Witty and elitist works

With great care and attention to detail, small space ads can make the most of the medium

Let’s talk about pollution.You see, there’s a very big digital agency going around telling everyone (especially all our clients) that “advertising is pollution”. A pretty sweeping statement if ever I heard one. And a very stupid one.

I suppose there are two possible things going on here. Either a rather nasty, devious, competitive slagging-off of an entire industry.

Or, a kind of embarrassing ignorance. The mad deduction that because most ads are awful then ‘advertising’ must be awful.

Er … what about the yottabytes (I looked it up – it’s a lot) of digital garbage that we all have to wade through every day? I wouldn’t use that to discredit digital.

There are clearly countless examples to disprove our digital evangelists’ crazy assertion. But just to ram home the point, let’s choose pretty much the most difficult, unsexy advertising medium of them all. The small space black and white press ad.

These examples are courtesy of Aberlour whisky and BMP (RIP).

Pollution isn’t really the first word that springs to mind, is it? No, I reckon sublime, funny, clever, beautiful, memorable, effective … are way more appropriate.

So what makes these ads so brilliant? Copywriting, art direction, typography and illustration all executed at the very highest level by some of the best people in the business. In a medium that is usually palmed off onto the nearest intern. A lesson to us all.

These ads are from a campaign of 12 ads which appeared on the crossword page of The Times, one a week for 12 weeks. The tone of the copy is witty and elitist, with all the snobbery attached to drinking a high-end single malt.

The fantastic illustrations are by some of the very best wood engravers and lino artists (Allyson McNeill and Clare Melinsky).

And I particularly love the care and skill applied to the typography. It really elevates these ads.

‘Kick up the Arts’ sends up modern art. So the copy is set in two columns to parody both the ‘crazy paving’ mentioned in the copy and perhaps a fleeting nod to Ben Nicholson’s ‘reliefs’. The oversized bullet full-stop is also a nice detail.

‘Unleaded Whisky’ has obvious illustrative typography in the shape of a glass, both justified (to hold an edge) and centred on the short lines for decorative infill. With one piece of engraved ornament to lock the standard base, which forms the bottom of the glass – a nice, inventive use of the logo.

And ‘Hogshead Revisited’ uses two column book pages, perfectly justified with traditional paragraph ‘blinds’ and an open book ornament to finish.
Great stuff. Really, really wonderful work. Who on earth would think badly of a brand prepared to brighten our days with work like this?

“Pollution” to some idiots perhaps. But I think we all know who’s talking rubbish.

Paul Belford is founder of creative agency Paul Belford Ltd, paulbelford.com. He tweets at @belford_paul


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