Notes on HAT's origin

In 1974, Brian Smith, then of the Everetts advertising agency, suggested to his managing director, Charles Plouviez, that it would be a good idea to create an exhibition on the history of advertising in order to reflect the advertising and marketing industry as an integral contributor to a growth economy.

Finding the cash for such a venture was not easy and Smith and others spent the next few years lobbying for financial support to try to get the concept off the ground. The final incentive came in the form of the Advertising Association’s Golden Jubilee – timed for July 1976 – which, it was felt, would provide a perfect platform from which to launch the HAT event.

As a result, a committee was duly formed – first meeting under Smith’s chairmanship in December 1975 and comprising among others - Ron Miller of London Weekend Television, Peter Bear of McCanns, Charles Plouviez of Everetts, David Dunbar and John Cunningham of JWT and Archie Pitcher of Ogilvy’s.

Meetings thereafter followed on a regular basis and major exhibition plans were drawn up, including discussions with Roy Strong and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Funds for the activity were short and in order to help in the raising of cash, it was suggested in March 1976 that the organisation should form a Trust and seek charitable status. This duly took place over the following months – with HAT achieving recognition as a charity two years later.

By now, the proposed date of the exhibition had slipped back to 1977 or 1978 – but something more significant as regards HAT - the archive - was beginning to emerge.  

In May 1976 a paper was submitted to the HAT Committee on the necessity of establishing a national archive and study centre for advertising - and a few months later, the Secretary’s Report, appended to the August Minutes, stated that “Mr. Gordon Phillips (archivist at the Times) has offered to act provisionally as archivist to the Trust.  He has offered space (a dozen filing cabinets and a table) at the Times for any material we may require”. It was also noted that “….some material, thrown out by the Times, is already stored by Mr. Phillips as part of the Trust’s archives and he is adding to it as other dark corners are cleared”.

By 1979, material was being donated from across the market, with HAT moving in initially with the Advertising Association at Abford House and two years later taking up residence at Butler’s Wharf.  In January 1987, Michael Cudlipp took over as HAT’s first CEO (Director) and in 1990, after a prevailing economic recession had killed off hopes of establishing a permanent home in Docklands, Cudlipp moved the offices from London to its current site at Raveningham in Norfolk.

A unique advertising collection had begun – growing to what is now HAT’s 8,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility at Raveningham, with its priceless collection of over 10 million items, including 500,000 television commercials.

HAT’s foundation owed an enormous amount to a wide range of individuals, with a special debt to then industry grandees, Brian Smith, David Dunbar and Archie Pitcher.

Its early years saw their ups and downs – but they have witnessed the birth and growing to maturity of a unique and truly priceless facility of immense value - not just to the advertising industry - but to the nation as a whole.