The age of agencies - online essay
Harold F Hutchison retired as London Transport's Publicity Officer in 1966. He was succeeded by Bryce Beaumont, who had written copy for LT posters since before the war.
Beaumont faced staff shortages, spiralling costs and falling customer numbers. The traditional 'soft sell' approach was no longer appropriate; the company needed direct and measurable results. A central marketing department was established and by the 1970s poster advertisements started to be contracted out to agencies.
In 1974, Basil Hooper was appointed LT's Group Marketing Director. He had a predominantly commercial approach to publicity and supported the use of agencies. When Michael Levey took over from Beaumont as Publicity Officer in 1975, pictorial posters commissioned directly from artists were in decline.
Some of the last examples of paintings to be commissioned for posters were Kenwood House, by Robert Flavell Micklewright (1975) and No 1 London, by John Sergeant, (1979). Tom Eckersley, Abram Games and Hans Unger continued to produce high quality graphic designs, but far fewer than they had in the 1960s.
By the 1980s nearly all advertisement work was conducted through agencies. Posters, which were predominantly photographic, only formed a minor part of London Transport’s new marketing strategy. Financial and creative resources were ploughed into T.V advertising, which was perceived to be more modern, glamorous and meaningful. Agencies did produced prominent and effective poster advertisements, such as Geoff Senior’s Fly the Tube for FCB. However, posters born of the age of agencies varied dramatically in quality, artistic merit and consequence.
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