History of advertising: No 168: The first D&AD black Pencil

Geoffrey Jones can claim a unique place in the history of a UK ad industry in which his career was fleeting.

Eleven years after his death, his name remains known only among a small circle of documentary-film aficionados and railway enthusiasts.

Yet Jones made his indelible mark in June 1963 at the London Hilton hotel, where Lord Snowdon presented him with D&AD’s first black Pencil – the most elusive award to be bestowed for excellence in advertising and design.

Awarded for groundbreaking work that the industry has never seen before, the black Pencil was given to Jones for "Shell spirit", a 1962 short promotional film commissioned by the oil giant.

With a soundtrack of kwela music, the film epitomised Jones’ trademark technique of film-making based on dynamic editing and without commentary, relying on close synchronisation with music.

As a graphic arts and photography student at London’s Central School of Art and Design, Jones was inspired by some of the abstract animation experiments in the 50s.

His drawings for a possible animated film landed him a job at the agency Crawfords. However, it was as the supervisory director of animation at the Shell Film Unit that Jones honed his creative style through a series of films.

When the Shell unit closed in 1961, he continued making films for the company, including "Shell spirit". But it was his work for British Transport Films that seemed to provide the natural outlet for his perfectionism and maddeningly slow operating style.

His outstanding work from this time was Snow, an eight-minute film showing how the rail network coped with the 1963 Big Freeze. Noted for its fast-paced editing and unusual photography, the film scooped 14 major awards and a 1965 Oscar nomination.

Things you need to know

  • The first D&AD show featured 403 print items and 38 films from some 3,500 entries.
  • Experts believe Jones was denied his due acclaim because, unlike contemporaries such as John Schlesinger and Lindsay Anderson, he stuck to documentaries and never moved into feature films.
  • Jones, who did not complete any projects during the last 25 years of his life, died of cancer aged 73 in June 2005.