The first ad agencies were essentially space merchants, buying space by the column centimetre in the country’s newspapers. The first ad agency was opened in 1901 by H.M.C. Cowdrey, followed by the US-based Weston Company in 1906 and a horde of local and international contenders. By 1911, these space merchants were numerous enough to follow the US lead and begin to demand commission from media for the advertisements they placed. To protect this new income from space, advertising agencies began to form industry associations. First in Melbourne in 1912, then nationally in 1946, the Australian Association of Advertising Agencies was formed. This became the Advertising Federation of Australia, the key advertising agency body that exists today. Click on this link to find out more: www.afa.org.au
In Australia today, there are about 1,000 advertising agencies, employing more than 10,000 people. Almost 90% of these are small businesses, with less than 20 employees. The top ten advertising agencies are almost all international networks, although many such as George Patterson Bates began as small Australian agencies.