promoted to director of Accounting.
In 1933, newspapers resolved to take over the advertising business themselves, in order not to have to pay a commission to the agency. With a loan from İş Bankası, they founded an agency of their own. However, İlanat Acentesi owned the only infrastructure needed for advertising and so they were offered partnership in the new agency. Rather than lose the income altogether, İlancılık accepted the offer. At the same time, İş Bankası had provided capital for the new enterprise and therefore demanded a controlling role in it. It arranged for the appointment of Kemal Salih Sel, director of Advertising at the Bank and also editor-in-chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, as director of the new agency, İlancılık Ltd. It only lasted a year, however, because of disagreements among the various newspapers. Soon thereafter, İlancılık asked Sel to join the firm, and a new general partnership was founded, this time named after all four partners: “İlancılık Kehosah.”
In those days, preparing an advertisement or poster for publication required much more effort than it does nowadays. A photograph would be taken, then traced with a pencil on a light table and reproduced with drawing ink. It would then be rephotographed and enlarged or reduced to the desired size. All this just for a graphic to be used in the advertisement. İlancılık was the first agency in Turkey to establish an internal graphics department, thus allowing the art director, graphic artist, photographer, typesetter, and copy writer to interact as a group at a single location. İlancılık was also the first agency to establish an in-house photographic studio.
A major economic crisis shook the world on the eve of World War II, and the crisis naturally affected the advertising industry as well.
After the War, İlancılık went right back to business, putting its power and experience to work. Markets began to recover, and as the volume of imports grew, so did the company’s client portfolio. American brands such as Philco, General Electric, and Hoover entered the Turkish market, encouraging the emergence of new advertising agencies. At the time, however, advertisements produced by other agencies were also distributed by İlancılık which became, in a way, Turkey’s first media distribution company. İlancılık believed that the establishment of new agencies was crucial for the development of the industry as a whole, and therefore supported them in every possible way.
Perhaps the most important single factor that helped İlancılık achieve its current status was its approach to partnership. Like owners of a work of art, the partners all believed that what was enduring was not individuals but the firm. For this reason, they decided that upon the death of a partner, his 25 per cent share would be redistributed, 15 per cent among the other partners and/or employees whose performance had been exceptional, and 10 per cent to his family for the duration of ten years. This, they believed, would be fair for both the family and the firm. As a result, İlancılık has never suffered from internal conflicts over personal interests. The current general manager, Atılay Bingöl, started out as a copy writer; he is now a full partner thanks to this system of rewarding good performance.
Another medium that the advertising industry entered through İlancılık was radio broadcasting. Advertisements aired between radio programs or between musical pieces created an active form of communication between companies and their customers.
İlancılık went through some difficult periods without, however, suffering fatal injury. When the Democrat Party government of Prime Minister Adnan Menderes first faced political opposition, it decided to control advertisements placed by dissidents as well as the dissident newspapers themselves. Since virtually all advertisements went through İlancılık, the agency was subjected to a long period of severe scrutiny that even the homes of the partners were not spared.
İlancılık continued its activities after the Military takeover of 1960, but there was a great deal of uncertainty throughout the economy. Those newspapers that had been singled out by Menderes as oppositional were precisely the papers that received the largest number of advertisements. As a result, scrutiny continued under martial law, and many advertising agencies suffered severe losses during this period. During that period, İlancılık tried to stay afloat with advertisements for sales of real estate.
The TRT (Radio and Television Corporation of Turkey) was founded in 1964. Besides newspapers, cinema, radio, and the outdoors, a new medium was thus created for advertising, which the agencies were quick to tap, particularly as televisions became widespread around 1972.
At about this time, Yakup Barouh, the son of İzidor Baruh, founded a new advertising research firm with two of his friends from Robert College, Pınar Kılıç and Ahmet Durul: PARS (Pazarlama, Araştırma, Reklam Servisleri, or Marketing, Research, and Advertising Services). The company grew rapidly with support from İlancılık, but when his partners resolved to go into the creative advertising business themselves, Yakup Barouh decided to join İlancılık instead.
During the 1980s, the advertising industry was one of the fastest growing sectors of Turkey’s economy. This growth supported the development of various media such as photography, film production, television, and newspapers.
Since the 1990s, the Internet has been extremely influential in the advertising business, and new digital advertising agencies have emerged dedicated exclusively to on-line advertising. İlancılık created a new subsidiary named Digital Panzehir for this purpose. This enterprise is led by İlker Barouh, the third generation of his family to work in the firm.
The advertising industry is rapidly changing, and İlancılık has managed to keep up with those changes by renewing itself constantly. It continues to produce creative solutions for the marketing communication needs of many domestic and international brands.
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