We sell this city
Date recorded: 14 Dec 2016
[Light upbeat music]
[White text on a black background reads: Stories are powerful things. The text melds into a logo. Text reads: State Library Victoria. What’s your story?]
[A grey-haired man sits in a red padded armchair on a small stage. Three women sit in similar chairs to his left. The grey-haired man holds a microphone and clutches a clipboard, pen and a sheet of paper in his other hand. He wears casual navy blue clothes and Converse-style shoes. Two small tables in front of the group hold a carafe of water and some drinking glasses.]
Richard Watts: Wominjeka.
Welcome in the language of the Kulin Nation, whose traditional lands we're meeting upon today.
I'm born on Dja Dja Wurrung country and live here in Melbourne on Wurundjeri country.
[Text: Richard Watts. Arts writer and broadcaster.]
Richard: I too would like to pay my respects to elders past and present of the Kulin Nation and also to acknowledge and welcome elders of all communities, who are with us today for this conversation, We Sell This City.
So, to my left we have Amanda and then Megan and then Adele, I'm not gonna go through their bios in details, because you've probably already read those on the State Library website and we've only got an hour and 10 minutes or so to talk, so I think rather than run through everybody's bios, and their awards and their skills and specialties, if you need to know a little bit more about those later, as I said, you can find them on the State Library website.
But we're going to talk today, as we know, about advertising and its role in representation and how advertising can sell a city and represent a city's people and indeed the peoples of Australia and abroad as well.
[Text: We sell this city: advertising in Melbourne]
Richard: So I'm going to throw things straight to Amanda, who's going to begin with a brief introduction and a few images.
[Amanda has dark, shoulder-length hair and wears a dark skirt and jacket over a white top. She sits with her legs crossed and holds a microphone and some sheets of paper in her lap.]
Amanda Scardamaglia: Great, thank you, thanks everyone. So I'm just gonna give you a little bit of an overview of the Charles Troedel collection here at the State Library Victoria, which was part of my creative fellowship project, which I began last year and am still working on.
[Text: Amanda Scardamaglia. Senior Lecturer and Deputy Chair, Swinburne Law School.]
Amanda: So for those that don't know, Charles Troedel was a printer and lithographer and founder of the firm, Troedel and Co. and is referred to as essentially the grandfather of Australian lithography and was really influential in creating a lot of early advertising material in Melbourne.
So he was born in Hamburg, but came to Australia in 1860 and he was apprenticed at Shorecroft's Printing establishment, he worked there for a few years and then he set up his own printing firm.
[An image shows an old ornate sign with black and gold lettering. In the centre, a lithograph depicts a woman and some children seated around a globe of the world. They wear toga-type attire and sit in a classical-style garden.]
[Text: Charles Troedel. 43 Collins St. E. Melbourne. Small black text beneath reads: Nearly opposite the Bank of Victoria.
Around the central image more black text reads: Engraver. Lithographer. General Printer. Die Sinker.]
Amanda: So some of you may be familiar with The Melbourne Album, that was his first work, it was a 24-print edition of landscapes of various vantage points across Melbourne and it was considered a success, he printed that over a couple of years, but the real success of his business was the commercial printing enterprise and that started very shortly thereafter.
The business survived for 150 years in the Troedel name, some of them are here today and it was only in the last couple of years, that that business came to an end, but the reason why the business endured for so long and why the Troedel name is so successful was because of this commercial printing and advertising of the business.
The archive that's here at the State Library of Victoria is essentially an archive which maps all of the works, that were produced and came out of the Troedel printing business and it traces all the way back to the 1870s and '80s and those are some of the images that are on display here today and the preservation and the archive is basically, it's the product of one man's meticulous record keeping, Arthur Hewitt and he kept all of the items, that came off the run and those items count to almost 10,000 individual specimens and they're all here in the Troedel Collection thanks to the very kind donation of the Troedel family, so I was lucky enough to have a look at that and hopefully you'll get to have a look at some of that today as well.
The archive is really quite remarkable, Troedel was noted in his time for the quality of his work, so he won a number of international awards at the international exhibitions, he worked and collaborated with a number of really prominent artists at the time, Francis Conye, Nicholas Chevalier and also Arthur Streeton, Arthur Streeton was one of his apprentices, before he went on to work with the Heidelberg School.
The archive for me as a legal historian is really fascinating, because it provides a really interesting snapshot of 19th century Australia, but particularly Melbourne and it speaks to the sorts of cultural norms and social trends of the time, it's also really significant, because it dossiers Australia's very, very earliest advertising and it really provides a history of Australian print advertising and it was critical at the time, because his business and some of these early works and some of the first kind of graphic advertisements and we saw this shift from text-based advertising, classified advertising to really graphical, print advertising and the Troedel Collection really dossiers that.
Now, I was asked today to select a number of items for you to have a look at, some of them are on display, it was a very painful exercise, just trying to select a few items to showcase the beauty of the archive, but this image here is probably maybe one of my favourites.
[An image of an antique, hand-painted advertising poster. An elderly man with a long, white bushy beard and hair rides on the back of an emu. A dust cloud kicks up behind them. He holds his hat high in one hand and a long branch in the other. On his back is a basket full of colourful toys. A red and a blue balloon drift in the air behind it.]
[Bold black text above and below the man reads: Foy and Gibson’s. Xmas Toy Fair and Magic Cave.]
Amanda: So some of you might remember Foy & Gibson, they were one of Australia's, or one of Melbourne's early department stores, but they also manufactured, so they sold lots of different goods, but they also manufactured some goods and their factory was based out in Collingwood, so the buildings are still there at the moment.
So this is an image that was printed by Troedel, we don't know by who, it might have been by Robert Wendel, who was one of his chief collaborators and it was produced in around the 1880s, it's undated, we don't know, but of that particular era, this is quite typical really of the sorts of styles of advertising posters and labels, that are part of the collection and the thing about this image, but also the other images in the collection is it really says something about Melbourne at the time and the way that people and the brands and the businesses in Melbourne saw themselves and also the way that they wanted to present themselves to the world as well.
[Toys spill from the basket. A doll in a red hat and dress, a tambourine and brass kettle. A harlequin wears a crooked grin beside a pocket watch and a small drum.]
Amanda: So this image here, it kind of plays on all of the stereotypes that we have to explain to our overseas friends, it's the hot Australian Christmas in the arid terrain, it's the crazy man on an emu, I think there might be some other animals, there's probably a kangaroo in the background, but it's the hot terrain but it also sort of speaks to the Australian sensibility and sense of humour as well and a lot of these prints are quite humorous and they show that kind of sense of humour as well.
But, also, that the Australians don't take themselves so seriously, but if you look at the quality, I mean, the images here are beautiful, the texture and the tone and the colour and this was really important at the time, because as I said, we see a sort of shift from black and white, textual kind of advertising to these magnificent works of art, so hopefully you'll get to have a look at this, the real hard copy version over on the tables over there and some of the other beautiful items in the collection.
Richard: Megan, over to you as we fast forward through a couple of images.
[Amanda passes her microphone to Megan. Megan has long dark hair with a fringe and she wears a pale green top.]
Megan Atkins: Good afternoon, thank you. In 1986, Frank Firestone donated his collection of intricate embossed showcards to the State Library Victoria. He was an immigrant from Germany and I was fortunate enough in 2015 to undertake a creative fellowship here at the Library as a staff fellowship.
[Text: Megan Atkins. Senior Exhibition Designer.]
Megan: People ask what showcards are, they're used by iconic companies for advertising and promotion from the 1920s till about the 1980s and this collection displays examples at the time of new manufacturing techniques, graphic design and topography.
The Feuerstein Company, W.S. Feuerstein was founded in 1890 in Dresden by Wolf Feuerstein. They were involved in printing and lithographics before World War I. Wolf's son, Leon and grandson, Franz were considered to be the first people to develop the process of embossing in the 1920s.
Becoming a world leader in their field, they exported their showcards internationally and employed over 300 people. Following the rise of the Nazi party, the factory in Dresden was seized. The brothers, Franz and Gerhard escaped to England, but Leon, his wife and daughter, Susie did not survive the war.
The factory and archive was completely destroyed in the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945. After travelling to Australia on the Dunera ship as prisoners of war, Franz and Gerhard were recognised as refugees and spent time at the internment camps in Hay and Tatura.
They eventually settled in Melbourne and in 1943, Franz married Rose. In 1947, upon learning of the death of his father, mother and sister, Franz Wilfred Firestone, Franz Wolfgang Feuerstein changed his name to Franz Wilfred Firestone and with 100 pounds from Rose's family, he bought a modified machine to start his father's business again in Port Melbourne.
Frank's children joined the business and we're fortunate to have Tom and Walter with us today.
This unique collection of over 760 showcards is of significant historical, social and aesthetic significance, because of its provenance, rarity and pristine condition. Three hundred and forty-eight of the cards were produced in Germany before World War II and only survive, because of a sample archive kept by the Australian company's representative in Australia, Henry H. York & Co.
[A large display case holds an array of vintage signs and cards.
A sign above them reads: Firestone. Embossed Showcards.]
Megan: And you can see here samples of existing German designs, that would be sent to Australia, modified to the Australian market and then produced for Australia products, this is quite an interesting one for Akubra.
[An image shows two cards side by side. The left one reads: ‘Ipana Toothpaste’ in gold embossed letters below a red striped box of Ipana Toothpaste. The card next to it depicts a red silhouette of a kneeling woman. She holds the letters P.D. LE GANDUKOR in her arms.]
A second image shows two gold cards with red and black lettering. The top card reads: Mende Radio. The one beneath is identical but reads: Akubra. The Quality Hat.]
Megan: The collection represents over 450 companies including the industries of clothing and textiles, footwear, banking, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics and tobacco. The 250 Australian companies represented chart the narrative, the social narrative of Victoria and advertising trends for over 60 years.
The companies represented occupied many significant Melbourne buildings and images of the factories were caught in iconic photographs by Wolfgang Sievers, of which some are in the State Library Victoria's collection.
[A black and white photograph of a large white building. An aerial photo of a large industrial complex. Gold and black plans read: ‘General Motors Holdens Ltd. Manufacturing and Assembly Plant. Fishermans Bend, Melbourne’.
An image of antique showcards for ‘Kiwi Polishes’. Another reads: ‘Clever Mary’. A black and white photograph shows Kiwi polish tins on a conveyor belt.]
Megan: Designers of showcards also include Sidney Nolan and Gerhard Hurst, who was also a refugee from Dresden.
[Descriptive text: Sidney Nolan. From 1933, at the age of 16, Sidney Nolan began almost six years of work for Fayrefield Hats, producing advertising and display stands with spray paints and dyes.
An old sky-blue display stand has the image of a red plane and the silhouettes of a man holding a top hat on it. Text on it reads: ‘Scott and Black. Fayrefield Hats. Your Hat Sir!’]
Megan: So here you can see the number of Australian companies represented and most of them are instantly recognisable.
[Two images side by side. One reads: ‘Finest Quality Drawing Instruments. W and G. Available here’. A protractor and ruler sit beside the letters.]
[The second reads: ‘Authorised stockist. Sutton Silver Bullet. Twist Drills’. A drill bit slants away from the letters.]
[Nine more advertising cards.]
[Text: ‘Sennitt’s Ice Cream’. ‘McWilliams Wines’. ‘TAA’. ‘ANZ’. ‘Hickory’. ‘Godfrey Hirst’. ‘Penfolds Wines’. ‘Akubra’. ‘Electrolux’.]
[Black and white photographs show men making shoes. Hand-painted advertising cards have shoes on them. Text: Bedgood Shoes.]
[More images of a woman in black swimwear. A blue and turquoise swimsuit alongside advertising paraphernalia. Text: Black Lance.]
Megan: These are Bedgood Shoes and you can see some images of Wolfgang Sievers there, Black Lance Swimwear, again with their factory was in Coburg, Crestknit, Dunlop Beaurepaire, again with some more images from Sievers of the factories, Fayrefield Hats, which was a company that produced all the slouch caps, hats for the diggers in World War I and World War II.
[Text: (Became the Denton Hat Mills/Factory) Fayrefield Hats manufactured the Australian Army slouch hats during the first and second world wards. SLV Collection.]
Megan: Sidney Nolan, when he was 16, worked for the company doing advertising boards. Hilton Hosiery, another well-known name.
[Hand-painted advertising boards of women wearing dresses and nighties. Hands stretch out a long stocking.]
[Text: Hilton. Only Hilton Nylons give you film star glamour. Hilton Knitting Mills.]
[Text: In the late 1920s, a successful hosiery manufacturer, Staley and Staley Ltd, started making ladies hosiery under licence from the Holeproof Hosiery Company in Milwaukee, USA. The company went public in 1929 and opened the first Holeproof mill at Brunswick, Victoria in 1930, becoming the first manufacturer to produce and market Australian-made self-supporting socks. The Australian company is still in business today, owned by Pacific Brands.]
[An advertising sign reads: Holefproof. Jiffies for men. A gold embossed crown sits about the ‘i’ in Jiffies.]
Megan: Holeproof, Lucas, which the factory was based in Ballarat and during. In the war, was it mainly women who were employed there, went from making silk stockings to silk parachutes, and fundraised to build their famous arch in Ballarat, and helped to plant the trees in the Avenue of Honour, when you drive down the main street of Ballarat.
[Two black and white photos depict the ‘Avenue of Honour’ Arch of Victory and a blurry group shot of people standing beneath a flag rippling in the wind.]
[Text: ‘…Honour trees, dedicated to the men of Ballarat who were enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. The first 100 trees were planted on June 3, 1917 and the last 4000 trees on August 16, 1919. When the suggestion was made to plant the trees, the girls enthusiastically took it upon themselves to carry out the project to the very end, raising 4600 pounds for the arch and the avenue through their own ingenuity. The strong-willed and strong-armed women also loaded the truck with bricks needed to complete the Arch of Victory in time for its opening by the Prince of Wales. “Those girls built the arch. They had money taken out of their pay every week,” Miss Leonard said. “They were very good at raising money. They always have been.”’]
[Antique advertising cards read: Sutex, ICI, Vynex. AWA Radiola.]
[Various black and white photographs. Some show people with products and others working in factories and on production lines.]
Megan: Sutex was another major brand. ICI. AWA Radiola. Nestle's. Sennitt's Ice Cream, which was a famous ice cream brand last century.
[Advertising card for Sennitt’s Ice Cream. A black and white photo of a white building. ‘Sennitts Ice Works’ is painted in black near its roof and a man drives a horse and cart sit on the street outside.]
[An image of a ceramic polar bear figurine licking an ice cream.]
[Various advertising cards for Cadbury.]
[In a black and white photograph, men in white coats stand in front of shelves lined with goods. Another shows a squat, square building and a third has a white van with Cadbury stencilled on its side panel in it.]
Megan: We all know this one, Cadbury. This is interesting because this one has cards, which were made both in Germany and then later post-war in Australia.
KIWI Shoe Polish, which a fantastic image, again from Sievers, of the factory. And General Motors Holden.
So, that's the amazing collection that I've become slightly obsessed with.
Richard: Thank you, Megan. Adele?
[Megan hands the microphone to Adele. Adele has short cropped hair and wears a blue jacket over a t-shirt and jeans.]
[Text: Adele Smith. Co-founder, Actual Size.]
Adele: Thank you. Just to give you a brief background about Actual Size, I'm the co-founder and we're a creative agency based in Collingwood. We've got about 20 years’ experience working in events and have a real kind of commitment to working with individuals or organisations that really contribute to the social fabric of Melbourne.
I'm here today to talk about the work we've done with Triple R. Can I get a sense from the audience who knows Triple R?
A few of you, okay. It's true that Triple R is very well-loved, so we've been working with Triple R for ten years now. Half of our business life has been dedicated to working with Triple R.
For those of you who don't know Triple R, it's a Melbourne-based independent radio station. They're about 440,000 listeners each week. They're about 16,000 subscribers that keep the radio station on air.
So, all of those generous individuals that donate each year, basically keep the station running.
With the exception of Breakfasters, which is the kind of drive-time morning programme, it's entirely, all of their programmes are entirely run by volunteers. I'm here to talk to you about the Radiothon campaign that we do annually for Triple R, which is to, I guess, encourage subscribers, either existing or new subscribers, to donate.
There's a very sort of basic message with the campaign. It kind of drills down to Melbourne independent radio and subscribe. There are some, I guess, kind of creative challenges with the campaign. Triple R have been on air for 40 years so, I guess, Triple R means different things to different people.
So depending on when you started listening, it really does kind of mean something quite different to you. As a consequence, Triple R's got an audience base from, I don't know, five to into their 60s, 70s?
I guess the other challenge with Radiothon is independent is something that can be really difficult to sort of visually depict. That creates a kind of challenge with the campaign. I guess the biggest challenge with this campaign is how do you encourage someone to subscribe when they can listen for free?
So, we're intrinsically trying to encourage people to spend money when they don't really need to.
The creative approach, and I am generalising, the Radiothon campaign, there's various examples on the walls. One of the creative approaches that we've done in the past is to really subvert commercial advertising culture.
By way of using, I guess, commercial culture, we're using that as a sort of counterpoint, and really, I guess, emphasising independent by making Triple R different. The other technique that we've utilised is we work with a number of young or early career illustrators or creatives or craftspeople that have skills, perhaps of the past.
I think that the campaign has been really successful of the last few years because it shows a really kind of care and a detail that, I guess, current advertising culture doesn't contain. If you look at advertising at the moment, a lot of it is very fast and sleek, whereas we utilise a lot of hand skills, a lot of care, a lot of detail.
The illustrations are amazingly detailed.
I think that something we've always used as a judge of whether the campaign is successful, it's something in the studio that we call flogability. So, if we see that a poster has been torn down, that's just …
... it's such a nod to how good we think the campaign is. So basically, if you've got a rock poster up on a wall, and it's been torn down, we think that we've done a good campaign. Take some time after the talk and have a look at the campaigns.
We've worked on ten years of Radiothon for Triple R. It's lovely to see that as part of the State Library Collection now.
Richard: Great. Thank you. So, I'm going to throw a quote at all three of you and ask you to respond to it. U.S. advertiser Leo Burnett once said, "The work of an advertising agency is warmly and immediately human. It deals with human needs, wants, dreams and hopes. Its product cannot be turned out on an assembly line." To what extent do the Firestone, Troedel and Triple R advertising campaigns and collections deal and manifest human dreams and hopes, rather than just selling a brand or selling a product?
Amanda: Should we start here, maybe? Well, I think Troedel's collection absolutely is a perfect example of advertising that didn't come out of a production line. The early ads and some of the things that we're showing you here came about in a time before advertising agencies, before focus groups. It's really authentic. They had an art department with a hold of very, very talented artists which, I think, created these really genuine pieces that spoke to consumers, kind of untainted by these other objectives and motivations, perhaps.
[A vintage print ad. A hand-drawn image of a moustachioed man within a decorative yellow border. On either side is a rectangular yellow box and a green bottle with a cork. Both have the man’s image printed on them.]
[Text at the top of the ad in a red and white banner reads, ‘Ralph Potts’. Text below it reads, ‘Well Known Magic Balm, Super Pain Relief, Magic Kidney, Liver Pills, Cure Indigestion. Sold Everywhere’.]
Amanda: Of that particular era, this is why I think the collection is so significant as well…
[A second print ad image. It reads ‘Yorick Bacon and Hams’ in thick red typography. ‘Hams’ is displayed on the backs of four cartoon pigs, two brown and two pink. A man stands near the pigs. He wears a black hat and long, black boots. He carries a bucket.]
[Text: ‘Cured in the English system. The breakfast delicacy’.]
[A whole ham hangs in the top right corner, which reads ‘Special Mild’.]
Amanda: … Because it emerged in a time that these very, very early ads are really quite pure…
[Another ad image. A clown wears a white, traditional costume, complete with clown collar, painted face and red pom poms on sleeves and shoes. The clown holds a sign which reads ‘Australian Moet Non-Alcoholic’. To its left, there is a bottle of yellow-green liquid with a red label. Purple grapes hang from a vine above.]
[Text at the bottom reads: ‘Prepared by Geo.H. Bennett Richmond’]
Amanda: … and they are very, very different to the sorts of things that are being produced today.
[Another ad image of a cream, old-style folding fan. Inside the fan, the image of a large teapot on wheels being pulled by two children is displayed. A third child stands aside and points. White steam billows out of the teapot. The folds of the fan are decorated with text.]
[In bold red characters, ‘TEAS’ is positioned under the lid of the teapot, and ‘NEW SEASON’ is positioned above it.]
Adele: The Triple R Collection…
[Another hand-drawn ad image of a red-brick building within a decorative frame. Horse and carts decorate the street front. Outside the frame on the parchment-coloured background, 10 bronze coloured coins are scattered, five on each side.]
[Text: T.B. Guest & Co. Steam Biscuit Factory. William Street Melbourne.]
Adele: ...I think that we're not specifically selling a product.
[Another ad image. In a decorative circular window, a male figure holding a cricket bat is displayed, standing on green lawn with a building in the background. Behind him is another male figure in white. He wears a red and white striped hat and shirt, with white pants and shin guards.]
[A red banner above him reads: ‘The Cricketer’.]
[A light blue banner below a red circular motif of a cricket bat reads: ‘Cameron Bros & Co’. Virginia’.]
[A kangaroo, emu, possum and cockatoo are positioned in the corners.]
Adele: We really are selling a lifestyle.
[Another ad appears. A drawing of a woman in a vintage maid uniform fills the scene. She wears a navy button up blouse under a white, frilly apron-style pinafore. It has a long skirt, which she holds the corner of up to drape across the image. She is smiling, leaning against a wooden object and holding a small box with a blue label. It reads ‘Lewis & Whitty’s Starch’ in bold red letters.]
Adele: Whilst, I mentioned it is difficult to quantify ‘independent’, we really are creating a sense of community and spirit and I think that part of the success of the campaign is how unifying that is.
I think at its core, there's a desire to distinguish from, you know, contemporary advertising culture.
What the audience sees in the Triple R campaigns is a different path. It's an alternate lifestyle. It's something that, I guess, at its core, maybe a little rebellious.
Megan: I think with the Firestone collection, what's unique about that is the showcards used to sit on store counters. So you'd see billboards and print advertising, and you would encounter these at the point of purchase. They are such beautiful things, the colours, typography in them.
I think as a point of sale purchase, they're such beautiful things that when I saw them, I would immediately want to have that pair of stockings. I think that's the beauty of those, that they provide, they were a beautiful piece of advertising.
Richard: That notion of beauty is something that really interests me because we've heard from each of you that artists have played a part, whether it's young designers and young artists or young makers. There's a beautiful Triple R campaign from a couple of years ago with cardboard cutout models kind of assembled and put together, for example.
So there's that bespoke artistic nature. There's also, as we've heard, kind of the young Streeton as an apprentice of Troedel, a young Sidney Nolan at Firestone.
How important and how significant have those artists been in the development of campaigns?
Adele: I can kick off. I think having worked with Triple R for 10 years, part of keeping that campaign fresh has really been, I think, it's really down to working with artists that see things differently. Because a lot of them have been younger or early career artists or illustrators, there's a nuance that they bring to the campaign.
It's a freshness. It's a different way of seeing things. So, I guess, even though the campaign each year is still selling the same message, we are… we are appearing to transition so Triple R evolves and there's no stagnation. So I think that part of that sort of nubile quality of a young artist or an early career artist is really important.
Amanda: That was very much the approach of Troedel as well. Streeton and Cronje and others cut their teeth with him in the art department. These were new and emerging artists that hadn't yet developed their reputations.
So it’s interesting that it’s sort of come full circle but because they've come with these fresh ideas they are uninhibited and not tainted, for want of a better word. It does create a real fresh new and really distinct kind of catalogue of work.
Megan: I think also with artists that were part of a bigger organisation as well, so graphic design is such a big industry now but back then it was artists and illustrators who won't, it was sort subsumed in the whole role of producing this end thing rather than a designer as we see them nowadays, so I think that's an interesting thing to look at as well.
Richard: It’s also interesting that they're young artists and young designers, who they may bring fresh ideas but they also haven't established their own ideas or perhaps do you think they were perhaps more malleable and more easily adaptable to a particular style, a house style as opposed to being an established artist going no I will do it like this.
Amanda: Possibly that's true. Particularly with some of the early advertising posters in the Troedel collection in the 1880s and 1890s so that was emerging at the time when the French poster movement had developed as well.
And also using chromolithography, so layering colour on to prints. And you'll see that a lot of those posters actually mimic some of these styles in the European artists at the times that might have actually played into that as well.
Megan: I think there's a lovely example over there which you can see. It’s a very distinctly Bauhaus design for a camera in Germany. So I think the art of the time really influenced the style of design and you can track that through the topography as well so I think that's an interesting way to chart the collection.
Richard: And as well-being of the time something else that connects all three of the different collections we're talking about is a sense of place. There's a real sense of whether it’s a contemporary independent Melbourne identity for Triple R for example or the awareness of an emerging Australian identity in the 1800s or the Melbourne that featured in the '30s and '40s for example.
Whether it be the rag trade influence this line or whatever, so talk to us about the sense of place, these collections and these campaigns, typified anybody and how they represent Melbourne. What do they show us about Melbourne that perhaps we would be missing if these collections didn't exist?
Megan: In regard to the Firestone collection, it’s a multi-layered collection. The stories behind the actual object are really part of the importance of the collection I think. Part of my research was to look at the companies represented and then where they existed in Melbourne and how many people they employed. There was one company in Coburg that introduced a nurse for women who were coming to work after the war to help with their children so there was a day-care centre.
Or the factories that were built, very significant buildings around Melbourne, chart that history as well. The stories that these cards don't obviously tell really do chart the social history of Melbourne from about '20s through to the '70s and '80s.
Adele: The Triple R campaigns I feel like because they are contemporary, almost some time will have to pass before we can kind of see how it reflects on the Melbourneness of them. They are very much about urban Melbourne culture which it does have there is a global design aesthetic.
I think that it’s very distinctly Melbourne but I think there is more of a kind of tinge of independent culture, so a sort of subset of life than necessarily the emphasis on Melbourne per se.
Amanda: The Troedel collection I think like your collection there are lots of stories behind each of the individual works and the companies and the brands that are being represented. One interesting element or part of the collection that really spoke to the time was theatre posters.
So Troedel produced a number of theatre posters and Wendell was one of the artists that seem to produce quite a number of those around the 1880s and 1890s. And that was kind of the golden era of theatre in Melbourne. And you really get an insight into the sort of emergence of leisurely pursuits and how people spent their weekends in this kind of European culture that was infiltrating into Melbourne where it’s really becoming something.
They were bringing out international artists and plays from overseas and you can see that story through the theatre posters particularly. And there were lots of, that's just one example but there are lots and lots of stories that you can track through these catalogues which I think, there are stories within stories which makes it so exciting actually, to research.
Richard: If we are thinking of a very distinctly Melbourne identity I mean this poster here over to the audience's right, the Kick it to RRRs kind of...
Adele: That's a WEG illustration.
[Two posters are displayed on a wall. The first shows a landscape artwork with a yellow sky. In bold, postcard-style font, it reads ‘Greeting from Triple R’, and below this, ‘Chase your Destination’. ]
[Text at the bottom reads: ‘Radiothon. 12-21 August 2011’.]
[The second poster shows a cartoon football player in a red and black uniform with ‘RRR’ on his chest. He is holding a radio and pointing to the sky, smiling. It reads ‘Kick it to RRRs’, ‘Support Your Station’ and ‘Subscribe to RRR’. At the bottom it reads ‘RADIOTHON 19-28 AUGUST 05'.]
Adele: Unfortunately, WEG passed away some years ago. So we don't have the beautiful WEG football posters. But yeah, no, I mean, he's institutional, really. It’s so very, very Melbourne, yeah.
Richard: Although it’s from 2005, its still then clearly referencing and echoing decades of history beforehand. So we perhaps don't have to wait too many decades to...
Adele: Yeah I think WEG was very, very established as an illustrator when we worked with him on that illustration. It felt like we were repurposing a very understood visual aesthetic. Yeah I think that there's definitely a kind of like a parochial Melbourne feel in a lot of WEG's work. And I think if you think, he would've been in his late '60s when he illustrated that piece. So where we are talking about a completely different generation of illustrator, than some of the pieces of the back definitely.
Richard: Question for Amanda and Megan, both Troedel and Firestone are successful immigrant stories, which is something that heartens me in an era in which anti-immigrant sentiment seemed to be on the rise but my politics aside, I wondered whether you think that because of the immigrant aspect what that gave them in sense of able to look at Australian culture and society with an outsider's eye. Did they see something in Australia? Did their companies show something in Australia that perhaps Australians may not have seen?
Megan: I definitely think so with the Firestone collection I mentioned the internment camps at Hay and Tatura which were full of musicians and artists and designers mainly from Germany and a lot of them from the Schools of Art in Germany. So I think that was a really big influence not just from this collection but architecture and writing and the arts in general. I think it was a huge influence on Australia and really made Australian design and branding and advertising what it became. It was because of that, yes.
Amanda: I think that the migrants part of the story actually is really interesting as well with the Troedel collection. Troedel trained and was apprenticed in Europe and lithography is a very European invention and yet he came to Australia and carved out a career in Melbourne to do so. I think looking back probably he may never have been able to achieve the kind of success in business that he would have if he was in a very tightly and a highly competitive European environment.
In the colonies particularly I think in Victoria at the time were starting to see consumer culture and consumption. And so there was a real market and a need for the production of this kind of advertising and print material. He was highly trained and skilled in this particular method of printing. And in the colonies as well, there weren't the same kind of legal restrictions around the use of this technology as it was in Europe.
That and also this sort of idea that the colonies were a little bit more free spirited and experimental and you could take risks and experiment a little bit more I think is a really significant kind of aspect to the story. He was a real entrepreneur and possibly would never have been able to as I said, take those risks and branch out in the way that he did here.
Richard: Now, Megan, embossing. It seems to have dropped out of fashion.
Megan: I think it’s because of the expense. If you look at the collection of Firestone the quantities that were produced post war in Australia were huge and then it dropped off in the '80s but the company that took over the Firestone company, Avon Graphics, is still in existence and we were talking before...
Adele: Yeah they're highly reputable in, if you're gonna do any foiling in our industry they would definitely be the go-to.
Megan: There's a guy in the factory at Avon who worked in the time of the Firestones who still does the engraving to create the moulds for the embossing and they've got the embossing machines. There's still one of the original Firestone Heidelberg machines that were imported from Germany that are there.
Richard: Is it still working?
Megan: I think it does. I don't think they use it but I think it still works.
Richard: (LAUGHS). Something that fascinates me about embossing for example and the tactile nature of advertising and it’s something that's perhaps a connecting thread again between all three, not just the tactile nature but the bespoke nature of advertising campaigns which as we've referenced earlier, had dropped out of fashion for quite a while. There was a cold mass produced digital aspect. Talk to us about the bespoke and the handmade and the handcrafted and what kind of resonance does that have?
Adele: Certainly in my career, in my early career you could get a client to agree to a foil or an emboss and it would be expensive but with the advent of digital printing, budgets seem to have completely kind of disappeared in terms of print material and as a result, I think for many, many years the print quality just looked very the same so there was no cherishable quality about print pieces. You wouldn't hold onto them, you wouldn't archive them.
There's things that I still have at home that are from the ‘80s that are so beautifully printed and they're archive quality, but anything that's been printed in the sort of late ‘90s and early noughties is, yeah, it's quite, it's just... Just sort of low quality and really kind of throw-away culture.
But certainly what we're seeing is a real sort of resurgence in those kind of cherishable qualities. So it's a distinction and it's, I mean, you see it a lot in restaurants at the moment. So like, you'll see like a beautiful business card that's got a lovely gold emboss or some sort of embellishment, and it just means that you hold onto it. You may put it in your wallet or you may take it home and put it with all of the other business cards that you quite like the look of.
But I think that, I mean, digital media is also kind of involved with that. So for a long time, a lot of our clients were pushing their campaigns out on websites and digital ad banners, and then all of a sudden everyone's doing it so there's no distinction from one to the next.
So we're seeing this complete kind of turnaround where a piece that's cherishable and maybe has that kind of floggable quality where if you've got a really nice direct mail piece that's well printed and is elegant, you might want to pinch it off your co-worker's desk, or something like that. It catches your attention. And yeah, it's interesting how disposable media or quick media has had an effect, but we're kind of coming back around again.
[Adele stops speaking. There is a pause, and Megan looks to Amanda, smiles and prompts her to speak.]
Amanda: Well I just, to pick up on the point I think, you know, the push towards digital advertising, you can see all of the appeal. You create the same item and you can replicate the same thing quickly and cheaply, but you sort of in that process lose the connection directly between the brands and the consumers as well, and I think if you think about some of the early kind of labels, product labels, and trademarks, and advertising, there's much more of a connection, I think, between the consumer and the brand in that sense.
And there's something really authentic about that, that you can touch in your hand. I mean, as I said, I'm a legal historian. As a legal historian, to be able to actually touch an archive. In a hundred years' time, I'm not quite sure how somebody doing my job will be able to get the same kind of, it doesn't evoke the same kind of feeling or connection with consumers.
Adele: Nah, a lot of, a lot of the digital print stuff is not even colourfast. So after a few weeks, the image is gone. So, it won't last. It won't last a year. So, the sort of archive-ability of it is just not there.
Amanda: And if, just to go back to, I think, (mumbles) but I think it's true of the Firestone collection as well. I mean these works, a lot of the early advertisements, were reproductions of artistic works. They were artwork with some text around it. They were worth preserving.
And there was a real sort of muddling about was this an artistic work, was it advertising, was it a label, what was the difference between all of those. But these sorts of works were considered to be worth preserving, because there was some inherent artistic quality to them which I don't think consumers would feel the same about something that is digital and they see on their Twitter feed.
Richard: Megan, anything to add?
Megan: I think too, the digital, now it's everywhere. It's on our phone, it's on our iPads, it's on the television, where previously it wasn't. You might see a poster or something in the newspaper and then you'd go to the store of the counter and then see this beautiful object. So I think it was less saturated then which made what you did produce even more important, and it had to be beautiful, and it had to be eye-catching, because that was your only chance at the counter for, am I going to choose this one or that one?
Richard: I find it fascinating that we've got essentially three separate evolutions in advertising. We've got the very earliest advertising, when advertising wasn't even really advertising, it was something entirely new. Then we've got kind of that period pre kind of Mad Men, in which advertising has become an actual kind of, an established form, an established business, and it's being used to sell.
It's being used to sell lifestyle as well as product. And now we've kind of, here in the 21st century, when everyone is so suspicious of advertising, and we're also aware of what advertising is and how it tries to sell us, that it's kinda moved off in a different direction as well. For each of you, what do you think are the most successful elements or aspects of the advertising of which you're representing and speaking today?
Adele: Tough question. To be honest, if any of the kind of Triple R listeners feel like we're selling to them, that's when the campaign doesn't work. So I mean, going back to what I said earlier, we're really, if we're selling anything, we're selling a lifestyle or becoming part of a community.
So... I mean, realistically, when our subscriber numbers are up, that's a great campaign for us, but I don't know that we can claim all the glory. There's such a sort of complicated system of why people subscribe. Sometimes economic downturn means more people subscribe to triple R because they fear that they might lose their independent radio station.
So, whilst I might feel like it's a really successful campaign 'cause subscriber numbers are up, there's a lot at play. But yeah, I think I will go back to my previous adage of, if I see a poster torn down, that's a tick for us.
Megan: I would say, with the Firestones, it's the topography, the colour, and the imagery, that are its key beauty, and the 3D nature of what they are.
Richard: And the fact that some of the colour and imagery has not changed since works were made in the, I think there was the Milo kind of brand in there.
Megan: We've got it on display over there, a fantastic Milo, and the green, slight difference, but exactly the same topography and colour, hasn't changed.
Amanda: Much of those early labels, the basic fonts and colour schemes are much the same. So similarly in the (mumbles) archive there's some labels for IXL and some other alcohol and wine products.
Adele: I mean, that's gotta be a huge success when you've realised that what you've designed is actually becoming part of people's psyche. So when you go to the supermarket and the Milo label is exactly the same, it's in much the same spot, and you're really just buying it. It's just like, I need some, and it's really automatic.
So I mean, there's some really famous examples of brands that have changed a little too much, and no one can find the product on the shelf anymore, and it's in the same container, it's just maybe a slightly different colour and those automated choices, I mean, if you can really, if you can develop something like that where your design becomes part of that automatic choice, I think that's an incredible success of design, typography, marketing. Yeah, definitely.
Richard: What makes an iconic campaign, slogan, jingle, image? I mean, at Triple R for example, we have a catchphrase that got reused for Radiothon just recently, the jewel in the junk heap. I even know the jingle, I can still kinda, I'm not going to try and sing it for you now, but it's embedded in my cultural memory because I've been involved with Triple R since '93.
There are other Australian advertising campaigns or slogans, Aeroplane jelly and so many others, that we all know, whether consciously or subconsciously. So again, a question for all three of you, and I might start, Megan, with you, that what makes, what are the elements that make an iconic or successful image, or campaign, or jingle, or...
Megan: I would again go back to the colour and the typography and the production values of what they're doing. I think... With the slides that were up there before, there's so many iconic companies who are still recognisable now, that are represented in this collection, but I think it is to do with that recognition and association with childhood or culture or place. I think that's what makes it most successful.
Amanda: I think that's right. I think it's the colour, it's the imagery, it's the aesthetic that has the appeal, and then the sell comes second. But it's the image that evokes something in somebody's memory. That's the thing that will be memorable and enduring, I think.
Adele: I think for the Radiothon campaign, the successes are really ownership. So, personal ownership from the audience. So if we, say for instance, up the back there's the I Will Subscribe campaign and we, we started seeing a lot of the Triple R audience making and, like, making items that tied into that theme and so if we start seeing the audience posting images that link to that campaign or they're, they've designed a hashtag themselves that ties in, it's all of that add on that it's, we haven't created it but it's got a life of its own.
So if we start seeing the campaign jingle or campaign line reused, that's a great success for us, and you really kind of can't pay for that. You can't anticipate, I mean, sometimes it can be the undoing of a campaign. So if there's, if it goes the wrong way, it just has a life of its own that you can't stop, but... Thankfully the Triple R audience are very generous and generally get on board with the, with the spirit of the campaign.
Richard: Please thank Amanda Scardamaglia, Megan Atkins, and Adele Smith.
[The panel members smile.]
Richard: And I've been Richard Watts, you can catch me on air tomorrow on Triple R from 9:00 till 12:00.
'These images say something about Melbourne at the time – the way that people, brands and businesses saw themselves, and the way they wanted to present themselves to the world as well.'
– Amanda Scardamaglia
About this video
Join design experts as they delve into the Library’s advertising collections to discuss the social history of advertising in Melbourne.
Amanda Scardamaglia discusses the significance of the Library's archive of 19th-century works by 'the grandfather of Australian lithography', Charles Troedel, whose company created much of Melbourne's early advertising material.
Megan Atkins delves into the Library's collection of Firestone embossed showcards to showcase their pioneering manufacturing techniques, as well as their historical, social and aesthetic significance.
Adele Smith speaks about Actual Size's creative work with independent radio station Triple R, now held in the Library's collection.
Speakers discuss how the Firestone, Troedel and Triple R campaigns and collections reflected people's dreams and hopes, as opposed to merely selling products; the role of visionary and emerging artists in creating successful work; the stories about Melbourne that these objects tell us; the migrant dimension of the Troedel and Firestone stories; the recent resurgence of tactile, 'cherishable' advertising compared to disposable (often digital) media; and what enables an advertising design, slogan or jingle to become iconic.
This free event was held at the Library on 14 December 2016, inspired by the ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR exhibition, which includes advertising campaign material from Australia's largest and most successful community radio station.
- MC: Richard Watts is a Melbourne-based arts writer and broadcaster. He currently works as the Deputy Editor of arts industry website ArtsHub, and hosts the weekly program SmartArts on Triple R. The founder of the Emerging Writers’ Festival and a Life Member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Richard has worked for a wide array of arts organisations and currently serves on the boards of La Mama Theatre and the literary journal Going down swinging, and is a member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel.
- Amanda Scardamaglia is a Senior Lecturer and Deputy Chair of the Swinburne Law School. She completed her LLB (Hons) and BA at The University of Melbourne and is admitted to practice as an Australian Legal Practitioner in the Supreme Court of Victoria. She also holds a PhD in Law from The University of Melbourne. Her area of research is intellectual property law with a special focus on empirical and historical studies in trademark law, branding and advertising. Amanda has published in both international and Australian peer-refereed journals and was awarded a State Library Victoria Creative Fellowship in 2015-2016. She is the author of the book Colonial Australian trade mark law: narratives in colonial lawmaking, people, power and place (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2015) and is the editor of the peer-reviewed journal Legal History.
- Megan Atkins is a designer who specialises in interiors, exhibitions and graphics. Megan has worked as a senior exhibition designer and producer at the Library and the National Gallery of Victoria. Her exhibition designs are award-winning and she has lectured in exhibition design at RMIT University. She was awarded a staff fellowship at State Library Victoria in which she undertook research into the Library’s collection of Firestone embossed advertising showcards.
- Adele Smith is co-founder and Account Director of boutique creative agency Actual Size. For over 18 years the Actual Size team has produced marketing campaigns, visual results and economical solutions to help their clients reach their goals. Clients include Melbourne International Comedy Festival, The Wheeler Centre, City of Melbourne, Genovese Coffee and Triple R.