Classic adverts from the 60s, 70s and 80s and how a Leeds college helped shape them

THE HEYDAY of advertising was famously captured for a modern audience with the hit American television drama Mad Men depicting life on Madison Avenue in the 1960s.
Curator Janine Sykes viewing the exhibits. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.Curator Janine Sykes viewing the exhibits. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Curator Janine Sykes viewing the exhibits. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

But the industry has a greater success story to tell from much closer to home which is now the subject of an exhibition on display at the Yorkshire college where it all began.

It features some of the most famous print and television adverts of the 1960s, 70s and 80s for brands such as Clarks, Fiat, Olympus, Vogue, and Benson & Hedges and Cinzano.

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These were the work of one of the most successful advertising agencies in the world: Collett Dickenson Pearce (CDP). The bew exhibition celebrates the fact that two of its leading lights were launched into their careers by Leeds College of Art.

Hull born Colin Millward, attended the college after leaving the RAF following World War II. He went on to be the first creative director of CDP. Millward led a team which included talents who would go on to be leading names in both advertising and film, including Sir Ridley Scott, Lord Puttnam and Sir Alan Parker and Charles Saatchi. Their work including adverts for Hovis and Benson & Hedges not only defined advertising at the time but became an important part of British culture.

Another of the key figures within CDP was its art director Ron Collins, who like Millward was a former student of Leeds College of Art. His work included the famous Cinzano adverts featuring Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. Both Millward and Collins have passed away.

But now their story is to reach a new generation.

The exhibition has been curated by the college’s creative advertising lecturer Janine Sykes.

Felicity Millward, wife of Colin Millward, next to one of his paintings. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.Felicity Millward, wife of Colin Millward, next to one of his paintings. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Felicity Millward, wife of Colin Millward, next to one of his paintings. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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Part of it includes a room made to look like her childhood home in Dewsbury to show how advertising was consumed by people at the time. She said; “This was the heyday of the advertising industry. The advent of the colour supplement in newspapers and magazines allowed creativity to be used in advertising in a way it had never been done before and these supplements were ubiquitous in people’s homes. It was also the new medium. It was the social media of its day. Nowadays advertising is so fragmented and people can choose what they watch, they can skip through adverts and everybody watches it at different times but back then it was a communal experience. There was only one commercial television channel and everyone experienced these adverts at the same time. One of the first people to see the exhibition yesterday was Colin Millward’s widow Felicity. She said that her husband brought a sense of humour to advertising. The adverts were creative, they were often clever and they made people think in order to get their message across. I think then and there advertising was the place to work for leading creative talents.”

Among the adverts on display is a picture of a wolf with a sheeps’ clothing to promote a Fiat 123 car and another showing fierce Labour Party rivals Tony Benn and Denis Healey taking pictures of each other under the headline ‘They obviously felt like shooting each other’ to promote the latest Olympus camera.

The Outside Collett Dickenson and Pearce exhibition is on display at Leeds College of Art in Blenheim Walk from today until Monday July 13.

Lecturer Janine Sykes said she hoped it would not only attract interest from visitors but also inspired the students currently learning about advertising.

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She said: “The industry has changed a great deal since a lot of these adverts were made but a lot of the skills people need in order to be successful are the same and I do hope our students will look at what these two former students went on to achieve and be inspired by it .”

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