S. H. Benson's Ltd

Date Established:

S H Benson's was a leading advertising agency in London in the first half of the 20th century.

Founded in 1893, the agency's reputation was quickly made with a striking campaign for Bovril. In 1914, the firm was taken over by the founder's son, Phillip, who had visited America to study new methods of psychological marketing and scientific advertising.

The firm operated from premises in Kingsway, then the centre of the advertising trade in London because of its nearness to Fleet Street's newspaper offices. Benson's undertook all types of advertising, producing everything from small adverts in magazines to large outdoor posters. During the 1920s, it created campaigns for many household names, such as Andrew's Liver Salts, Rowntrees chocolate and Lipton's tea.

One of Benson's most famous campaigns was its 1926 effort for Colman's Mustard, which invented a fictional Mustard Club with a cast of quaint characters. The purpose of The Baron de Beef, Lord Bacon, Miss Di Gester and so on was 'to inspect public sandwiches and report when they contained no mustard'. The firm's greatest success came in 1928 with the first advertising campaign for Guinness. Benson's chose the old fashioned approach of simply telling the public that 'Guinness is Good For You'.

Although Phillip Benson ran his agency along American lines, he was not altogether sympathetic to the 'scientific' approach that many American agencies adopted. At Benson's, the copywriting department was called the 'Literary Department', and maintained something of a bohemian atmosphere, producing copy that was humorous, clever and elegant. Among Benson's copywriters in the 1920s was the young Dorothy L Sayers, whose novel 'Murder must Advertise' is set in Pym's Publicity, a thinly disguised Benson's.

During the 1960s, Benson's merged with its rivals to form a new agency, Ogilvy, Benson & Mathers. In 1971 the firm gave 800 of their old Benson's posters to the London Museum and 175 to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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