Propeller Propaganda

Published on 25th July 2019 at 13:51

Jet across the Pacific: Harry Rogers series of posters marking Qantas’ entry into the jet age still remain just iconic today as they did when they were revealed more than 50 years ago.

If you were an airline marketing executive before television and the Internet, getting the attention of a potential passenger was an art form.

Major carriers would enlist high profile artists and designers to produce eye-catching posters and advertising material to lure customers to spend their holidays (and what was a much larger proportion of average annual earnings compared with today) in exotic locations around the globe.

Qantas was no different. In the 1950s, we tasked Harry Rogers, a freelance art director, to design a series of new advertisements that would mark Qantas shift from a propeller-driven airline to a starting member of the jet age.

Rogers’ work would have a big influence on Qantas – not only for designing striking posters, but also for developing the Qantas font, which was revealed when we took delivery of our first Boeing 747 in 1971 and used right through until 1984.

Posters for Qantas and other airlines from the mid-20th century have become a well-known genre. Originals are snapped up by collectors and there’s a steady trade in reproductions.

As well as encouraging Australians to see the world, these posters also had the job of enticing people to fly Down Under. Back when airlines had large ticket offices in cities worldwide, these works of art would hang in the windows to tempt people to come in and book.

Not surprisingly, Australia’s native fauna featured heavily. For example, a koala named Syd (genius!) starred in a number of television commercials, aimed largely at an American audience. When we relaunched flights into New York in 1999, he made a dramatic return atop the Empire State Building just like King Kong.

Airline marketing has changed a lot over the years, but the work of Harry Rogers and his contemporaries still looks great today and manages to capture something special about travel.