There is a corner of Terry O’Reilly’s office that smells like a basement.
The culprit is a bag full of cassette tapes, sent to him after he asked a former creative director if he had archived any of his old radio commercials.
“You know that smell? That’s the state of our advertising archives right now, in this country,” Mr. O’Reilly said, speaking from the office at his agency, Pirate Toronto.
Lacking in storage space – or the time and resources to catalogue past work – many advertising agencies have been lax about building archives. Much of the Canadian industry’s heritage has been gathering dust in piecemeal personal collections.
But a new movement to organize and preserve Canada’s marketing history has taken a step forward: Pirate Toronto has donated a massive catalogue of about 50,000 pieces of advertising to McMaster University in Hamilton, creating the largest industry archive in Canada.
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“This is an outstanding collection of truly iconic commercials and advertising campaigns,” says University librarian Jeff Trzeciak. “It is a remarkable source of information for our students and faculty, providing them with concrete examples of the entire creative process.”