Eyes down

The ad industry’s obsession with numbers is misplaced. The work must come first

'A rich man's guide to Bingo' by Anthony Clift Typographica
‘A rich man’s guide to Bingo’ by Anthony Clift, as featured in Typographica 8, December 1963. Photograph: Paul Belford

This month’s opening paragraphs will be conducted in the style of a northern bingo caller.

Down on your knees: FORTY THREE (million pounds — WPP boss Martin Sorrell’s package this year).

Want some more? TEEEER…WENTY FOUR (million dollars — Omnicom boss John Wren’s meagre package this year).

Dirty whore: THIIIIIRTY FOUR (thousand pounds — advertising account manager’s salary).

Duck and dive: TEEEER…WENTY FIVE (thousand pounds — mid-weight art director’s salary).

Little boy blue: TWO (number of months’ notice on an average advertising employment contract).

You want data? There you go. You see, these days it really is all about the numbers. And woe betide anyone who gets in the way of the shareholder’s trough and the CEO’s bonus.

Last month, there was a mass culling of senior creative teams at one famous London ad agency. Including some of the most supremely talented, hard-working people I know. An act of shameful, monumentally stupid short-termism, justified with the claim that the so-called management team had to ‘make the numbers’. I think you’ll find that you have to make the ads as well guys. ’Cos that’s where the ‘numbers’ come from.

The work featured here is from a simpler, more noble time. Before communications holding companies were invented. 1963 to be precise.

It’s a piece of design that was used to illustrate an editorial story in a wonderful UK visual arts journal edited by Herbert Spencer, called Typographica. And the article was about, you guessed it, bingo.

There are many things I love about this. The layout based on a bingo card, the expressive typography, the photography, the writing, the colour combinations, and the timeless quality of a great graphic idea.

What a fantastic mash-up of photo essay, and graphic design.

This was just one pull-out page in the magazine. In the same issue there are equally brilliant pages about the visual craft of William Golden, concrete poetry, the work of German artist Josua Reichert and an article on designer, photographer, film-maker, architect and teacher Paul Schuitema.

If you can track down a copy, I recommend it highly. In fact, every page of each of the 32 issues of Typographica serves as a timely reminder of one important thing. It’s the work that’s important. And if we could just damn well concentrate on that, the numbers really should look after themselves.

Paul Belford is the founder of Paul Belford Ltd. See paulbelford.com, @belford_paul

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