George Reynell, an officer at the London Gazette, set up what is believed to be the first advertising agency in London, United Kingdom, in 1812. This remained a family business until 1993, as Reynell & Son, and is now part of the TMP Worldwide agency (UK and Ireland) trading under the brand TMP Reynell.
Volney B. Palmer opened the first American advertising agency, in Philadelphia in 1850. This agency placed ads produced by its clients in various newspapers
produce "photographs, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes. His ads were the first whose typeface and fonts were distinct from the text of the publication and from that of other advertisements. At that time all newspaper ads were set in agate and only agate. His use of larger distinctive fonts caused a sensation. Later that same year Robert Bonner ran the first full-page ad in a newspaper.
In 1864, William James Carlton began selling advertising space in religious magazines. James Walter Thompson joined this firm in 1868. Thompson rapidly became their best salesman, purchasing the company in 1877 and renaming it the James Walter Thompson Company, which today is the oldest American advertising agency. Realizing that he could sell more space if the company provided the service of developing content for advertisers, Thompson hired writers and artists to form the first known Creative Department in an advertising agency. He is credited as the "father of modern magazine advertising" in the US.
Types of advertising agencies
Ad agencies come in all sizes and include everything from one or two-person shops (which rely mostly on freelance talent to perform most functions), small to medium sized agencies, large independents such as SMART and TAXI, and multi-national, multi-agency conglomerates such as Omnicom Group, WPP Group, Publicis, Interpublic Group of Companies and Havas.
Most full-service agencies work on a combination of fee-based and commission based compensation. The fee is paid by the entity for which the marketing is being done. The commission is a payment from the media to the agency and is usually equal to 15% of the cost of the advertisement. The broadcast media, radio and television, traditionally pay a commission.
Full-service, or media-neutral advertising agencies produce work for many types of media, creating integrated marketing communications, or through-the-line (TTL) advertising. The "line", in this case, is the traditional marker between the media that pay a commission to the agency and the media that do not.
Full-service agencies are also known as traditional advertising agencies for the client, wherein the client satisfies almost all their advertising or promotional needs with the same organization. This type of agency provides advertising services such as strategic planning, creative development, production, media planning, media buying, and other related services such as sales promotionals, direct selling, design, and branding, etc.
 Limited-Service Advertising Agencies
Some advertising agencies limit the amount and kind of service they offer. Such agencies usually offer only one or two of the basic services. For example, although some agencies that specialize in "creative" also offer strategic advertising planning service, their basic interest is in the creation of advertising. Similarly, some "media-buying services" offer media planning service but concentrate on media buying, placement, and billing.
When the advertiser chooses to use limited-service advertising agencies, it must assume some of the advertising planning and coordination activities that are routinely handled by the full-service advertising agency. Thus, the advertiser who uses limited-service agencies usually takes greater responsibility for the strategic planning function, gives greater strategic direction to specialist creative or media agencies, and exercises greater control over the product of these specialized agencies, ensuring that their separate activities are well-ordered and -coordinated.
 Specialist Advertising Agencies
In addition to the full-service, general-line advertising agencies, there are also agencies that specialize in particular kinds of advertising: recruitment, help-wanted, medical, classified, industrial, financial, direct-response, retail, yellow pages, theatrical/entertainment, investment, travel, and so on.
Specialization occurs in such fields for a variety of reasons. Often, as in recruitment advertising, for example, specialized media or media uses are involved that require knowledge and expertise not ordinarily found in a general-line agency. In other cases, such as medical or industrial advertising, the subject is technical and requires that writers and artists have training in order to write meaningful advertising messages about it.
Such specialist advertising agencies are also usually "full-service," in that they offer all the basic advertising agency services in their area of specialization plus other, peripheral advertising services related to their area of specialization.