Newspaper ad prepares for its 50th birthday


The Guardian has an interesting story about one of the most resilient ads of all time: a British newspaper ad that's been running, all but unaltered, since 1960—probably the longest-running ad in newspaper history. Designed to look like an article, the ad promotes an English speaking and writing class at a college in Cheshire. The company behind the class is baffled by the ad's success. "We have produced new adverts that we thought were better," says managing director Ian Travis. "We expected them to do really well, but they've just been awful. When we switch back to this one, the inquiries flood in again. I honestly don't know why it's so successful." A former company executive, Bob Heap, says the ad got lots of exposure early on because of a peculiar arrangement the company had with the newspapers. "When they hadn't sold a front-page ad, they'd ring us and offer it to us at a discount," he says. For many years, the ad has featured the photo shown here—of a man named Derek Derbyshire. He was a 33-year-old amateur actor (and soon-to-be accountant) in 1963, when he posed for the fateful portrait. Derbyshire died at age 70 in 2000, but his image lives on. In his obituary, the Telegraph said Derbyshire was "thought to have graced the front pages of more newspapers than the Queen, Tony Blair or even Posh Spice."

—Posted by Tim Nudd