Thursday, April 24, 2014

1930s Modern Publicity

"What gives our dreams their 
daring is that they can be realised" 
— Le Corbusier

The scans below are from two early issues of the commercial art magazine, 'Modern Publicity'. The inaugural 1930 edition was actually the seventh publication in the annual series that had evolved through a number of titles, commencing in 1924 as 'Posters and Publicity'.

'Modern Publicity' was renamed 'World Advertising Review' in 1980 and it appears to have ceased publication in 1991. The images in this post below were scanned from the 1930 and 1933 yearly magazines. (mouse-over images : title tags have 'some' publishing information)

"Ask me to review the last decade and I could fill a book with the story of how a small and distrusted and inexpert industry called advertising rose to the power and position and proud promise it holds today. [..]

Within a few years the advertisements we are producing today will have been forgotten. But the spirit which produced them, the new and adventurous attitude of mind which is growing up around us at this time, will live on. A great revolution is taking place. It is taking place in architecture, in furniture, in painting, in writing, in music, in habits, in thought, and in outlook. 'Humanity has struck its tents, and is once more on the march!'

I believe this revolution is as yet only in its earliest beginnings. I believe that we have not even begun to visualise the transformation it will eventually bring about in every theatre of human activity. [..]

There is a new spirit - in road making, in architecture, in engineering, in advertising. Where it will take us eventually no man can forecast. The picture of the future in my mind is stupendous. We move today in what the mathematicians call geometric progression. Each fresh discovery leads us to make ten others. [..]

Twenty-five years ago man had not flown. Twenty years ago the escalator was but a dream. Ten years ago the speed and smoothness of the six-wheel motor-bus would have seemed incredible. Ten-five-two years ago, the British industry did not possess the vital power to move men's minds which breathes from these advertisements."
Sir William Crawford KBE - 1930

The Arc


Putzt Alles

East Coast by London and North Eastern Railway (LNER)


To Regents Park


Lady butterfly car

Cup Final


"The descriptive epithet of [this] year 1930 must be that of a year of trade depression. On both sides of the Atlantic there have been great upheavals. Unemployment has become a world phenomenon. In prosperous America it has assumed the dimensions of a problem. In England it has reached the two-million mark. [There is a special] acuteness in Germany; and there are signs that even the stable and equable position of France is not likely to escape all the effects of this general slump.

In these gloomy circumstances the message of Advertising to industry is one of hope and adventure. Now is the time to move forward and not back, to show daring rather than caution, to infuse a fresh spirit of energy and experiment into the operations of industry rather than to accept failure and consolidate depression. For advertising is the irrigating stream of distribution, draining the flooded areas and carrying fertility into the desert; and when industrial centres are choked by over-production and on the other hand the consumer is evidently in need of commodities, modern publicity has an important part to play.

'Modern Publicity' - this volume - therefore, is an incitement to fresh efforts. It is an indication of new lines of thought, new avenues of marketing. It shows how four of the keenest brains of today regard the commercial problems of today and tomorrow, and how best they think all the many forms of advertising may be used to cooperate in order to give their maximum assistance in bringing about industrial revival and success."

Dewar's Wonderful Whisky...

Decca for Dancing

Ideal Recipe Book...

East Coast Frolics



Exhibition of Industrial Art...(Manchester, 1930s)

Shell Oil and Petrol

Austin Beed's of Regent St w.


Programme for Bon Marche


"In the general style of American press advertisements of today there is evident a freshness which is very attractive and not a little due to the renewed vigour of their illustrations.

In the same way Europe became enamoured of a very geometrical and abstract form of advertising, from which any sort of realistic appeals was excluded. Spots, squares, blunt arrows, sans serif type - and purely typographical layout - were the order of the day. Admitted that an advertisement must have a backbone; that it must be solidly based on some scheme or foundation of pattern; but this also is a thing that can be, and has been, overdone. The clean look of the typographical page, the mysterious sparkle of its symbolic ornament at fist provoked interest because they were new and strong; but their strength is becoming wearisome and new devices must be found. [..]

During the economic changes [that have gone in the last decade] 'Modern Publicity'has maintained a steady and consistent level of the best in advertising, and in the third year of a great depression we venture to think its standard is as high as ever and in some respects higher than before. The high level of skill and invention which advertising displays is a good omen for the future."
Introduction to 'Modern Publicity' - 1933

  • All the images above were scanned by me from [1] 'Modern Publicity - Commercial Art Annual' 1930, Edited by FA Mercer and W Gaunt. Published by The Studio Limited, 44 Leicester Square, London & [2] 'Modern Publicity - the Annual of Commercial Art and Industry' 1933-1934, Edited by FA Mercer and W Gaunt. Published by The Studio Limited, 44 Leicester Square, London & The Studio Publications Inc. 381 4th Avenue New York.
  • See the Designers Books post on 'Modern Publicity' magazine, in which they display cover image scans from more recent decades.
  • Quad Royal also features scans from 'Modern Publicity': taken from the adverts/posters inside issues from the late 1950s | early 1960s.
  • Thanks Colin R!!
  • This post first appeared on the BibliOdyssey website.
  • A variety of 'Modern Publicity'-related material on Amazon


lotusgreen said...

Thanks, Paul -- Spectacular!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to read such optimism and enthusiasm about something like advertising. It's a field that, today, seems so much more cynical about what consumers want and/or need.

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