A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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The latter part of the interview was devoted to questions designed to find out what proportions of the public, and of different groups, had been reached by the various types of publicity used in the campaign. The publicity media considered were advertisements in newspapers and magazines, radio talks, films, posters, leaflets, and the “Export Quiz Unit” * . In addition people were asked whether they had read much of the news and editorial matter about exports which had been appearing in the newspapers, and workers in manufacturing industries were asked a few special questions about publicity in the factories where they worked.

This section of the interview was opened by the investigator saying, “You have told me quite a lot about exports (or “You said you know goods were being exported”). Can you tell me how you came to know about this?” The 3% of the sample who had at the very beginning of the interview denied any knowledge about exports were not asked this question.

If the informant only mentioned one way in which he had heard about exports he was asked whether he could remember any other ways and investigators were told to give people time to recall all the media they could. The proportions mentioning different publicity media in answer to this question do not of course represent the full proportions of the public reached by the media, and when later on specific questions about each type of publicity were asked many more remembered noticing them. The answers to this open question do however give an indication of the relative part played by each medium in informing the public about exports and export policy.


The ways in which people said they had heard about export, UNPROMPTED

Advertisements in newspapers or magazines 10
News or editorial columns of newspapers or magazines 30
“Newspapers or magazines” - whether advertisements or other not specified.” 41
Radio 30
Cinema 8
Posters 3
People talking about it 40
Other ways 15
Could not remember 6
Not asked the question 3
SAMPLE: 3,137

Most people remembered reading about export in newspapers. If informants did not say whether they meant advertisements or news items they were not asked as this would have amounted to prompting them. A fairly high proportion mentioned conversation and the radio. Other media were mentioned less frequently.

The interviewer then went on to ask questions about each medium individually and in the section below the proportions able to remember export publicity of particular types when asked these questions, are shown.

[1] A machine shown in department stores and factories. A question is asked, a button is pressed, and the answer appears lit up in the form of a picture.

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(1) The ways in which people said they had heard about exports when asked specifically about each medium.

Table 15
News or editorial columns of newspapers 76
Advertisements in newspapers or magazines 41
Radio talks 39
Films 22
Posters (displayed publicly, not factories) 25
Leaflets 3
The “Export Quiz Unit” 1
SAMPLE: 3,137

The question concerning the news and editorial columns of papers was asked in the form: “Apart from advertisements there has been a lot about export in the newspapers lately. Have you been reading this much?” 51% said they had read some of it and a further 23% said they had “only just glanced at it”. The remainder had not noticed news about exports.

Although only 41% said they had seen advertisements in newspapers or magazines when asked this question, when copies of all the newspaper advertisements were shown to people 65% remembered one or more of them. The results of showing the advertisements are given in Section (3) below.

It is of some interest to compare the percentages mentioning each medium spontaneously in answer to an open question (Table 14) with the percentage saying the media had been noticed when asked a specific question about each (Table 15). For radio talks the proportions were 30% and 39%, and for films 8% and 22%. Thus most of those who heard radio talks remembered them without being prompted, but rather less of those who had seen films remembered them in the first instance. Only 10% mentioned newspaper advertisements in answer to the first question, though some of those who simply said “newspapers” may have meant advertisements. However this 10% is low compared with the 41% who said they had seen such advertisements when asked the next question, and the 65% who remembered seeing them when shown copies.

This comparison suggests that although newspaper publicity reaches a wider public, radio publicity makes a stronger impression on those who hear it than newspaper publicity on those who see it. It has already been noted that a fairly large proportion of those seeing about exports in the news or editorial columns of papers had “only just glanced at it” and had not read much of it, and from the low proportion mentioning newspaper advertisements in answer to the open question it appears that this more direct sort of newspaper publicity is also likely to he only “glanced at”.

Films about export did not form a major part of the campaign, and in view of this the proportion remembering them is fairly high.

A very much higher proportion said they had seen posters when asked a direct question about this than mentioned them in answer to the open question (25% compare with 3%). It should be noted that people may have been referring to posters which were not in fact part of the export campaign as the early Production posters and posters put up by manufacturing firms may have been confused with them. Export campaign posters had not been displayed very widely at the time of this inquiry.

Analyses of the results given in Table 15 by different groups show some interesting differences. Newspaper publicity had been noticed by a higher proportion of men than of women. Thus advertisements were remembered by 51% of men and 30% of women, and other items in newspapers by 87% of men and 69% of men. Films and radio talks however were remembered by about the same proportion of women as of men.

In general those in the higher income groups and with higher education had noticed publicity more than those in the lower groups. Similar proportions in these groups however remembered seeing films about export.

In an inquiry made by the Social Survey on the Road Safety Campaign * a similar pattern was found, and evidence from other surveys also suggests that government publicity is in general noticed more by the higher economic and education groups than by the lower, with the exception of that given in films. Some information collected about newspaper reading and cinema-going habits is given in Appendix 4.

In view of the differences between occupation groups in the extent of knowledge about exports, which is dealt with earlier in this report, it is of particular interest to consider the proportions in the occupation groups remembering various types of publicity.


Percentages remembering publicity (when asked about each medium individually

Analysed by Occupation
Factory workers Other manual workers Clerical & Distributive Professional & Managerial Housewives Retired & Unoccupied
% % % % % %
News and editorial columns 80 82 81 97 70 69
Advertisements in newspapers or magazines 51 46 53 60 33 31
Radio talks 37 39 39 53 38 34
Films 25 24 31 22 20 12
Posters (not in factories) 33 28 31 40 20 17
Leaflets 4 2 2 7 2 4
“Export Quiz Unit” 1 1 1 3 1 2
SAMPLE: 347 697 330 187 1,296 277

It will be seen that publicity in newspapers, whether in the form of news or editorial matter or of advertisements, was noticed by relatively high proportions of the managerial and professional group and by relatively low proportions of housewives and the retired and unoccupied. Other forms of publicity were not noticed more frequently by housewives than by other groups, and it seems that the impact of the campaign on this large and very important section of the population was relatively small. It is the housewives who have to do most of the shopping and it is particularly important to make them aware of the necessity for export as they are likely to have the strongest feelings about shortages and the most resistance to goods being sent out of the country. The results given in previous sections of this report show that housewives are less informed on the subject than other groups and give rather less support to the government’s policy. It will be noted that the proportion of housewives remembering the leaflet is only about average, although this leaflet (“which comes first the chicken or the egg?”) was intended specially for distribution to housewives.

In general the managerial and professional group noticed publicity more than others, however only an average proportion of this group remembered seeing films about export. There are no very marked differences in the results shown for the other workers. The proportions of the retired and unoccupied noticing publicity are uniformly low.

An analysis of these results by age showed that considerably higher proportions of young people than of old people had seen films about export. This might be expected as young people go to cinemas very much more than older people ø . 52% of those aged sixteen to nineteen remembered films about export compared with 36% of those in the twenties, 26% of those in the thirties, 21% in the forties, 15% in the fifties and only [Text missing] of those aged sixty or over.

Newspaper advertisements about export were noticed also by higher proportions of younger people. 49% of those aged under forty remembered seeing them as compared with 39% of those aged forty to sixty and 26% of the oldest group. News and editorial matter was remembered more by those in the middle age groups than by the very young and by those aged sixty and over. The same is true of radio talks.

Summary Section (1)

Newspaper publicity either in the form of advertisements or items in the news and editorial columns of papers reached a larger section of the population than did any other single medium. However comparison of the answers to different questions suggests that not very close attention was given to this. Radio publicity reached a fairly high proportion (39%) and seems to have made a stronger impression on those who heard it.

Other forms of publicity reached smaller proportions, which might be expected as the newspaper was the main medium used in the campaign.

It is possible that if films had been more widely used those sections of the public (notably housewives and the lower economic groups) who are in general less inclined to notice government publicity might have been reached in greater numbers.

[2] N.S. 79/IV.

[3] See Appendix 4.

(2) Publicity in Factories

Workers in factories (whether operatives or other workers) were asked: “Have you been told by the management at the factory where you work whether any goods are being produced there for export: Do you know whether they are?”

Table 17
% workers in factories
Goods made for export. Told by management 24
Goods made for export. Not told. 46
Not making goods for export. 19
Don’t know 11

46% of these workers knew, or said they knew, that their factories were making goods for export although they were not aware of any announcement to that effect being made by the management. Only 24% had been told by managements that goods were being made for export, and 11% did not know. 23% of the women workers did not know as compared with 7% of the men.

A further question asked of factory workers was “Have you seen any posters displayed at the factory where you work?” 29% had seen such posters. (32% of the men and 1% of the women.)

The results of these two questions suggest that much more could be done to publicise the export drive in factories. It does not appear that managements have entered very enthusiastically into the campaign for making their workers aware of export policy.

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(3) The Advertisements in Newspapers and Magazines

Something has already been said of the impact of the newspaper advertisements. This medium was studied in more detail than other media and in this section the results of the more detailed questions are given.

Informants were shown photostat copies of the ten advertisements that had appeared and asked to say which of them they had seen, The advertisements are reproduced in Appendix 3. The proportions remembering different numbers of advertisements are shown in two ways below.

Table 18

The number of advertisements remembered

% %
None 33 None 33
One 13 One or more 65
Two 16 Two or more 51
Three 14 Three or more 36
Four 9 Four or more 22
Five 5 Five or more 13
Six 4 Six or more 8
Seven or more 4 Seven or more 4
SAMPLE: 3,137 SAMPLE: 3,137

It will be remembered that only 41% said they remembered seeing an advertisement before being shown copies of them. Thus a further 24% remembered seeing an advertisement on having it shown to them.

There are some marked differences between groups in respect of the number of advertisements remembered. Thus 41% of women had not seen any advertisements as compared with 27% of men, and only 29% of women had seen three or more advertisements as compared with 46% men, 50% of the lower economic group had not seen any advertisements compared with 31% of the middle group and 27% of the higher group, and 25%, 37% and 43% of the three groups respectively had seen three or more advertisements.

Housewives and the retired and unoccupied remembered fewer newspaper advertisements than workers. 41% of housewives had not seen any and only 27% had seen three or more. Professional and managerial workers and those in the clerical and distributive group remembered rather more advertisements than did the manual workers, and younger people remembered more than older people.

Before informants were shown the advertisements they were asked to try to describe one from memory, and the investigator tried to identify it. In the table below the proportions describing different advertisements so that they could be identified, and the proportions saying they had seen each advertisement when it was shown to them, are given.

Table 19

The advertisements which people remembered

When shown copies of all advertisements When asked to describe one from memory
Ad. No. Picture, etc. % %
6 Crates of exports and imports with figure balancing on top. 31 3
1 British Isles and arrows and words 1st Ad. 25 2
4 Globes with arrows to Australia. 23 3
10 Cycles to Africa, cotton from U.S.A. pictures and maps. 23 3
5 Ships being loaded and unloaded 23 3
8 British Isles, arrows and pictures. 21 1
2 British Isles and arrows to Africa. 19 1
3 British Isles and ships. 17 1
7 Workers rolling “Ball of Prosperity” 16 1
9 American Loan. (Small picture only). 9 -
Description not identifiable. - 2
Unable to describe. - 23
None remembered. 35 59
SAMPLE: 3,137 3,137

There are quite marked differences in the amount of attention attracted by different advertisements. Advertisement No. 6 appears to have been the most successful. In judging the success of Advertisement No.1 it should be remembered that this was the first advertisement to appear and might be expected to attract attention simply because of this. In the inquiry on the Road Safety campaign referred to earlier it was found that the first advertisements in two series attracted more attention than subsequent advertisements in the same series. Advertisements Nos. 4, 10, and 5 also had fairly high proportions remembering them. It will be noted that with the exception of Advertisement No.1 the more frequently remembered advertisements have a pictorial quality which might be expected to appeal to the imagination more than simple maps with arrows. With the exception of Advertisement No. 7, the less frequently remembered advertisements consist of maps with smaller pictures only. Advertisement No. 9, which has only a very small map and ship at the bottom, was remembered least frequently. One of the characteristics of the advertisements which attracted less attention is that the picture or map appears to be all in one plane, whereas the more frequently remembered ones, except for No.1, the first to appear, give the impression of having three dimensions. In this way they are more like pictures and less like diagrams. It should also be noted that Advertisements Nos. 8, 2, and 3 (and No.1) are somewhat alike and therefore perhaps less likely to be remembered individually.

Although certain groups in the population had seen more advertisements than others there does not seem to be much difference in the proportion of attention given to individual advertisements by different groups.

A further experiment was carried out with newspaper advertisments. At the end of the interview 544 informants, being a one in six sample of the whole 3,137, were shown full size photostat copies of pages of the Yorkshire Gazette and Picture Post on which an export advertisement appeared among several other advertisements. The pages are reproduced in Appendix 3. These were asked, “Of all the advertisements here which one would you personally be most likely to notice?”

There were altogether six advertisements on the page of the Yorkshire Gazette and the Export advertisement shown was No.6. 45% chose this advertisement, 20% chose an advertisement of a furniture shop showing utility furniture, and 16% a draper’s advertisement showing a woman wearing a hand knitted jumper. Other advertisements were chosen by small proportions only.

The page of Picture Post contained eleven advertisements, the Export advertisement being No.4. 39% chose this advertisement, 16% chose an advertisement for a baby food with a picture of a baby, and 13% a Ministry of Food advertisement explaining the nutritional value of national flour and bread. The others were chosen by smaller proportions.

In the Road Safety inquiry a similar experiment with newspaper pages was carried out and much higher proportions chose Road Safety advertisements, 61%, 62% and 48% on three different pages. It should be noted that the Road Safety advertisements had more human interest and showed the story of an accident pictorially. The conditions under which the questions were asked were similar as in both cases informants had just answered a questionnaire on the subject with which the advertisements tested were concerned. The three pages used in the Road Safety inquiry contained eight, nine and eleven advertisements altogether.

Summary, Section (3)

The newspaper advertisements which formed part of the Export Campaign do not appear to have attracted as much attention as those which were shown in connection with the Road Safety Campaign. The reasons for this may be that the Road Safety advertisements had a more personal appeal and were more pictorial in quality, and were supported by a widespread poster campaign.

Only a few of those who had seen Export advertisements were able to describe them sufficiently clearly for individual advertisements to be identified.

The advertisements, as might be expected, were seen by higher proportions in those groups who read newspapers most, the higher economic groups and those in professional and managerial jobs, and these are in general better sections of the population than others. In order to reach the less informed groups (particularly housewives and the lower economic groups) concentration on other publicity as well as newspapers would be desirable.

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(4) The Slogan

Informants who said they had seen advertisements before copies were shown to then were asked whether they remembered the slogan. 24% of these, representing 10% of the whole sample, were able to repeat the slogan “Fill the ships and we shall fill the shops”. It is of some interest to compare this proportion with the proportion remembering the Road Safety slogan “Keep death off the road”. In January 1946 32% of those who had seen Road Safety advertisements could repeat the slogan, and in May 1946, after more publicity load been put out, 43% of those who had seen advertisements remembered it. These proportions represent 23% and 33% of all the people interviewed in these inquiries. Thus the proportion remembering the Export slogan is considerably lower. It should be noted that the Road Safety slogan had been used more extensively in posters which were displayed publicly and it might be expected therefore that a higher proportion would remember it.

More of the men than of the women who had seen advertisements were able to repeat the export slogan, the proportions being 29% and 18% respectively.

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(5) Publicity and Knowledge and Opinion about Exports

Analyses of answers to some of the questions for which results have already been given were made by whether or not informants had noticed various types of publicity. One of these was “Why do you think we export things at all?” The answers to this question have been grouped in three categories as in Section I.

Table 20
Why do you think we export things at all? Newspaper Advertisement Radio Talks Films Had seen
Three or more One or two None Had heard Had not heard Had seen Had not seen
% % % % % % %
To pay for imports 57 53 43 57 47 52 50
To get money, etc. 33 31 29 31 31 34 31
Vague, confused and don’t know 10 16 28 12 22 14 19
SAMPLE: 1,123 898 1,100 1,214 1,910 689 2,369

Those who had seen advertisements were considerably better informed than those who had not, and similarly more of those who had heard radio talks than of those who had not were able to give the correct answer. It does not of course follow that those who knew why we exported goods had got this information from advertisements and radio talks. It may be that they were in any case a better informed section of the public and that for this reason they were more likely to notice and remember publicity. There is very little difference between the answers given by those who had and had not seen films, and it has been shown that there was not very much difference in the proportions of different groups of the population, except the age groups, that had seen films about export.

The question “Do you think we ought to export a greater or a small quantity” or about the same quantity of goods as we did before the war?” was analysed in the same way. Considerably higher proportions of those who had seen advertisements and of those who had heard radio talks than of the rest said that we ought to export more. The proportions saying we should export the same amount or less did not differ much, but a higher proportion of those who had not noticed these types of publicity could give no answer to the question. Thus 60% of those who had seen three or more advertisements and 57% of those who had heard radio talks said we should export more than we did before the war, as compared with 31% of those who had not seen any advertisements and 39% of those who had not heard radio talks. Only 12% of those who had seen three or more advertisements and 15% of those who had heard radio talks said they did not know, but 37% of those who had not seen advertisements and 29% of those who had not heard radio talks could give no answer.

Again there was not much difference between the proportions of those who had and had not seen films giving different replies.

In general more of those who had noticed publicity than of those who had not were able to mention particular items of exports. However about the same proportions of those who had not noticed publicity as of those who had said that food and coal were being exported. Similarly more of the countries to which goods are being sent were mentioned by those who had noticed publicity than by those who had not, but about the same proportions in these groups said that goods were being sent to Germany.

Answers to the question, “Could you say on the whole whether you approve or disapprove of the government export policy?” were analysed in this way.

Table 21
Could you say on the whole whether you approve or disapprove of the government export policy? Newspaper Advertisements Radio Talks Films
Had seen: Three or more One or two None Had heard Had not heard Had seen Had not seen
% % % % % % %
Approve 81 73 59 78 66 475 69
Disapprove 12 14 15 13 14 12 15
No opinion 7 13 26 9 20 13 16
SAMPLE: 1,123 898 1,100 1,214 1,910 689 2,369

More of those who had than of those who had not noticed newspaper and radio publicity approved. There is however no difference in the proportions disapproving, as higher proportions of those who had not noticed publicity of three types had no opinion. There are only small differences in the case of cinema publicity.

Summary, Section (5)

It is clear that those who had noticed publicity about exports were better informed on the subject, and more inclined to support export policy, than those who had not, However it should be noted that those noticing publicity are to a large extent composed of those sections of the population that are in any case better informed on matters of public interest, and whether the superior knowledge shown by them is due to their awareness of the publicity campaign is doubtful. This cannot be decided in the absence of information about public knowledge before the campaign began.

(6) Suggestions for publicity

Informants were asked whether they had any suggestions to make for improving publicity about exports. 34% made some suggestion. 9% suggested that more films should be made, 8% that there should be more posters and 6% that more talks should be given on the radio. 5% said that there should be more or better advertisements placed in newspapers, and the same proportion suggested that more facts, figures and explanations should be given. Other methods of publicity such as public meetings, leaflets, loudspeaker-vans and notices in pay packets or on food wrappers were suggested by a few only, and a few thought that children should be taught more about the subject in schools.

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