Outdoor Advertising Association of America Slide Library, 1891-2000 and undated

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Outdoor Advertising Association of America and John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
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Scope and content:

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 (AskRL@duke.edu).

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.

Biographical / historical:

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America Slide Library was created by officials in the Outdoor Advertising Association of America ( OAAA) and member organizations. OAAA is the primary professional and trade association representing the outdoor advertising industry, and was founded to promote outdoor advertising interests in the U.S. OAAA members own and operate billboards, street furniture, transit, or other outdoor advertising displays. Members also include service providers to the industry, users of the outdoor medium and others supporting its goals.

Date Event
OAAA was founded as the Associated Bill Posters' Association of the US and Canada (ABPA) .
Outdoor advertising company Foster and Kleiser opened for business in Portland and Seattle; the company later was known as Patrick Media, then Eller, then Clear Channel.
ABPA changed its name to Associated Bill Posters and Distributors of the United States and Canada.
ca. 1910
Association set national standards for outdoor advertising and established the numbers of panels to be sold in each market.
Association changed its name to the Poster Advertising Association, Inc. (PAA).
PAA established an Education Committee to encourage public service advertising donations.
The National Outdoor Advertising Bureau was formed to inspect showings and to conduct the outdoor advertising portion of ad agency business.
The Art Directors Club was organized, establishing standards for commercial arts through competitions and the identification of categories of commercial art.
PAA and the Painted Outdoor Advertising Association merged to become OAAA. The Fulton Group and the Cusack Co. combined to become the General Outdoor Advertising Company.
First National Contest and Exhibit of Outdoor Advertising Art was held under the auspices of the Outdoor Advertising Department of the Advertising Council of the Chicago Association of Commerce.
Advertising Council (initially, during WWII, the War Advertising Council) founded as a non-profit organization to coordinate selected public service campaigns.
Raymond Loewy poster panel adopted as new 24-sheet structure for billboards.
The first modern "multivision" painted bulletin displayed in Sacramento, Calif. Triangular sections permitted display of three different designs on a single unit.
Digital technology affected creation of advertising designs and display. Painted boards were replaced by computer-generated formats.
Acquisition information:

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America Slide Library was transferred to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1996.

Processing of this collection was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Processing information:

There was already some arrangement to the collection when it came to Duke University, and this is reflected in the choice of series maintained. The Topical Series, Subseries II, was created at Duke out of the many slides that arrived unsorted. Product categories in this subseries are those used by the industry itself. A few subgroups within Topical Series, Subseries I are labeled "Miscellaneous." Some of these miscellaneous groups are extensive and should not be overlooked in a comprehensive search.

The collection contains a few negatives and loose transparencies, especially in the Award Nominees Series. These were sleeved and interfiled with the slides. Information from most of the slides in the collection was entered into the Resource for Outdoor Advertising Description (ROAD) database (available in early 2003). An "SL" number was assigned to an individual slide and placed on the slide itself, while also being used as the database record number. Certain letter combinations are restricted to certain series, but they do not necessarily match the first letter of a corresponding series or subseries. Approximate dates found on slides were usually included in the database, but many dates could not be confirmed. Gaps were left in some slide sleeves to show divisions between groups of slides that originally were banded or boxed together. Older boxlists with old notebook designations may also be found in this repository. Old slide notebook designations were maintained on the new slide sleeves and in the ROAD database. Box number prefixes (e.g. CH, TP) indicate particular series except in the case of the small series at the end of the collection, all placed together in boxes labeled "TT1" and "TT2."

Processed by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark and Lynn Pritcher.

Completed April 2002

Encoded by Lisa C. Chandek-Stark


Though seemingly well-defined on paper, the fluidity of these categories becomes obvious when facing thousands of diverse and often vague advertisements. If an initial search in one category does not bear fruit, try a related category. The best way to find any particular advertisement is via the ROAD database, available in early 2003. In cases where more than one product was featured in an ad, usually the most prominent item dictated category placement.

Amusement and Entertainment

This category includes ads for the following:

Bars, Casinos, Concerts, Country Clubs, Live productions (e.g. theater), Lotteries, Museums, Motion pictures, Movies, Night clubs, Race tracks, Sporting events, Teams (sports), Theaters, Theme parks, Venues (concert or event venues), Zoos.

Generally, advertisements for hotels, resorts, national parks, and whole geographic areas ("See Florida!") as tourist destinations were placed in Transportation and Travel (T and T), but there is overlap with T and T. Look in both categories for a comprehensive search. Products in the Amusement and Entertainment category are generally final destinations, as opposed to means of travel. Most television show advertisements were placed in the Media category since the network was most often a prominent part of the advertisement, but some may also be found here. Most recordings can be found in the Consumer Goods and Services category.


This category includes ads for the following:

Clothing brands, Fashion accessories, Footwear (shoes), Jewelry

If searching for a particular apparel brand name, search this category along with "Retail," as it was often difficult to tell if a name on a billboard referred to a brand of clothing or an entire clothing store. Zippers were usually placed in the Consumer Goods category. Ads for watches may be found in Apparel or Consumer Goods and Services.


This category includes ads for the following:

Auto parts, Auto parts stores, Auto service, Auto dealers, Auto leasing, Auto manufacturers, Motor oil, Motorcycles, Motorcycle products, RVs, Tires, Tractors

This category includes advertisements for almost anything related to cars, except gasoline. Auto parts stores are usually included here, not under Retail. Gasoline and gas stations were placed under Transportation and Travel (T and T). Ads showing both motor oil and gasoline (and/or car service) were put in the category of the item most prominent. A search for all gas stations should be completed in both this category and T and T. Often an ad advertised both car products and gasoline, or just the brand name was presented (Texaco - provides oil, gas, and car service). Sometimes it was unclear whether an ad was for an automotive or a household radiator and so both the Automotive and Consumer Goods and Services categories should be checked for those items. To search for a particular car dealer, look through subgroups of that dealer?s manufacturer within this category.


This category includes ads for the following:

Alcoholic beverages, Non-alcoholic beverages

This category includes ads for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages including mixers, coffee, buttermilk, and milk. Evaporated milk is most often found in the Food and Restaurants category. For a comprehensive search of all beverages, also check the Food and Restaurants category.

Business and Technology

This category includes ads for the following:

Agricultural products, Armed forces, Banks, Builders, Business to business services, Computers, Credit cards, Financial service organizations, Freight services, Government organizations, Health care, Insurance, Manufacturing equipment, Office products, Office space, Real estate, Schools, Software, Telecommunications, Telemarketing firms, Utilities

General office supplies usually went into the Consumer Goods and Services category. Flooring and wallpaper (as well as other items used both by builders and average consumers) should be searched both in this category and in Consumer Goods and Services. Ads for lotteries can usually be found within the Amusement and Entertainment category. Car dealer financing is usually found in the Automotive category. Outdoor advertising is usually found in the Media category. Many ads featuring major appliances are without a brand name - these are probably for a utility company and were placed here. For this reason, however, some utility-sponsored ads may also be found in the Consumer Goods category. Search both this category and Consumer Goods for animal feed. Government-sponsored ads can be found in this category but if sponsorship was questionable, ads may have been put into Public Service, Consumer Goods, or some other category according to the nature of the ad. This category contains the largest variety of materials. Check other categories to complete a comprehensive search. Schools were sometimes put into the Public Services category as a non-profit and sometimes placed here.

Consumer Goods and Services

This category includes ads for the following:

Appliances, Books, Cemeteries, Dry cleaners, Electronics, Florists, Furniture, Gum, Gyms and Health clubs, Funeral services, Health and Beauty products, Hobby and craft items, Household products, Office supplies, Over-the-counter medicines, Pet food and supplies, Recordings (albums, CDs), Repair services, Sporting goods, Tobacco products, Toys and games, Undertakers, Vitamins

Household products include zippers, most flooring, and wallpaper. Office supplies were placed here but other office products are in Business and Technology. Services were also placed here including funeral homes, and dry cleaners. Cable Service ads can usually be found in the Media category. Search for watches in this and the Apparel category. Cars, motor oil, car-related products, RVs, and motorcycles can be found mostly in the Automotive category. Gasoline can be found in the Transportation and Travel category. Sometimes it was unclear whether an ad was for an automotive or a household radiator and so both the Automotive and Consumer Goods and Services categories should be checked for those items.

Food and Restaurants

This category includes ads for the following:

Candy, Confectionery, Food, Food services, Ingredients, Prepared foods, Produce

Gum, pet food, and tobacco products were most often placed in Consumer Goods and Services, although some may still be found here. Beverages, including coffee and milk, can usually be found in their own Beverages category. Grocery store and supermarket ads are usually found within the Retail category.


This category includes ads for the following:

Advertising, Cable television, Direct mail, Internet services, Magazines, Newspapers, Outdoor advertising, Radio stations, Television stations, Yellow Pages

Ads for recordings (albums, CDs, etc.) and books were usually placed in the Consumer Goods and Services category.

Public Service

This category includes advertising created for a charitable cause or by a non-profit organization. Government organizations are normally listed under Business and Technology, but government sponsorship of an ad was often difficult to discern. Check this category and Business and Technology for a more comprehensive search. Political campaign and issue ads can usually be found here. Some Public Service-type ads were actually placed under the sponsor?s usual category, if the sponsor?s name was an obvious part of the ad. For instance an ad saying "Don't Drink and Drive, courtesy of Fred's Funerals" may have been placed under Consumer Goods and Services. Schools were sometimes put into the Public Service category as a non-profit and sometimes placed in Business and Technology.


This category includes ads for the following:

Convenience stores, Department stores, Discount stores, Drug stores, Grocery stores, Malls, Pet stores, Other Retail stores, Shopping centers, Variety stores

Some ads featuring clothing lines may have been placed here by mistake since it was often difficult to tell whether a name referred to the clothing brand or a store name. Some of these ads also feature an individual product or products carried by the retail store. If the item seemed prominent in the ad, the slide may have been indexed under Consumer Goods or Food and Restaurants. For auto parts store ads, search this category as well as the Automotive category.

Transportation and Travel

This category includes ads for the following:

Airlines, Bus lines, Cruise ships, Gasoline, Gasoline stations, Hotels, National parks, Public transportation, Resorts, Trains, Travel/Tourism services

Since gas stations but not car service are included in this category, search both this and the Automotive category for an ad featuring a company that sold gas and provided auto service. This category also overlaps a great deal with the Amusement and Entertainment category - search both categories for a comprehensive search.

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Collection is open for research.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Outdoor Advertising Association of America Slide Library, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.