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The John E. Brennan Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports document the professional endeavors of outdoor advertising design researcher John E. (Jack) Brennan for the time period 1947 to 1980. His work primarily consisted of conducting market surveys on the effectiveness of billboard advertisement design and layout, and reporting his findings to subscribers to advance design efficiency for the industry. About 786 surveys cover 15,720 different advertisement designs posted on signs in major markets around the US. Forty-two different cities were covered in 27 states. His survey interviewers questioned participants on how well they remembered advertisements and product brand names. Brennan then analyzed the survey data to produce practical information for advertisers and advertising companies on improving advertisement copy, thereby increasing advertising efficiency and profits. His emphasis was on outdoor advertisement design and copy, not traffic or other outdoor industry factors. The collection is comprised mainly of paper files, most containing color photographs attached to the paper data reports or sleeved along side them. Other significant items include the Copy Clues reports which capitalize on the data Brennan compiled, suggesting outdoor advertisement (also known as poster) design improvements. Other supporting materials within the collection include survey methodology information, related writings, summary data files, and business correspondence. Even without the context of Brennan's survey forms and data, the collection is a sizable photo library of mid-20th century commercial art created for outdoor advertising. Additional description of the individual series presented below may be found within the container list.

The collection begins with a small amount of Business Correspondence related to the surveys completed by Brennan's company Poster Appraisal Service (also General Media and Copy Research Co., and Outdoor Advertising Research Institute). Information documenting how Brennan conducted surveys makes up the next series called Methodology Files, which includes some interview forms and instructions. These are followed by the Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports themselves, which form the bulk of the collection. An individual survey was normally conducted in one city using about 20 different advertising designs. Each report is a compilation of data for one billboard advertisement, including a breakdown of statistics by male and female participants, and usually including color snapshot photographs of each design. Researchers of the collection can see the photos used in survey interviews, noticing how brand names were hidden and revealed as participants were questioned as to whether they remembered the entire advertisement and/or the brand name advertised. Design efficiency for individual cities may be studied since surveys are arranged by geographic location. Data may also be studied over time since ads are arranged chronologically within each location grouping. Certain ads were also compiled and survey data studied according to product type. For example, researchers may see how effective certain candy bar advertisements were across the country. Brennan encouraged subscribers to his service to look at reports themselves and come to their own conclusions about how to improve billboard advertisement design.

The Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports Series is also documentation of the more than 15,000 pieces of creative work produced by many different advertising agencies and their advertisers including D'Arcy Advertising; Foote, Cone, and Belding; J. Walter Thompson; McCann-Erickson; and Young and Rubicam. The photographed billboards were operated by many outdoor advertising companies including Central, Foster and Kleiser, Houston Poster, Middleton, Packer, and United. In addition to the photos with the survey reports, there are also several files of loose photographs, including pictures of billboards that were likely produced in preparation for surveys. A sampling of the product brands featured in the advertisements includes Admiral appliances, Amoco gasoline, Ballantine Beer, Budweiser Beer, Chevrolet automobiles, Coca-Cola soda, Conoco gasoline, Dr. Pepper soda, Edsel automobiles, Folger's coffee, Ford automobiles, Fritos snacks, Jax Beer, Libby's canned goods, Mobil gas and oil, Mrs. Baird's Bread, Nash automobiles, Northern Tissue, NuGrape soda, Pabst Beer, Schlitz Beer, Sealy mattresses, Shell gasoline, Stratolounger, and Sunshine food products.

The Summary Data Files contain much of the same condensed survey information on advertisement remembrance and product identification found at the front of each survey's folder. The folders in this series contain compiled data sheets of specific data types (remembrance, or identification, etc.) for all (or many) of the surveys conducted in one city. In addition to survey data, there are other documents such as a design master record that presents information in a summary form.

Copy Clues are the monthly reports sent to Brennan's subscribers that interpret survey data, and place it in usable form. This series reflects conclusions drawn from the survey data to communicate specific information on various advertisement attributes. For instance, if multiple designs with dark backgrounds had low remembrance scores, and designs with white backgrounds scored high, Brennan might have brought to his subscriber's attention that white backgrounds make more effective advertising. Did more people remember a product brand if the product was depicted along with a child or without one? Subscribers could receive Copy Clues to answer such questions as well as to receive the survey reports. The final series, Other Surveys and Outdoor Advertising-Related Materials, contains other organizations' surveys, writings, and further information related to outdoor advertising that does not necessarily fit into the previous groupings.

Related collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library include a number of other outdoor advertising collections, such as the Outdoor Advertising Slide Library, the John Paver Papers, the John Browning Papers, the Duplex Advertising Co. Records, the H.E. Fisk Collection of War Effort Mobilization Campaigns, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Records, the Outdoor Advertising Poster Design Collection, the Garrett Orr Papers, the R.C. Maxwell Company Records, the Howard Scott Papers, and the Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements.


Collection includes correspondence, reports, scripts, tear sheets and other printed materials; drawings, sketches, cartoons, paintings, storyboards and packaging designs; and audiovisual materials (phonograph records, videocassettes, audio tapes). Companies represented include Burger King, Champion, Eaton, Faygo, Foote Cone & Belding, Ford, Hawaii Express, Kawasaki, Liggett & Myers, Mazda, Monroe, Oscar Mayer, Parker Pen, Playboy, and Seven-Up. Acquired as part of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History.


The Outdoor Advertising Association of America Slide Library spans the years 1891 through the 2000s, with the bulk of the collection originating in the 1950s and later. The collection documents over a hundred years of outdoor advertising primarily in the United States, plus some international campaigns from several other continents. The Slide Library is a large collection, almost entirely comprised of slides of billboards, exhibiting a grand range of graphic artistry, advertising campaigns, and marketing strategies. A smaller group of images supports the ad collection with views of artwork, billboard construction and other related images. In addition to over 62,000 slides, there are a few early glass slides, as well as transparencies, a small number of paper files, and six audiocassettes accompanying slide presentations. Many images were submitted by outdoor advertising companies over a number of years to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) as entries in annual national competitions to determine the best poster designs. The OAAA currently sponsors the OBIE Awards, which were preceded by awards programs under various names and sponsorships starting in the early 1930s. The award is modeled after the ancient Egyptian obelisk, considered by many the earliest form of outdoor advertising. Indeed much of the collection can be seen as evidence of this awards program although only the Award Nominees Series contains slides labeled as such. Other slides probably were transferred to OAAA when companies cleaned out their back files, though the precise sources of many items are unknown. The slides were maintained at OAAA primarily as a large supply of creative examples for member companies. Researchers interested in the following subjects may find the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Slide Library especially helpful: the outdoor advertising medium itself, advertising awards, advertising design, billboard construction, and commercial art, as well as the many outdoor advertising companies, advertisers, and advertising campaigns represented.

The images, designed to attract mass audiences, depict part of American society's history - a history of consumer attitudes and desires. The collection is therefore a valuable tool in formulating not only a pictorial development of the outdoor advertising industry but of societal norms and opinions. The ads speak to the creativity of artists and designers, but they also convey a rich story of how these creators saw society at large, especially in the United States. Perhaps more importantly, ads reveal how corporations and designers felt America wanted to see itself. Such visual richness underlies the primary goals of selling goods and services and promoting ideas for the public good. There are thousands of product advertisements but also many public service ads, political issue ads, and even Happy Birthday greetings in the collection. Billboards are one direct link from corporate America, various interest groups, and their advertising specialists to consumers; and a succinct one-sided conversation designed to spur them to action.

In contrast to other types of advertising, outdoor ads were designed with the fast-moving traveler in mind. The collection documents well the evolution of the billboard's attempt to reach those on the move, especially drivers. With careful thought to what would quickly provoke interest, advertisers presented a huge range of thought from text-free images of abstract artwork to direct discourse (e.g. Vote for Nixon). Because posters were displayed for only limited time periods, and because their physical size makes them impractical to store, photography is the primary method of capturing billboard images. Most billboard photos - whether print or slide - were created to document the work of the company which posted them for their business use.

Within the Slide Library, the creative output of many outdoor advertising companies is documented, although particular creators of many of the ads are unknown. Foster and Kleiser is well represented in the collection. Other companies named in the collection include Naegele, Pacific, Turner, Eller, Donnelly, Columbus, General Outdoor, Patrick, Gannett, Lamar, United, and many others. Thousands of national campaigns are represented, but many local ads are present as well. Outdoor formats range from 19th century posters to "multi-vision" boards that automatically change views with the use of three-sided boards. Most images are of actual billboards, posters, and other outdoor advertising formats in the field, while a sizable portion are just images of the ad design itself with a plain background. There are some slides of stock posters ("Your brand name here") and other forms of outdoor advertising such as bus cards, street furniture, and truck side advertising. The vast majority of the advertisements are in English.

The first three series make up the bulk of the collection: the Award Nominees Series, the Chronological Series, and the Topical Series (by far the largest of the three). These series are made up almost completely of slides showing advertisements, usually in billboard format. All series are described further within the container list. The only other series with a sizable number of advertisements is the International Posters Series. This is where the largest concentration of international ads is found, although there are a few scattered within the other main series. Ads may also be found scattered throughout the Presentations and Presentation Slides Series.

Several additional small series contain images of related content, providing support and context to the advertisements. These include the Construction and Creation Series, the Artwork Series, the Street Scenes and Approaches Series, and the Other Outdoor Advertising Related Images Series. The Presentations and Presentation Slides Series adds insight by showing some of the internal conversation between directors and trainees, advertisers and advertising creators, and more.

The most direct route to locate any identified ad is through the Resource for Outdoor Advertising Description (ROAD) database, available in early 2003. Information about most slides in the collection has been added to this database. Researchers will be able to search for specific attributes of ads such as brand or company name, product type, and headline, as well as other types of information including slide number, date, collection name, image type, image color, outdoor advertising type, and special notes. Many database records also contain a searchable field with the outdoor advertising company's name (posting company), a field indicating if the billboard is in a rural or urban setting, information on the presence of women, children, ethnic individuals, or famous people in the ad, and the billboard's geographic location. Various slide series were entered into the database differently. Multiple searches may be required for comprehensive searching. For more information, consult Research Services Staff (

For more contextual information, use this collection in conjunction with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Records, especially that collection's Physical Structure Series, and Photographs, Slides, and Negatives Series. Closely related collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library include the John Brennan Outdoor Advertising Survey Reports, the John Paver Papers, the John Browning Papers, the Duplex Advertising Co. Records, the H.E. Fisk Collection of War Effort Mobilization Campaigns, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Records, the Outdoor Advertising Poster Design Collection, the Garrett Orr Papers, the R.C. Maxwell Company Records, the Howard Scott Papers, and the Strobridge Lithographing Company Advertisements.