Iconic Brands and Early Ads

This resource has been generously supported by Optus. Through the Digital Thumbprint program and Kids Helpline @ School, Optus supports digital knowledge and the positive use of technology.

Iconic Brands

These advertising campaigns were for iconic Australian brands. Share the Trove lists below with the class to investigate the multimodal texts created for these campaigns in more detail.

The Sell: Australian Advertising 1790s to 1990s - Arnott's Biscuits

The Sell: Australian Advertising 1790s to 1990s - Vegemite

The Sell: Australian Advertising 1790s to 1990s - Minties

  • In small groups, have students analyse these brand identities. If you have a large number of students, have them brainstorm other iconic Australian brands or campaigns that they could analyse.
    • What is memorable?
    • Are there any notable visual and design elements?
    • Think about how the elements draw our gaze.
    • Are there symbolic meanings behind some of the elements?
    • What do the advertisers want us to believe about the product?
  • The brands of Arnotts’, Vegemite and Minties all still exist today, although some are foreign-owned. As a class, discuss to what extent their logos and advertising campaigns have changed since the mid twentieth century. What are some reasons for these changes? What elements, if any, have remained the same? Why?

Early Ads

Handbills—also known as flyers or leaflets—are messages printed on small pieces of paper with the intention of mass distribution. By contrast, a broadside is a message or announcement printed on one side of a single (often very large) sheet of paper. They require a simple message that can be conveyed quickly to passers-by.

These advertisements—the playbill and the ‘wanted’ posters have different purposes, but they all follow accepted layout conventions that are still used today.

  • Have half of the class find examples of advertisements for theatrical performances from the 1790s to the modern era. Students can use Trove to search through the National Library’s PROMPT sequence of performing arts ephemera.
    • What are some enduring layout features of this type of advertising?
    • What information is absolutely essential to include?
    • Why would the colonists who were staging the performance at the Theatre, Sydney, in 1790 attempt to recreate a London playbill?
  • Have the other half of the class find examples of ‘wanted’ posters, from convict and colonial times to more modern examples. Again using Trove, students could search using keywords such as ‘wanted’, ‘poster’, ‘reward’, ‘murder’, ‘bushranger’.
    • What are some enduring layout features of this type of advertising?
    • What information is absolutely essential to include?
    • Why are some elements larger than others?
    • What developments in technology have improved the effectiveness of this type of advertising?