In 1978 the advertising agency CDP (Collett Dickenson & Pearce) launched what is often regarded as one of the most - if not the most - iconic (poster) advertisements ever, The Benson & Hedges Pyramid Ad. This became the pinnacle of one of the most famous advertising campaigns of all time.
The ad was shot the previous year (November 1977) on location at Giza, Egypt. The amazing Neil Godfrey was the creator/ art director and dear Jimmy Wormser (now deceased) was the photographer. I (Alastair Laidlaw) was honoured to be the assistant photographer on the shoot. As a young man starting out on my career it was a truly incredible experience which I was and still am very proud to have been part of.
Throughout my time with Jimmy I was privileged to assist him on 4 amazing B&H Ads from this campaign. I had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the greatest advertising art directors and copywriters the industry has seen.
From top - B&H Jigsaw Ad: Art Director Neil Godfrey Photographer Jimmy Wormser Assistant Photographer Alastair Laidlaw - B&H Safe Ad: Art Director Nigel Rose Photographer Jimmy Wormser - B&H Taken from The Iguana Commercial, the end frame poster Ad: Art Director Alan Waldie Photographer Jimmy Wormser Assistant photographer Alastair Laidlaw
Today the attitude to smoking is very different from what it was back in the 70’s. Rightly so, the dangers are now very clearly documented. There is no question that smoking can seriously damage your health. These days help and advice (often sophisticated) are readily available for all. In the 70’s the knowledge surrounding smoking was there, but it did not seem to carry the same significance as it does today. Obviously, this is a personal observation, others may feel differently. It’s also strangely ironic when one looks back and realises some of the most visually outstanding Ad Campaigns of that era, were for cigarettes.
The images shown in this article have all been credited, including the hitherto unseen B&H ’Kites’ Ad. Although this never ran, it remains one of my favourites. Personally I thought the idea was striking, it looked like a two dimensional painting rather than a photographic ad.
Back in the 70’s photoshop was a thing of the future. Many of the ads were created by collage and finished with hand retouching. It was a highly skilled and lengthy procedure - in the case of the ‘Kites’ each one was shot individually then literally cut and pasted into the collage and then inserted into the ‘dye transfer’ finished artwork.
There are many wonderful stories from that period in advertising photography and looking back I can say I’m delighted to have played a small part in it. I’m also equally delighted to be able to embrace the new wonders of technology which have changed my profession beyond recognition. I sing the praises of both worlds and hope I can do so for many years to come and to everyone who helped play a part in either, thank you.
Alastair and Christine