The Feldwick Factor

Paul Feldwick

With falling income streams, the future of the charitable History of Advertising Trust is in doubt. Who, if anyone, should be funding it?

An advertising agency partner

The History of Advertising Trust (HAT) has recently been in the news. According to its website, HAT's annual running costs are about £250,000, with about half of this covered by its own trading activities. The remainder depends on personal and corporate donations (HAT is a registered charity). But income from both sources has declined recently. Martin Sorrell has spoken in support of HAT and personally donated £10,000. But controversy continues about where a future secure and sustainable stream of income will come from, and unless this can be resolved there seems a real possibility that HAT will not survive.

Would this matter? I feel strongly that it would, and that the demise of HAT would be an irreparable loss to the advertising industry and perhaps to society at large. Yet, the importance of HAT is not obvious. I joined the ad business one year before HAT was founded in 1975; in the following 35 years, during which I am sure I took more interest in advertising history than most people, I knew little of HAT and what it did. I used it once to find some old papers relating to Stephen King, and I enjoyed the now defunct Journal of Advertising History, which it produced sporadically in the early 1980s (now available on www.warc.com). I suspect ad agencies have historically used HAT for one main purpose – as a convenient place to donate their own, unwanted archives. You could say that HAT serves the industry as a kind of lumber room to store all the things agencies (and some advertisers) can't quite bring themselves to throw away. As a result it now holds well over three million pieces of advertising, as well as many other documents. It is, according to Winston Fletcher, the largest advertising archive anywhere.