A century of posters that turned British heads

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The Independent Online

Posters are one of the most powerful tools in advertising but often they are remembered more for their shocking content than for the product they are supposed to promote.

Posters are one of the most powerful tools in advertising but often they are remembered more for their shocking content than for the product they are supposed to promote.

These pictures have been used to advertise everything from knitwear to holidays, but in some cases the row they provoked led to their withdrawal.

In 1995, Saatchi and Saatchi produced a series of posters for Club 18-30 holidays with slogans such as "Beaver Espana" and "It's not all sex, sex, sex, sex, sex ... there's a bit of sun and sea as well". While it appalled those who needed to have its message explained (some of those over 30) it delighted its target audience. However, it was eventually withdrawn.

It is included in a book produced by Campaign magazine, The 100 Best Posters of the Century. The images include the Conservative Party's 1978 poster purporting to show a winding dole queue under the slogan "Labour isn't working", which it names as the poster of the century. Also featured is the 1986 campaign for the launch of The Independent, which had the slogan "It is. Are you?

Caroline Marshall, deputy editor of Campaign,said all the posters chosen had to be outstandingly original as well as being a successful campaign.

"The Beaver series could be looked at on a number of levels - a child would just have seen bright colours, and adults would have taken it as a joke," she said. "It was withdrawn but not before it had created a huge furore and achieved even more publicity for the client."

One of the earliest posters that resorted to shock tactics was Greenpeace's "It takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat but only one to wear it". It showed a woman dragging a fur coat, which left a trail of blood on the ground.

Ms Marshall said: "This was very shocking at the time but it was also well received and made people think about things in a way they hadn't done before. Very often charities have to use extremely provocative images because they don't have huge budgets and they have to get their message across in a clever way. This poster spurred agencies on to greater levels of provocation."

Benetton's image of a newly born naked baby is also included in the list and is one of a series of shocking posters that the clothing company has produced, including a dying Aids victim and a bird covered in oil.

Oliviero Toscani, the creative director responsible for all Benetton's adverts, once summed up the advertising industry when he was asked what his pictures had to do with selling knitwear. "Nothing at all. All it does is make people look at the posters. Selling jumpers is the company's problem. Not mine."

Additional research by Max Blobel

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