The Irish Film Institute (IFI) today celebrates Ireland’s advertising heritage with the unveiling of a collection of restored television adverts from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The adverts, the culmination of an 18 month-long project to preserve and digitise Ireland’s TV advertising past, document the fascinating evolution of Irish consumer society and culture over three decades, and are free-to-view worldwide on the IFI Player.
The IFI Irish Film Archive, supported by a grant from the BAI’s Archiving Funding Scheme, has catalogued, digitised, restored and preserved a large collection of 35mm film television advertisements made in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. These commercials were made for broadcast on Irish television by a number of prolific Irish advertising agencies including Wilson Hartnell, Birchall, Hunter, and Arks, for a variety of Irish and international corporations.
The collection, numbering nearly 8,000 rolls of film, had been held in a number of damp warehouses for decades and, as a result of poor storage conditions, had suffered physical deterioration and contracted a mould infestation before it was transferred to the IFI Irish Film Archive in the mid-1990s. The IFI Irish Film Archive team has salvaged this material, through a combination of painstaking processes including frame-by-frame assessment, extensive physical and chemical conservation, followed by scanning and digital restoration. The collection has also been catalogued and preserved according to international best practice, thus safeguarding it for the future and making it widely accessible for the first time.
This project has resulted in the creation of a substantial Irish TV advertising archive of leading brands ranging from Cadbury to Calor, and promotional films for state organisations such as Dublin Corporation, the ESB and CIÉ. It is a rich treasure trove of national memory and cultural artefacts. These films may be only seconds long but, taken together, they provide a unique window into Irish society and consumer habits over the course of three decades. They tell us much about the community they were made for, as well as the era they were made in, reflecting an Ireland of very different social mores, standards, dress sense, and attitudes to gender and race. Fascinating on many levels, they can be enjoyed from a nostalgic, historical, social or cultural perspective. Over 200 adverts are available to view now on the IFI Player at ifiplayer.ie.
This project has been transformative for the IFI Irish Film Archive on many levels. The funding provided by the BAI enabled the IFI to invest in the specialised digital equipment necessary to tackle such an enormous digitisation and conservation project, the first undertaken by the Institute since the publishing of its Digital Preservation and Access Strategy. Through the process of developing the complex preservation and digital workflows required to utilise these new technologies for this project, the IFI Irish Film Archive’s reputation for digital innovation has been cemented.
Ross Keane, IFI Director, commented, “We are delighted to be adding this critically important material to the IFI Irish Film Archive’s online collection. This project has been a huge undertaking for the organisation, and we are particularly pleased to be able to share the results with the public through our our new IFI Player, which provides access to many parts of our vast collection to audiences right around the world, free of charge.”
Michael O’Keeffe, CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), added, ‘The BAI is delighted to be associated with this Irish Film Institute project. The preservation aspects of the project, together with the historical and cultural value of the advertising material, are commendable. It epitomises the aims of the BAI’s Archiving Scheme by contributing to the preservation of Ireland’s broadcasting heritage, and record of Irish culture.’
Commenting on the launch, Group Chief Executive of Wilson Hartnell/Ogilvy Group, J.P. Donnelly said, ‘We are most grateful to the Irish Film Institute for resurrecting some of the iconic advertising of the 1960s. Wilson Hartnell/Ogilvy was at the heart of many of these great ads, which helped build some powerful brands and some great categories that became the backbone of the Irish market. Many of these brands still live on today, and prove what David Ogilvy always said — “unless your brand is built on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”’