Once upon a time, advertising was art. There was a period when creating amazing advertisements for products–such as cigarettes, soap, food, bicycles, and even cultural events—was a fulfilling form of self-expression for artists. The true golden era (one can call it La Belle Époque) shined from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of World War I.
I adore the work that came out of the advertising industry in the 20th century: The atomic fifties, the smooth sixties, the hippie seventies, the weird eighties. But, somehow, the end of the 19th century and its transition into the 20th was radically different. Art Nouveau and the Secessionists, the optimistic and peaceful progression of science—this age, and its ephemeral forms, was very special.
Check out the following examples, and you'll see where I'm coming from.
Andalusia at the time of the Moors exposition, Paris, 1900. Artist: Eugène Samuel Grasset.