The History of Advertising Trust’s archive is set to become the largest of its kind in the world as it prepares to absorb another collection containing millions of ads dating back more than half a century.
The addition of the material accumulated by Ebiquity, the media auditing and analytics firm, will more than double HAT's existing archive to some 10 million items.
As a result, HAT will house not only the most comprehensive array of UK advertising to be found anywhere but will boast an even more extensive archive than the one at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, which, until now, has been recognised as the most extensive in the world.
It took three removal lorries to transport 1,300 boxes from a warehouse in London to HAT’s headquarters in Raveningham, Norfolk. They contain tearsheets, U-matics and slides – all of them catalogued – of ads dating back to the 1960s, as well as an extensive number of European campaigns.
Geoff Russell, HAT’s chairman, who visited the warehouse to assess the collection along with Richard Powell, HAT director, and Alistair Moir, its archive collection manager, was stunned by what they found. "I felt like Howard Carter opening Tutankhamun’s tomb," he said.
HAT staff are currently assessing what the Ebiquity collection contains, a task that could take up to nine months. But Russell said: "So far, we’ve found everything from campaigns promoting floppy disks for computing to early London Underground posters. There’s no doubt the new material will fill lots of gaps in our archive."
The gifting of the collection to HAT follows last year’s sale by Ebiquity of its ad intelligence unit, AdIntel, to Nielsen for £26m, allowing it to concentrate on other faster-growing divisions.
Morag Blazey, Ebiquity’s managing principal, had read about HAT’s acquisition of the Campaign photographic archive in October 2016 and recognised that Ebiquity’s archive would be costly to store – and even to dump. She asked Russell if HAT would like to take it over. Nielsen agreed to cover much of the cost of transporting and collating the archive.
Its arrival marks a significant step for HAT in its strategy of ending an over-dependence on donations by being more proactive in exploiting its resources to create more permanent income streams. One is in satisfying the growing demand from universities for help with research programmes.
But Powell said HAT’s resources were increasingly being tapped by the industry. "Whether it’s for help in providing material for IPA foundation courses or agencies looking for outstanding work that will inspire young creatives, the demands on us are growing," he added.
The addition of the Ebiquity collection will also enable HAT to offer a more comprehensive service to film production companies and TV programme makers and to help major advertisers fill gaps in their own archives.
Meanwhile, HAT will be contacting major visitor attractions such as London’s Science Museum, the National Army Museum in Chelsea and the National Railway Museum in York to draw their attention to its enhanced archive and offer help with themed exhibitions.