‘Post early for Christmas’ a publicity campaign that was ‘too successful’

‘Notice intended for display on a pillar box, 1931’ (POST 33/3169)

Even prior to the creation of the Public Relations Department in 1934, there was a vast amount of publicity generated with regard to ‘Christmas arrangements’ for the postal service. This included leaflets, press advertisements and notices in several different sizes, meant for display in post offices, on pillar boxes and on mail vans.

From its creation the Public Relations Department assumed responsibility for the Christmas campaign, adopting the slogan: ‘Post early for Christmas’. In addition to the traditional means of advertising, they commissioned famous artists to produce eye catching posters for display in post offices, on pillar boxes and telephone kiosks, on mail vans and in shop windows.

In 1938 Barnett Freedman was commissioned to produce a poster for the Christmas campaign; in addition to encouraging the public to ‘post early’, it also advocated early shopping so that all parcels would be ready to send off on time. This poster design was adapted slightly for display on the London Underground where it also incorporated a message encouraging the public to: ‘travel early’.

‘Shop early, travel early, post early’ by Barnett Freedman, 1938 (London Transport reference number: 1983/4/10354. Image © London Transport Museum).

‘Shop early, travel early, post early’ by Barnett Freedman, 1938 (London Transport reference number: 1983/4/10354. Image © London Transport Museum)

Insert image 2: ‘Shop now and post early in Christmas week. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday’ by Barnett Freedman, 1938 (POST 110/1165).

‘Shop now and post early in Christmas week. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday’ by Barnett Freedman, 1938 (POST 110/1165)

During the war years, it became vitally important for people to post their mail early as postal services were over stretched. From 1942 up until 1944, the slogan was amended slightly to reflect this; encouraging the public to ‘Post even earlier this Christmas’.

‘Post much earlier this Christmas’ by Lewitt and Him, 1942 (POST 110/1171)

‘Christmas 1943. Post earlier than you did last year’ by Leonard Beaumont, 1943 (POST 110/4155)

‘Post even earlier this Christmas and not later than 18th December’ by Hans Schleger (Zero), 1944 (POST 110/4158)

The Post Office also employed trailer films as a means of propaganda for their Christmas campaign. During the war they produced a number of short films that were shown for free in picture houses, the last of these was ‘Post Haste’ in 1946.

page from draft script of Post office publicity film 1955, featuring Bob Monkhouse (POST 122/556)

With the arrival of television in the 1950s the Post Office found a new means of delivering their Christmas message and in 1953 and 1954 the BBC showed a short trailer encouraging the public to post their mail in a timely fashion, featuring Tommy Cooper. In December 1955, the Post Office produced a two minute film featuring Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin; it was estimated (based on the number of television licences sold that year) that it would be watched by nearly a quarter of the population.

In a Regional Director’s Conference paper of 1966 (RD (66) 2, POST 73/122) we hear of the success of the ‘Post early for Christmas’ campaign; it states: ‘the public not only posts by the latest recommended date but, if anything, in front of it’, it concludes that the campaign has proved to be ‘somewhat of an embarrassment since it produces a large volume of traffic before we are ready for it’.

It seems that the campaign headed with the slogan ‘Post early for Christmas’ had become a victim of its own success; over the years the volume of Christmas mail had increased until it reached a point where sorting office staff could not cope when the public actually obeyed the directive.

It was suggested that it would be beneficial if the emphasis of future Christmas campaigns could be changed and in 1969 the famous slogan was phased out in favour of a less proactive one stating simply: ‘Don’t miss the Christmas post’.

New BPMA Christmas cards

New BPMA Christmas Cards!

A new Christmas card pack featuring two designs from the Post Early for Christmas poster campaign from the 1950s are now available from the BPMA shop or by calling 020 7239 5125. You will get 8 cards + envelopes for £3.95 (4 of each of the designs pictured)

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