Jan 8 2012: Thirty-Two Advertising Images from The Festival of Britain Souvenir Programme (1951)

Following the initial selection of drawings, models and photographic images and the 25 maps of the 1951 South Bank Exhibition culled from the official souvenir programme and guide, today brings the first part (of two) that reproduce the colour advertising by British companies of the time that dominate the front and back sections. Sometimes graphically adventurous and progressive, sometimes whimsical and conservative, they seem to show both sides of Britain’s immediate post-war identity in a kind of conflict: even a quick glance at, say, the appeal to Royal connections made by Cow & Gate or the historical associations pitched by Lloyds Bank and Ovaltine beside the more resolutely modernist designs favoured by Crompton or EMI (“the Electronic Heart of Britain”), or the Pop associations of Macleans Peroxide Toothpaste, is to see a variety of strategies for nestling brands into a national story being tried out. Not all are as a clear-cut as they seem: the modernism of EMI slightly blurs the company’s defence interests in favour of its more immediately progressive entertainment and consumer goods dimensions, for example, while there’s clearly much to be done with the image presented by Cussons Imperial Leather even as the product itself – a soap that still seems to be among the UK’s leading brands – remains more or less innocuous.

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