No 56: First Sunday Times colour supplement

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Roy Thomson was famous for knowing instinctively where there was good advertising money to be made. But when the Canadian launched the Sunday Times magazine on 4 February 1962, adland was far from convinced he was on to a winner.

Advertisers and their agencies initially gave it a wide berth, not knowing what to make of its revolutionary and far-out style. By the end of its first year, the supplement had lost more than £1 million.

Thomson, however, held his nerve and lavished largesse on agency bosses in order to win them round.

A number of factors combined to get the project off the ground. One was the abolition of newsprint rationing in 1958, which allowed newspapers to revolutionise their formats. Another was the greater availability of colour film.

The magazine's timing was also right, filling the void left by defunct titles such as Picture Post, but livening up boring British Sundays. But the crucial catalyst was the emergence of a new school of British photographers personified by Don McCullin, Terry O'Neill, David Bailey and Lord Snowdon, who broke down the barriers between documentary, fashion and news imagery.

With its combination of stylish pictures and lavish spending, The Sunday Times colour supplement began to reflect the swinging 60s.

And when churchmen and left-leaning academics singled it out for its promotion of consumerism, conspicuous consumption and good living, the penny dropped as far as agencies and clients were concerned. The magazine transformed itself into a cash cow. Soon, every other Sunday paper was following suit before the tabloids piled in with supplements of their own.

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