Advertising Trust Archive

Rescue, preservation and education:

The History of Advertising Trust (HAT) Archive

Barry Cox, Chief Executive


The History of Advertising Trust (HAT) Archive is about rescuing material, conserving it and making it available as cheaply as possible to as many people as possible. The material we rescue is the UK's marketing communications heritage – advertising, marketing (in particular retail marketing), media and public relations. The collection starts at 1800 and ends at last month's television commercials, or with whatever was delivered today.


The Archive was founded in 1976 in London by a small group of people who worked in advertising and who felt that the study of advertising should be encouraged and subsidised. We became a registered charity, The History of Advertising Trust, two years later. In London the Archive was housed in a couple of rooms in the same building in Victoria that housed at that time The Advertising Association. Not surprisingly, one of the first archives to be set up was the AA's own, lovingly catalogued by HAT's first archivist Gordon Phillips, formerly a distinguished Librarian at The Times, responsible also for its archive.

The need for HAT Archive was apparent to the founding group, because they discovered quickly that there was not a great deal to be studied. To rectify that situation, there was a real need for advertising agencies and others to be persuaded of the worth of depositing their material in a central source rather than throwing it away. The culture within agencies demanded, as to some extent it still does, that their previous work had little relevance and was therefore valueless. Only today's and tomorrow's work still to come was important. Therefore, when an account was lost the material was often binned. When a new creative director arrived, he had little interest in the work of his predecessor which was thrown out. When an office manager wanted car parking space, he raided the basement where the agency kept its published material and when an agency moved - material went into the skip!


One agency's move some years ago led to one of HAT's more celebrated rescues. The agency decided to throw out 40 years of its print archive including all BOAC/British Airways’ press advertising from 1948 to the arrival of Concorde in the 1980s. It was dissuaded thanks to an employee who complained and tipped off HAT. We then had 24 hours to save over 400 guard books without any financial help. It is a remarkable portfolio of consumer advertising from the 1940s onwards and of very considerable historical value. The British Airways material records the huge expansions of passenger flights following World War II. In due course, when the agency wished to celebrate an anniversary, they had to come to HAT who provided examples of the campaigns they were proud of but had not thought worth keeping.


HAT is an independent archive. That is, it is nothing to do with public record offices and is not supported by a local authority except through the rating relief accorded to all charities. We have no funding from a University (though we do have close links with University of East Anglia at Norwich) and receive no government funding. We are entitled, as are all charities, to apply for Heritage Lottery Funding for specific projects rather than core funding. We like our independence, and pride ourselves on being fast moving and pro-active, non bureaucratic and on depending as little as possible on donations. We raise some 60% to 70% of our outgoings by archiving and researching for clients, by providing copies of material and images, and through our publications. We receive and seek donations from private trusts, organisations, companies and individuals and through legacies.


HAT Archive left London ( Butlers Wharf) for Norfolk in 1990 because London rents prohibited expansion. Now we are based in largely custom built premises in a Victorian farm yard. The Archive occupies some 6,000 fs and continues growing fast. At Butlers Wharf we had 600 fs. Our present space costs us only £3,500 more than those London premises did 15 years ago. We also have a small financial reserve, whereas then we had nothing.


HAT Archive is used to rapid growth which brings logistical and financial problems. We have taken in, for example, a record amount of material without any financial backing. It included the marketing archive of C&A, which closed its 120 UK shops at the end of the year. This covers 75 years, from 1924 to the end of the century. We also saved the archive of Sturmey Archer when it ceased trading and, with the assistance of its controlling company NMEC and its advertising agency, formed a collection of The Dome's marketing. This means we have a useful research tool for when, say in 45 years time, there are thoughts about a successor. Probably nearly all the above material would have been eliminated. 2000 was a record year for admissions and included a number of smaller but interesting collections, important for future research.


At present we see no halt to this level of growth. That is why the completion of our extension in January will allow us to expand our client archive store to double its existing space. Archives must always have spare space, simply because we can never envisage what is coming through the door. Our main existing premises at Raveningham were built for us in 1996 and we then envisaged them lasting for 10 years without expansion. In fact, they lasted less than four years.


The material HAT keeps falls broadly into four sections which are set out in our website in the section called Archive Collections. These are:

  • Corporate archives , either of organisations or companies, containing business records, minutes, policy decisions, correspondence with clients etc., and, if relevant, examples of their product, staff regulations, historic photographs of work processes and, of course, advertising. It also includes collections of marketing communications material that may be held under the name of a brand or be the product of an advertising agency.
  • Specialist archives , for example self-regulation material from early in the C20th. onwards; on women and their relationship with advertisers (a subject on which we have produced a most successful travelling exhibition); an archive detailing the use of people of ethnic origins in advertising. This Specialist category also contains certain collections, for example our Victorian and Edwardian advertising.
  • Advertising product , which may be press or poster advertising, artwork, proofs, chromalins, photography etc., or material concerning cinema, radio and television commercials. Every new UK television commercial comes into HAT Archive, normally within a month of its first appearance. This section also contains collections of advertising from single advertising agencies (for example, all of Ogilvy & Mather's print advertising from 1900 to the present day) or from advertisers (e.g. SmithKline Beecham's advertising from 1900 to the early 1960s, fascinating because of the claims that were allowed before the introduction of new protective legislation in the 1960s which heralded the arrival of the Advertising Standards Authority.
  • Finally our Library, currently containing some 4,000 books and many thousands of journals and consumer magazines.


HAT Archive is the national collection in its field and now the largest archive of UK advertising, marketing and media in the world. As we have built up this collection over the years we have also acquired considerable knowledge. This becomes valuable for example, when guiding students or advising an advertising agency considering a pitch for a new client. We currently employ the equivalent of three full-time staff and have about 8 volunteers, who each give a day or more a week. Without volunteers, many of whom stay with HAT for a long time and become as useful and knowledgeable as staff, we could not exist.


Archiving is labour intensive and meticulous, which means that it is costly. At the same time we have to offer our services to 'non profit' areas either free or very nearly free. Therefore our commercial clients are essential to us. We can take an advertising agency's back material, which has been bundled into a basement over many years and turn it into a well-kept archive. For the agency to do this would be too expensive and time consuming. But they can afford to pay us to take a year over it because we are relatively inexpensive. They find that although we are outsiders, given our knowledge we know what should be kept. If an agency attempts the job itself, it either goes to older staff who find the sheer physical activity hard and therefore cut corners, or to the very young and inexperienced who have no knowledge beyond the last three to five years and are quickly bored. This makes HAT the perfect solution. The services we offer are unique.


HAT Archive is a People's Archive. If this sounds corny it is true. We welcome all here provided they make an appointment. As the population ages, more of our clients are retired people researching private projects as opposed to academics. However, students of all ages come here from all over the world to study media, gender and other course related subjects for their college and university projects. The website, which we set up in July 1998 and which has since expanded brings in many new clients from both the UK and abroad. We are now actively looking at a way of re-cataloguing our material and offering it with low-resolution images from our website. We wish to do anything we can to encourage access, hence our devotion to travelling exhibitions, of which we always have one or two on the road. These include The Image of Women in Advertising, from Victorian Times to Today, which tells how advertisers have regarded women from a period when they had no vote, were not allowed to own a business or have a bank account to today when as a body, women in the UK are about to earn more than men as a body; Gilroy is good for you, about the work of one of the UK's finest C20th. illustrators who worked for over 50 advertising accounts, notably Guinness, but was also a fine and fashionable portrait painter of the 1950s/60s, which itself has spawned a number of smaller exhibitions; Ephesus to e-commerce:2010 Years of Advertising, which tells how advertising has made use of new technologies from Greek and Roman times to the age of the internet and interactive advertising.


All our exhibitions are free to the visitor; contain a significant amount of material from HAT Archive, and are enjoyable as well as educational. They travel, for the most part, to museums, art galleries and colleges. We call this policy our 'Museum without Walls'. We also see a time approaching when we may be available on-line via the local public library, though this still has difficulties to be overcome, for example issues of revenue through sponsorship and copyright problems.

The History of Advertising Trust Archive, 12 Raveningham Centre, Raveningham, Norwich NR14 6NH.

T: 01508 548623, F: 01508 548478, E-mail:
(Although in the Norwich postal district, we are some 16 miles south of Norwich, between Loddon, Norfolk and Beccles, Suffolk).