Gordon & Gotch (1854) was the first agency in Melbourne of an industry which over time has not only created advertisements but has supported Melbourne's media outlets and helped establish a consumer culture. Most advertising appeared in the press, although outdoor advertising, pamphlets, and gimmicks or stunts also proved popular. Originally selling newspaper space, agents gradually expanded and offered to create and insert advertisements. Hugh Paton's Advertising Service (1904) was the first of such agencies in Melbourne.
The industry's disordered state was exploited, as agents overcharged clients and advertisers made false claims. To gain credibility, moves were made to regulate the industry. An Australian Advertisers' Association was first mooted in 1911. Two years later the Victorian Advertising Club emerged as the nation's first advertising organisation. Following a 1918 advertising convention, other States organised similar bodies. Melbourne hosted conventions in 1921 and 1925, and by 1930 Melbourne agencies viewed Sydney as the nation's premier advertising city.
Advertising expenditure plummeted during the depression, causing an upsurge in false advertising. State Parliament outlawed such advertising in 1932 in the first Act of its type in Australia. Radio advertising also emerged in the 1930s, its popularity growing rapidly from World War II. Working together as the War Effort Publicity Board, agencies in Melbourne and Sydney successfully waged the Commonwealth's propaganda campaign using all sections of the media.
Postwar prosperity and the emergence of television stimulated greater advertising activity and the industry flourished accordingly. Clemenger and Monahan-Dayman-Adams proved particularly successful Melbourne-based agencies. With agencies following clients globally and television stations networking nationally, Melbourne's advertising industry increasingly faced mergers and takeovers from interstate and abroad. While Clemenger joined forces with an American group to become the renowned Clemenger-BBDO agency, Monahan-Dayman-Adams' merger with Sydney's Mojo proved less successful. Like the Paton Advertising Service before it, Monahan-Dayman-Adams did not retain its identity and disappeared entirely.