Leading article: Poster art

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The Independent Culture
ANOTHER DAY, another list. The British advertising industry has chosen its 100 best posters of the century, one for each year. They are a worthy, even charming collection, recalling some of the most successful examples of commercial art, from Shell's famous Art Deco designs via enigmatic Silk Cut images to modern vulgarity ("Beaver Espana" for Club 18-30). And, of course, a most successful poster for a newspaper (a clue: "It is. Are You?"). A large proportion were the result of public patronage, such as Kitchener's fearsome "Your Country Needs YOU" recruitment poster from 1914, the skipping fisherman of Skegness ("So Bracing") and the Health Education Council's pregnant man.

The men in red braces have also chosen a poster of the century: the Tories' 1978 poster of a line of unemployed people ("Labour isn't working"). It is a telling choice. Political parties had used imaginative advertising before (a 1910 Labour poster, "Workless", is included), but the Saatchis' work marked the moment when the medium overtook the message, and spin doctors began to dominate politics. As we reflect on the state of our democracy we wonder if the ad men have not, as Nye Bevan warned, finally taken the poetry out of politics.

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