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Campaign’s Campaign

Mary Ann Bolger

Concerns about the standard of design education? Anger over Irish companies sending advertising work abroad? Fears about the industry’s professional status? Some things never change.

In an attempt to put the current issue into context, design historian Mary Ann Bolger looks back at the original Campaign.

Campaign, the Journal of the Institute of Creative Advertising (since 1962, the Institute of Creative Advertising and Design, ICAD) ran for eleven issues from October 1959 to June 1963.1 It was largely written, illustrated and designed by ICAD members themselves. It also included contributions from clients and patrons, articles commissioned from experts and items of interest to Irish creatives that had been published or presented elsewhere. The name Campaign was devised by copywriter Bernard Share; PRO and founder member of ICAD, he edited ten of the journal’s issues.2 Ever fond of a pun, Share’s coinage linked advertising campaigns to the proselytising mission of the magazine. It was clear from Share’s first editorial that ICAD were indeed launching a campaign:

The institute believes that advertising – good advertising – is vital to the Irish economy today, both in home and export spheres, and it also believes that only in rare cases are Irish products and services getting the quality of material they deserve. 3

Promoting the value of advertising for the modernising nation and developing better educational facilities were key aims of the Institute, and Campaign was established to foster them. The publication of the journal should be understood in the context of a general anxiety within the industry, both in Ireland and the United Kingdom, about the status of advertising and advertisers.4 Share pointed to this wider professionalisation discourse. ‘Discussion will continue for a long time as to whether or not advertising may truly be termed a profession, but it certainly embodies an elusive blend of science and art which continues to bedevil all serious attempts to make it either one or the other.’5 What distinguished Campaign’s approach was a focus on the role of the ‘creative’ in advertising.6 It was not a particular discipline or set of skills that united the members of ICAD and informed the content of the journal but a commitment to ‘creative thinking.’

In this spirit, Campaign prioritised informed debate and critical analysis. Each issue included detailed, well-informed critique of at least one individual ad campaign, a review of relevant books and exhibitions, and an article critically examining issues related to contemporary design and advertising practice (such as standards in Irish printing, BBC television set design, the role of the Irish language). This was leavened by humorous asides, news, letters and reports from abroad (including articles on Australian radio advertising and Russian book cover design). One popular, if controversial, regular item was the caustic, opinionated and occasionally arcane ‘Our Man With A Spanner’ column. This insider review of current advertising campaigns and related events was anonymous, but Bernard Share remembered it as largely the work of Giles Talbot Kelly, one of the founder members of the institute.

It used to cause a lot of trouble. That was one column we did have problems with. That was Giles. … Tact wasn’t amongst his major attributes. [But] I don’t think as editor I would have dared suggesting that anyone else should [write it].7

A British designer who had begun his career as an architect, Talbot Kelly’s role in the history of Irish design has been overlooked. In 1962 he was nominated by education minister Patrick Hillery as ‘Organising Consultant’ of the proposed School of Design at the National College of Art. It is often forgotten that the Scandinavian Report’s main recommendation was this reorganisation of the NCA, not the establishment of Kilkenny Design Workshops.8 Even before the Scandinavians’ recommendations, education was the central concern of Campaign contributors, each issue having at least one article on the topic. Education was also at the forefront of contemporary British debates about the status of advertising, since ‘the predominance of trained expertise over practical experience formed a key tenet of professional status.’9 Education subjects were generally treated in the form of transcribed debate or dialogue: this had the effect of reflecting the differing views of the membership, rather than offering an illusion of consensus. Although, given the strength of the personalities involved, it may also have been a pragmatic approach …

The first two issues of the journal were part-sponsored by the Arts Council. Talbot Kelly, who had already had some success in sourcing funding from them, asked the Arts Council to indemnify the ICA against possible losses in publishing Campaign and enclosed a copy of the rst issue designed by Cor Klaasen and Jarlath Hayes. The Council minutes record that they were to receive the indemnity but that ‘the Secretary was instructed to inform the Institute that the Council were not satisfied with the lay-out and standard of the magazine.’10 Sensibly, ICAD appears to have ignored this. While an open editorial policy meant there was room for a wide variety of aesthetic viewpoints in Campaign, inevitably preferences did emerge. The taste in typographic design, for example, was in uenced by British designers such as Stanley Morison at Monotype whose approach has been characterised by Jeremy Aynsley as ‘conservative modernism’.11 This favoured modern cuts of classical faces in simple settings informed by scientific research on reading and legibility. Morison was a hero to Jarlath Hayes, founder member and later president of ICAD who designed (with Cor Klaasen) the layout of six Campaign issues. Hayes quotes Morison with approval in a short article about title page layout in Campaign No. 10.12 International modernism, as practiced for example by Signa Design Consultants, came in for criticism on more than one occasion. In Spring 1960, Signa’s exhibition of industrial and graphic design at the Building Centre was described as ‘cold, cerebral, utterly un-commercial, static, monotonous, culled from magazines, arbitrarily conceived, decadent’.13 Neither did their design for the Building Centre’s journal, Forgnán, find favour: a balanced and well-informed article by Jan de Fouw in March 1962 acknowledged the aesthetic appeal of the journal but concluded that slavish adherence to ‘functionalism’ imprisoned the content in a ‘typographical straight-jacket’.14

All but the last Campaign were printed by the Mercury Press, for little or no fee. Inevitably, this meant that it was given less priority than the Press’s paying clients. In October 1962, in the wake of Talbot-Kelly’s nomination as organising consultant of the School of Design, the Institute held a seminar on ‘Design in Ireland’ at the Building Centre which was addressed by the Minister for Education. Bernard Share recalled ‘a mad panic’ before the opening because the latest edition of Campaign (No. 10) was still on the press. ‘Giles had to go down and more or less bribe the printer with cigars … they had to chalk over the copies to dry them. The Mercury! A more inaptly named out t…’15 This edition had a cover by Gerrit van Gelderen showcasing his skills with the repro camera. It announced the recent addition of ‘Design’ to the name of the Institute, which seems to have been primarily a response to the increased national awareness of industrial design occasioned by the Scandinavian Report among other initiatives.16

Campaign’s appearance in 1959 was timely, coming as it did two years after the publication of Vance Packard’s Hidden Persuaders, an in uential condemnation of the use of ethically suspect psychological techniques in American advertising.17 The issue was explicitly discussed in June 1961 by Risteárd Ó Glaisne.18 While pointing out the more routine iniquities of advertising – lies, ‘the sex angle’, inculcation of false needs – he noted that with the arrival of subliminal advertising ‘the possibilities are immense and sinister.’19 Campaign’s suspicion of ‘luxury look’, American influence is best illustrated by a series of mock-adverts (‘Clichés of Advertising’) in Vol. 2, No. 8 (September 1961). (see the Campaign facsimile reprint, p.8.) In keeping with the overall tone of Campaign, the corrective was found in education, both of the advertiser and the consumer. ICAD’s most direct assertion of professional ethics came in the Code of Professional Conduct published as an insert in Vol. 2, No. 5 (December, 1960).

The primary anxiety among British advertisers in the 1950s was the so-called ‘invasion’ of London by American ad agencies, hence ‘immoral’ strategies were presented as a vice exclusively of ‘American methods of advertising.’20 As Sean Nixon has observed, the twin perils of Americanisation and immorality ‘constituted an important spur for the industry to establish its status as a respectable occupation.’21 One response was to assert the national value of advertising: ‘leading industry people made much of the industry’s contribution to economic prosperity, as a way of countering the charges made about advertising’s promotion of false needs and its encouragement of wastefulness.’22 Campaign adopted an identical policy, although the feared ‘invasion’ came from the east, not the west. The second issue’s editorial outlined the challenge of Free Trade: ‘If our tariff walls were to be lowered to permit freer entry of British goods it is by no means impossible that this might come to mean freer entry for British advertising – in its rather-too- familiar, pre-packed, ready-to-read form…’23 Rather than immoral, encroaching British advertising was framed as uncreative.

The same editorial praised a speech made at the Building Centre by a Mr L Milner which emphasised the importance of evolving a national character in design as an aid to Irish exports. Share concluded: ‘It would be ironic if at this stage it was left to a distinguished Briton to teach us practical nationalism.’24 His editorial presented an unequivocal call for such practical nationalism in both the business and the aesthetics of advertising:

There is still, however, an overwhelming amount of West Britonism in the creative thinking of our most enlightened executives. ‘Send to London for the photos, there’s no one here can do them,’ is a cry far too often heard, and pallid imitations of British-style techniques drip like milk-and-water from the bushes of some of our more timorous artists.25

He differentiated between the ‘sentimental’ patriotism of the Protection era and the more pragmatic approach endorsed by Campaign.26 In fact, Campaign was characterised by a vehement rejection of hackneyed symbols of Irish identity. Interviewed by the Sunday Independent in April 1961 the newly appointed PRO, Isolde Farrell, (editor of Campaign No. 10 and co-editor of No. 9), explained that the Institute wished to encourage advertisements ‘that have a distinctive Irish flavour. But no round towers, shamrocks or shillelaghs…’27 Share’s first editorial pointed to a desire for a ‘true’ (read ‘modern’) reflection of national character:

We cannot, unfortunately, declare open season on all Irish manufacturers who emblazon their export packaging with shamrocks and the sun going down over the Paul Henry Country; but we can and are working for the development of a true personality in Irish advertising which is distinctive without being ultra-nationalistic and which owes nothing to the Exile’s tear-and-beer-stained invocation of his Old Mother.28

In the same issue, Cor Klaasen suggested that the way to create ‘an Irish style’ was:

First of all – away with false sentiment! The Swiss don’t yodel and pick edelweiss; the Dutch don’t eat tulips while sailing on their canals; the Italians do more than sell ice-cream and eat spaghetti… and the Irish don’t sing sad ballads near round towers in the middle of fields of shamrock.29

While in 1962 Eamonn Costelloe pointed to the twin pitfalls of kitsch and Anglo/Americanisation:

In the past forty years of our glorious independence won for us by our martyred dead, efforts to produce a native visual art expression have been bedevilled either by the GAA approach – death by ritual strangulation with regurgitated interlacing from the Book of Kells – or by immediate facile one of the forelock-tugging gombeen-man – importing your art, pre-packed and rootless, from abroad: ‘instant’ culture at low cost.30

A belief in the importance of education in developing a truly modern, national character in advertising and design underlies much of the writing. Klaasen concluded his piece with a plea for a new School of Art to produce imaginative designers with ‘a sense of background and tradition upon which to fall back.’ Only then would they have ‘style – an Irish style!’31

The last issue of Campaign was published in June 1963. Ultimately, its demise was a by-product of the increased importance of industrial design to government policy, which led to the transfer of responsibility for design in industry from the Arts Council to the Trade Board, CTT, in 1960. CTT were not disposed to fund ICAD, probably in part because of di erences between the Institute (largely Talbot-Kelly) and CTT over the implementation of the recommendations of the Scandinavian report. Share’s last editorial bitterly criticised

the Government body directly concerned with design [who] have seen fit to withhold their support at a time when it is most needed if the work of the Institute is to continue to contribute towards the advancement of design education and the raising and maintaining of standards.32

Campaign‘s campaign had addressed a number of interlinked concerns: anxiety about loss of national distinctiveness in the face of internationalisation of the industry was linked to a desire to assert the value of advertising to the nation and a spirited defence against the widespread critique of advertising as immoral and disreputable (sometimes also as ‘foreign’).33 Education was understood to be vital to a reputable professional industry and to fostering ‘creative thinking’ among a new generation of professionals. Campaign sought to demonstrate the centrality of such ‘creative thinking’ to good, modern design and advertising, especially in light of the new awareness of design as economic catalyst occasioned by the Scandinavian Report and other initiatives. These concerns and their responses were not unique to Ireland, but the coincidence in the early 1960s of the Lemass government’s modernisation project, state intervention in design, and the establishment of Teilifís Eireann, meant that they were perhaps in more urgent need of discussion here. It seems entirely appropriate that in 2015, when the Irish government was once again sponsoring design initiatives, Campaign should have risen from the ashes to encourage more discussion, and even demonstrate some practical nationalism.

  1. It remained until 2015 the only journal solely concerned with visual communication published in Ireland. 
  2. Interview with Bernard Share, Dublin, March 24, 2009. 
  3. Bernard Share, ‘A Bit off the Map?’ Campaign, Vol. 1, No.1 (October 1959), 1. 
  4. In an article in 2000, Sean Nixon pointed to the British ad industry’s preoccupation from the mid 1950s with the professional status of advertising, noting that by the 1960s ‘advertising remained an aspiring or semi-profession’. Sean Nixon, ‘In Pursuit of the Professional Ideal: advertising and the construction of commercial expertise in Britain 1953 – 64’, in Commercial Cultures: Economics, Practice, Spaces, ed P. Jackson et al., (Oxford & New York: Berg, 2000), 57. 
  5. Share, ‘A Bit off the Map?’ 1. 
  6. This term was gaining increasing currency in the 1950s, reflecting a shift in advertising practice that ultimately originated in the United States. This foregrounded the ‘big idea’ and employed the model of copywriter and visualiser, designer or art director working together. For a fuller, sociological discussion of the formation of a cultural identity for ‘creatives’ in advertising, see Sean Nixon, Advertising Cultures: Gender, Commerce, Creativity, (London: Sage, 2003). See also the special issue of Cultural Studies edited by Sean Nixon and Paul Du Gay, Cultural Studies, Vol. 16, No. 4 (2002). 
  7. Share, interview. 
  8. ‘Design in Ireland: Report of the Scandinavian Group in Ireland, April 1961’, (Dublin, 1962), popularly known as the Scandinavian Report is considered one of the most significant milestones in Irish Design Reform and there is an extensive literature dealing with its impact. See for example Paul Caffrey, ‘Primary Text Commentary’, Journal of Modern Craft, Vol. 2, No. 3 (November 2009). There seems to have been a good deal of friction between CTT’s William H. Walsh, founder of KDW and Talbot Kelly. A flavour of this emerges in Talbot Kelly’s essay on ‘Visual Education – The Next Decade’ in the final Campaign, Vol. 3, No. 11 (June 1963): ‘The Kilkenny project raises serious doubts in the minds of those who think deep and far into the purposes of men, the meanings of material, the ends of culture.’ 
  9. Nixon, ‘In Pursuit of the Professional Ideal,’ 65. 
  10. Minutes, November 17, 1959, file 33719/1958/1, An Chomhairle Ealaíon archive. 
  11. Jeremy Aynsely, 20th Century Graphic Design, (London: Mitchel Beazley, 2001). See also Robin Kinross, Modern Typography: An Essay in Critical History, (London: Hyphen Press, 2004). 
  12. Jarlath Hayes, ‘In the Beginning: the art of the title page’, Campaign, Vol. 3, No.10 (October 1962). 
  13. ‘Our Man With A Spanner’, Campaign, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Spring 1960). Signa were not named in the column but cross reference with an article in the Irish Press, ‘Exhibition of Designs’, February 16, 1960, makes it clear that this is the exhibition in question. 
  14. Jan de Fouw, ‘Forgnán: store for gunpowder’, Campaign, Vol. 3, No. 9 (March 1962). The design and layout of Forgnán was by Peter Wildbur. 
  15. Share, interview. 
  16. Share recalled: ‘Two-dimensional designers were already covered by advertising. The “D” brought in the 3D – industrial design – boys. “Creative advertising” covered copy, design and artwork originally.’ In the Spring 1960 register of members, however, several are already listed as ‘three-dimensional designers’, including furniture and exhibition designer Frank Ryan, as well as the artist and illustrator Eamonn Costelloe. Given the absence of large-scale industrial design, ‘design for industry’ in Ireland largely took the form of graphic design, especially packaging. The first practicing architect to join the institute, Sam Stephenson, then working in interior, exhibition and industrial design, was introduced in Campaign, Vol. 3, No. 10 (September 1962). 
  17. Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders, (Penguin, 1960), originally published in the US in 1957. Packard’s and other similar critiques were ‘registered almost obsessively in the IPA’s Council reports between 1958 and 1964 and it is clear that they constituted an important spur for the industry to establish its status as a respectable occupation.’ Nixon, ‘In Pursuit of the Professional Ideal’, 60. 
  18. Risteárd Ó Glaisne, ‘Morality: Dichter and After, a discussion of Advertising and Society’, Campaign, Vol. 2, No. 7 (June 1961), 11 – 13. 
  19. The psychological dimension was nevertheless fundamental to the new role of ‘creatives’ in advertising. Quoting British copywriter Margaret Havinden writing in 1956, Frank Mort argues that the American- led shift towards psychologically-informed advertising practice, such as the interest in ‘atmosphere … opened the space for an enhanced role for creative artists, especially for copywriters and art directors within commercial processes.’ Frank Mort, ‘The Commercial Domain: advertising and the culture management of demand’, in Commercial Cultures: Economics, Practice, Spaces, ed P. Jackson et al., (Oxford & New York: Berg, 2000), 47. 
  20. Ibid. 
  21. Nixon, ‘In Pursuit of the Professional Ideal’, 60. 
  22. Ibid. 
  23. Bernard Share, ‘1169 and all that’, Campaign, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Winter 1960), 1. 
  24. Ibid. 
  25. Ibid. 
  26. ‘If all this sounds too much like the old “Be Irish – Buy Irish” cry it is because quite simply that is what it is – with the difference that we are now out of the undergrowth of patriotic sentiment for its own sake and taking our first gulps of cold economic air’, ibid. 
  27. The Sunday Independent (April 2, 1961), 15. 
  28. Share, ‘A Bit off the Map?’, 1. 
  29. Cor Klaasen, ‘In Search of a Style: Irish facilities for education in advertising’, Campaign, Vol. 1, No. 1 (October 1959), 6. 
  30. Eamonn Costelloe, ‘Amongst me souvenirs’, Campaign, Vol. 3, No. 9 (March 1962), 3. 
  31. Cor Klaasen, ‘In Search of a Style’, 6. 
  32. He went on to restate ICAD’s commitment to design reform. It was, he wrote, ‘the only body representing all aspects of creative activity in the publicity, design and industrial fields. … Its governing Council includes the man appointed by the Department of Education to organise the new Design School within the National College of Art. It publishes the only journal devoted exclusively to design in all its aspects. It has brought in from abroad important speakers and exhibitions which would otherwise have been unavailable. It has pressed continually for improvements in the education facilities for advertising and design and is proud of the part it has played.’ Bernard Share, Editorial, Campaign, Vol. 3, No. 11 (June 1963). 
  33. See for example Bernadette Whelan, ‘American influences on Irish advertising and consumerism 1900 – 1960: fashioning Irishwomen’, Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2014).