Q & A 'Behind Glass Doors'

Q & A 'Behind Glass Doors'
Dr Jackie Dickenson and Associate Professor Robert Crawford
9 March 2017

Dr Jackie Dickenson and Associate Professor Robert Crawford know a selling culture. Both have been avid observers and researchers of many different aspects and histories of the Australian advertising industry.

Dr Jackie Dickenson had a career in the advertising industry in Britain and Australia before completing her PhD at University of Melbourne. She taught creative advertising at RMIT and is the author of several publications regarding Australian politicians, Australian women in advertising, and Australian advertising history before co-writing Behind Glass Doors: The World of Australian Advertising Agencies 1959-1989 with Robert Crawford.

Robert Crawford is Associate Professor of Public Communication and Deputy Head of the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney. He has written several books regarding the history of advertising in Australia including But Wait There’s More…: A History of Australian Advertising, 1900-2000 and as co-author for Behind Glass Doors: The World of Australian Advertising Agencies 1959-89. He has worked at, and been a fellow at many world renowned universities, and is working on an oral history of advertising agencies in the 1990s and 2000s.

Ahead of their author talk on 20 March 2017, in association with our exhibition  The Sell: Australian Advertising 1790s to 1990s, Jackie and Robert answered a few questions about their motivations and thoughts:

Why do you write?

RC: I love the process of writing and using words to bring together disparate ideas and materials to tell new stories. 

JD: Because it’s fun.

What are you reading right now?

RC: I’m currently the David Scott Mitchell Fellow at the State Library of New South Wales, so I have been reading my way through the archives of the Sylvia Ashby Research agency.image of journals

Image courtesy Robert Crawford

JD: Geoffrey Caban’s A Fine Line: a history of Australian commercial art; Robyn Bull’s Binnaway on the Castlereagh, and Noah Hawley’s The Good Father (a timely read).

What three titles should always be on the shelves of any self-respecting book shop?

RC: A Companion to the Australian Media edited by Bridget Griffen-Foley – The authoritative source on Australian media history; Advertising the American Dream by Roland Marchand – A magisterial study of American advertising and those responsible for it; Australian Women in Advertising in the Twentieth Century by Jackie Dickenson – My co-author’s innovative and insightful study of a forgotten side of the advertising business.

JD: Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang; Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty.

How would you describe your latest book?

RC: Behind Glass Doors is an oral history of Australia’s advertising agencies that reveals the ways that Australian agencies operated during the ‘golden age’ of advertising.

JD: Innovative.

Cover of 'Behind Closed Doors'

Cover of Behind Glass Doors: The World of Australian Advertsiing Agencies 1959-1989

What is the oddest thing you have seen while researching the Australian advertising industry?

RC: A number of our participants likened the experience of being interviewed to being on the psychologist’s couch…

JD: Highly-paid grownups sitting around a board table for hours on end, debating with great earnestness the correct way to promote a crummy, $1 chocolate bar. I was one of those grownups.

What was the hardest part of writing your latest book?

RC: As we undertook 120 interviews Australia-wide, locating the best quotes could be a very time-consuming exercise.

JD: Being objective.

What was the best part of writing your latest book?

RC: I loved undertaking the interviews and listening to the ways our interviewees reflected on their experiences in the advertising industry. 

JD: Working with a terrific team, including Robert.

What’s the strangest piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a writer?

RC: Taking your shoes off helps you to write. While I thought it was odd at the time, I can now say that it really works!

What are you working on now?

RC: I’m currently working on the market research surveys conducted by the Ashby Research Service to see what they reveal about marketing and the Australian consumer during the 1950s and 1960s.

JD: A true crime/political history about a murder-suicide in 1970s’ rural New South Wales.

What do you love about libraries?

RC: I love that they are there to help you realise your goals – whether that’s in the form of an obscure publication or just a quiet place to reflect.

JD:The books I can’t afford to buy.