Hats off: Richard Powell to retire as director of History of Advertising Trust

During Powell's four-year tenure, HAT become the world’s largest advertising archive.

Powell: leaves HAT after four years
Powell: leaves HAT after four years

Richard Powell is to retire as director of the History of Advertising Trust, ending a four-year tenure during which HAT became the world’s largest advertising archive.

Powell, 61, will step down in June, having played a major role in updating HAT’s image and relevance to today’s industry as well as leading efforts to develop the business potential of the 10 million items housed at its headquarters in Raveningham, Norfolk.

“Richard has been a brilliant director,” Geoff Russell, HAT’s chairman, said. “During the past four years he’s helped throw off HAT’s image of being old and dusty, showing not only how marketers can use their brand’s history to build performance but also how advertising itself can be mobilised for social good.”

At the forefront of this has been HAT’s Ad-Memoire initiative, under which some of Britain’s biggest advertisers have allowed their most famous TV commercials and print ads from the 1950s and 1960s to be used to help improve the quality of life for thousands of elderly people living in care homes and those suffering from dementia.

The ready-to-stream content, via tablet or smartphone, intended to spark conversations between residents, carers and their families, is attracting significant interest from NHS commissioning groups and care homes as they emerge from lockdown.

Meanwhile, Powell has led moves to forge closer connections between HAT and academia. The charity currently has links with 19 universities and hosts regular “summits” with lecturers to help them tailor their undergraduate courses in subjects such as brand marketing and creative writing.

Powell, who previously held senior positions at the East of England National Trust and the RSPB, was also able to bring his knowledge of National Lottery funding into HAT.

One result of this was a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to fund Inspiring Minds, a “living history” project, in which some of advertising’s most influential figures of the last half century, including Dave Trott and Sir Frank Lowe, have been filmed talking about their lives and work.

Powell also carried through HAT’s successful move to win National Archives accreditation, one of only a handful of independent archives to win the accolade.

During his term of office, HAT’s archive became the world’s largest, with the addition of millions of ads accumulated by Ebiquity, the media auditing and analytics firm. 

One of Powell’s final initiatives will be to conclude discussions with the Internet Advertising Bureau on how to preserve the best of the industry’s digital output.

“It’s so easy to lose this material for ever just by hitting the ‘delete’ button,” Powell said. “Not only is it important to save the past, we also have to save today.”

He added: “I think the last few years have seen HAT standing on its feet as both an educational charity and a professional archive. We’re much more than just an advertising archive. We’re also a social history archive of enormous value to the nation as a whole. We should be very proud of that.”

Russell, along with three other HAT trustees – James Best, chairman of CAP and BCAP, Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, and Graham Hinton, chairman of Splash Worldwide  will lead the search for Powell’s successor.

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