"A profession without history has no future"

Vladimir Ceh – one of my slogans dedicated to the expatriates was: “If you cut the root – you wither”

Ekrem DupanovicSource: media-marketing.com

Vladimir Čeh – one of the doyens of the regional advertising industry, a man who stood at the very source and witnessed the development of this profession and birth of memorable campaigns, some of which he himself created – a few years ago founded the Institute for the History of Advertising, wanting to preserve from oblivion the records on how our profession emerged and developed over the years. He did some very interesting and valuable projects, and he is ready and willing to do more, if only the industry to whose history he has dedicated his life would have more understanding for itself. Alas, it doesn’t.

Media Marketing: Institute for the History of Advertising had some notable activities, among which the most prominent was the exhibition “The War and Posters: 1914-1918”, which was exhibited in Belgrade and Bihać, and the book regarding the exhibit. How were the results?

Vladimir Čeh: Truly impressive. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting everything that followed after the exhibition in Belgrade. A few years ago when I began working on this project, It was important to me to treat the subject of the Great War from the perspective of the profession in which we work – to show the posters as historical documents, without evaluating the ideas they convey from the political, military, social or national perspective; to show how war poster from that period significantly influenced the development of advertising. In addition, it was important for me to place “advertising” in Belgrade in the place where it belongs – in the Museum of Applied Arts.

Instead of three months the exhibition lasted four. It had a tremendous turnout, with an impressive press clipping. The book was also met with approval. It contains more than 220 posters from about fifteen countries on the two opposing sides, and it also contains the contributions from the panel Ten on One, held as part of the exhibition: ten authors spoke about one topic – the war and posters. Among them was Mirko Ilić. I gave him the book when he was in Belgrade a couple of weeks ago. As soon as he returned to New York, he sent me an email which said only “Here” and the link: www.printmag.com/weekend-heller/weekend-heller-posters-mighty-sword-serbia. Nice gesture. There is evident move from talk to action with Mirko Ilić.

I was also pleasantly surprised last fall in Bihać, both with the way people received us, with the audience, and with the fact that the exhibition was extended within the Creative Republic of Bihać event.

Finally, I am glad that The War and Posters will (very likely!) be also seen in Sarajevo.

Media Marketing: You have also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award to Dragan Sakan. Will you continue this project?

Vladimir Čeh: A correction if I may. It’s not a Lifetime Achievement Award. Saki got that award about fifteen years ago at UEPS. Institute for the History of Advertising, late last year at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Yugoslav Film Archive in Belgrade, awarded him a place of honor in the Legendarijum, a meetinghouse for legends of our profession. Both these awards are one-off. They can’t be “won” more than once, as is the case with the Golden Lions, the Oscars or the title of Sportsman of the year. It’s once, and forever. Difference is that UEPS’s award is of national character, and the Legendarijum is of regional character. This is a Hall of Fame of the advertising profession, a virtual gallery of deserving individuals. This award is given to persons whose professional and volunteer work have left an indelible mark in the profession, achieving a historic impact on the advertising standards and development, and raising the quality and reputation of the creative industries. It also differs from other similar awards in that it is defined by statute that the award is also granted posthumously. The intention of the project is to grow from an “event” into a virtual museum. The website of the Institute will not only include their names: we are preparing to publish portraits of the legends and their work. The first three were Jaka Judnič, Mićko Ljubičić and Slavimir Stojanović, for their contribution to the beauty of advertising on traditional media – television, radio and the press. Now they are joined by Saki. In the coming days I will begin discussions with the Belgrade authorities to try to secure an area where the Legendarijum would be placed, as an arch of our profession, a monument into whose foundations we would each year add new names of the deserving individuals. We have turned the logo that was done by Slavimir Stojanović into a sculpture, but more on this in due time.

Media Marketing: You are also preparing the book “Woman, War and Posters”. What is its mission?

Vladimir Čeh:
The second part of the war trilogy in the Museum of Applied Arts was the last year exhibition Woman, War and Posters. We are in final preparations and the book will soon be published. Posters from Australia, Great Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, Russia and the United States were obtained from the Library of Congress in Washington, the Imperial War Museum in London, the State Central Museum of Contemporary History in Moscow, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and the National Library in Belgrade. A woman appears “starring” on 84 posters in two variants, according to gender different target groups. It appears as a symbol when the message was intended for men, and as a subject, a participant of events, when the message was intended for women. In addition to posters, the book also contains works of historians from a symposium held during the exhibition with the theme The Impact of the Great War on the Social Position of Women. We also have works by women historians from Canada, Great Britain, France, Russia, Turkey, Japan, Slovenia and Serbia. The book will be released in two languages by the beginning of April.

The exhibition was to be opened on 8 March in Ljubljana as well. We were given a beautiful space, free of charge, in the Town Hall, from the Mayor Mr. Zoran Janković, in his Mestna Hisa in the middle of the pedestrian area in Ljubljana. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure funding for the project (museum titles, translation, printing …), so I was forced to cancel their hospitality. There is a possibility of an agreement that the “Woman…” be moved to Zagreb, so if it gets to there, it might hop over to Ljubljana. I hope I will succeed in making it all happen.

Media Marketing: Are you planning to move from wartime to peacetime projects? For example, a book and an exhibition about advertising of the past. I know you have an excellent archive that should be displayed.

Vladimir Čeh:
My first exhibition was a peacetime project: From Hunted to Hunter or Tito on Posters. It was first at the Weekend Media Festival in Rovinj, and then in Belgrade. Arranged according to decades, from the forties to the nineties, the exhibit presented posters on which Josip Broz Tito appears by “brand identity”, by image or by a “logo”. These posters were accompanied by “commercial” billboards in the same decade. We see Tito from his 1943 warrant posters, to the Jaegermeister’s poster awarded at the Golden Drum in 1994. His journey from political to commercial space lasted 50 years. Today these things go faster.

Before returning to peacetime projects, I have the third part of the war trilogy to do – an exhibition which I’m preparing at the Museum of Applied Arts for 8 May, titled Serbia, War and Posters. The reason for it are the three posters to help Serbia during the Great War, done by three world renowned authors from the USA, Great Britain and France. The exhibition will show their works of art with the theme of Serbia, unknown to our people, and will present the business cases of the campaigns that were held in these three great Allied countries to help Serbia. I will compare the ‘schools of public relations’ of the time. Suffice it to say that in the US, in the government’s (Creel) Committee for Public Information of the President Woodrow Wilson, one of the members was the father of PR, Edward Bernays.

While preparing for the exhibition I came across some really interesting, so far unpublished data on the three authors and their interrelations from the time when the greatest artists of the time were doing political posters. I also found and provided some originals, so it will be really interesting.

Next year we are planning an unusual war theme: Humor and War. Of course, from the communication angle. My definition is that the humor in wartime was used both as means of attack and defense. As an attack: in posters and other available means of persuasion (newspapers, postcards, films, exhibitions, motivational lectures …), by which the State manipulated people in order to meet their political needs. In defense – when the soldiers in the trenches defended themselves with humor from the situation in which they found themselves, in handwritten, and somewhere in print editions of wall newspapers.

Media Marketing: The Institute has a very important role in the advertising industry. Have you succeeded in imposing it to the industry as an institution of special importance for the profession that we work in, or is it still just your love affair, to which you dedicate all your time? What in fact can the industry do to support the Institute? Can we invite the agencies and advertisers to join the project? To send some of their “museum” exhibits, but also to send current campaigns, because all this today will one day be a thing of the past?

Vladimir Čeh:
As for the industry, I have to say – No. I haven’t succeeded in that. I sincerely hope that this statement lacks only the term “yet”.

So – I haven’t succeeded, yet.

I wrote once, in the first material related to the Institute, that I am not worried about the future of our profession, but about the future of its past. If the generation to which I belong doesn’t see to it that they seriously approach the archiving of what they were a part of, then the generations that follow, who grow up in a digital world rather than in Gutenberg’s galaxy, will be able to rightfully say “Before us – the deluge.” Not “after us”. Before! Because we who came before them have failed to ensure that they have something to remember, to realize that the history of this profession does not start with the advent of personal computers and their use.

I will try to animate my generation to make efforts to save from oblivion what has been done so far, as much as possible. For a more serious approach to history, you need to worry about the future: the main task that I have set before the Institute is an attempt to create the obligation of archiving published advertisements. A law or self-regulation – doesn’t matter. Without an archive, there is no analysis. There is no history, no learning from others’ mistakes. The past is not something to be glorified, it is something to be known.

After all, one of my slogans intended for the population of expatriates read: “If you cut the root – you wither.”


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