Five decades of celebrating the industry—and holding it to account

Highs, lows and everything in between: Campaign continues to be adland’s faithful companion and record-keeper.

Early Campaign (UK) covers, along with Media covers from the '70s, '80s and '90s, and the first edition of Campaign Asia-Pacific in 2010.
Early Campaign (UK) covers, along with Media covers from the '70s, '80s and '90s, and the first edition of Campaign Asia-Pacific in 2010.
This article is part of a forthcoming special issue celebrating the 50th anniversary of Campaign. We'll be publishing selected articles from the issue over coming weeks. Most of that content, as well as the full issue in hard-copy and emagazine form, will be available only to Campaign Asia-Pacific members. If you're not already a member, you can learn about the benefits of membership and sign up here.

In 1967 a young, ambitious entrepreneur by the name of Michael Heseltine and his brilliant business partner Lindsay Masters bought the printing assets of the British Printing Corporation. In doing so they doubled the size of Haymarket, the company Heseltine had founded in 1958 as Cornmarket. Among the titles for sale was a magazine called World Press News, “a classically awful trade magazine” as Heseltine described it. He had the idea, however, to create a British version of the successful American title, Advertising Age

WPN was rechristened Campaign and launched full tilt into the tumult of 1968 with a remarkable design, pioneering the printing of news on glossy pages in the style of a magazine. The editorial content was barely less radical, celebrating and championing the industry it covered — advertising, marketing, the media, PR—but also quick to criticise and lampoon its failings. 

Maurice Saatchi, fresh from university, worked on Campaign in these early days, though no-one can now say quite what he did. Josephine Hart, later a respected novelist and Mrs Maurice Saatchi, was the telephone sales executive. Just as Campaign launched, so too emerged a new breed of advertising agencies and two years later Maurice Saatchi joined his brother Charles in the creation of Saatchi & Saatchi. 

Soon Campaign had a whole new generation of ambitious and driven ad executives to write about as young independent agencies blazed a trail of entrepreneurial determination to challenge established American names like J. Walter Thompson and McCann Erickson. And the industry quickly came to recognise the value of having a confident, punchy magazine to track its successes, make the work and its creators famous and, yes, call it to account.

Michael Heseltine hails his ‘iconic’ brand at the 50th anniversary bash at Cannes this year.

Other markets worldwide, of course, had similar needs. In Hong Kong in 1973 the Press Foundation of Asia, an organisation committed to journalistic integrity, launched Media magazine as an A4-sized monthly title. Over the next 30 years Media would change ownership four times, once in each decade, facing many of the same struggles and changes that Asian publishers, broadcasters, advertisers and agencies in the magazine were dealing with. 

Ken McKenzie, who took up the publication as editor and publisher in the early 1990s later admitted: “The early days were difficult. No one really believed in Media — neither the industry or, in some cases, the staff. We fired them.”

Despite the ups and downs, the title witnessed the industry grow with the fortunes of television and the rise of the TVC, which by as early as the 1970s was quickly overtaking ad spending on newspapers in Asia’s biggest markets like Japan and Hong Kong. Iconic branding, such as Ian Batey’s iconic ‘Singapore Girl’ for Singapore Airlines, was given new life on screens in people’s homes, paving the way for the rampant commercialism of the ‘me’ generation in the 1980s. 

The success of mass marketing spawned the media independents in the 1990s, challenging the entire structure of the large agencies by separating media from creative and giving agencies a larger analytical and advisory role than in the past. The largest consumer market of the future, meanwhile, was stirring, as China began opening up to brands and rewriting its rules around advertising. 

This was a time when the ad business was settling along truly international lines. More and more entrepreneurial shops sold out to global holding companies such as Omnicom, WPP, Publicis Groupe and Interpublic Group. More marketers sought agency partners to work with them across borders, with the added benefits of consistency of service and approach as well as cost efficiencies that diminished local decision-making and flexibility. Some would argue that this internationalisation had the side effect of stifling creativity, curbing the power of local agencies or marketers to fight for brave ideas and sometimes reducing creativity to a one-size-fits-all blandness.

“When I first went to Asia in 1988, Media was the only source of information on the industry.”
Mike Cooper, global CEO of PHD

The flipside argument was that globalisation quickly exposed the industry to more cultures and nuances and could allow it draw on more local flavours. Perhaps no one was more in need of a regional industry compass than executives arriving in Asia fresh from abroad. PHD global CEO Mike Cooper told Campaign Asia-Pacific (the name was changed from Media in 2010) on its 40th anniversary: “When I first went to Asia in 1988, Media was the only source of information on the industry. You can’t underestimate the role it played in measuring success. What is now Campaign has real heritage and roots that give it credibility and a sense of culture that no one else can lay claim to.” 

Already by the1990s, Media was leveraging its credibility, charging headfirst into the events business, bringing industry rivals together to tackle joint challenges at conferences, forums, seminars and to compete at award shows. Campaign’s Agency of the Year awards, now the benchmark for measuring agency success in Asia, began a quarter of a century ago in 1993 as a Media magazine venture, followed by the PR Awards in 2001.

That year, when relentless globalisation was suddenly challenged by 9/11, nonetheless saw Campaign embrace new opportunities around the world, beginning with Haymarket’s acquisition of Media magazine in Asia. What followed was further expansion into India, China, the Middle East, Turkey and, most recently, Japan and America. Together these local Campaigns now collaborate to truly reflect the global nature of the industry we cover, sharing content and resources to ensure — just like the companies we write about — that we are more than the sum of our parts. We now reach a global audience of 1.5million.

Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, as you’ll see in these pages, Campaign broadened its view beyond the big agencies and the big brands, embracing media, direct marketing, digital advertising, all the while keeping pace with the rapidly expanding remit of the industry.

"The early days were difficult. No one really believed in Media — neither the industry or, in some cases, the staff. We fired them."
Ken McKenzie, editor and publisher of Media in the 1990s

Looking back it’s depressing to note how narrow in some respects this expanding view really remained, how un-diverse the industry and, as a result, the pages of Campaign still were. Hindsight brings it into sharper focus than was apparent at the time, but while the industry was celebrating its growth and success it barely paused to question whether it was sharing the opportunities out. Only now are we recognising the chances the industry missed to promote more brilliant women and recruit exciting talent from different backgrounds.

And, of course, as increasingly-diverse agencies now can no longer be consigned to neat boxes labelled, say, media, creative or digital, so Campaign has expanded well beyond its original remit. Campaign is now a brand for ambitious marketers every bit as it’s a brand for creative crafts people or ad agency chiefs, though creativity in all its forms across all disciplines remains our touchstone. 

And no longer simply a printed magazine, Campaign is now a thriving multi-platform brand around the world, reaching its audiences whenever, wherever and however they want to consume our content, whether that’s through a magazine, a website, a conference or awards night, a social media feed or a podcast.

Like the industry we still sit at the heart of, Campaign cannot and will not sit still. 

Welcome to the next 50 years.

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