The Secret History Of The Most Famous Ad That Never Ran

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Those “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters are everywhere. It seems that almost every office has one hanging on its walls or has a coffee cup bearing the phrase in its kitchen, especially since the recession began in 2009. Most people know that the phrase originated in World War II-era Britain. But in a new short film, Temujin Doran, an illustrator and filmmaker from London, sheds some light on the origins of the poster and how it became the phenomenon it is today.

Like many great ads that never see the light of day, “Keep Calm” was the only one in a batch of three propaganda poster produced by Britain’s Ministry of Information in 1939 that was never distributed during the war. About 2.5 million copies of the poster were made, but they were mostly undistributed.

The film says that the Ministry was waiting to distribute the poster in a time of crisis. But despite the fact that The Blitz occurred between 1940 and 1941, it never made its public debut.

It wasn’t until a second hand bookshop in Northumberland, Barter Books, found an original copy of the poster and framed it in their store that the poster was finally recognised by the public.

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