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Americanisation in 20th Century Europe: business, culture, politics. Volume 2

 | 
Nick Tiratsoo
, 
Mathias Kipping

Tradition and modernity: the Americanisation of Aer Lingus advertising, 1950 - 1960

Linda King

Résumé

Cet article a pour sujet l'américanisation à propos de la publicité pour le tourisme irlandais dans les années 1950. Il va reposer sur une étude des échanges culturels, sur la façon dont un pays peut être transformé en un produit afin d’attirer des devises étrangères. En nous axant sur l’étude des publicités commandées par Aer Lingus — la compagnie aérienne nationale — nous allons démontrer comment des représentations de “l’identité irlandaise" ont été construites spécifiquement pour attirer des touristes américains en République d’Irlande. Nous montrerons comment la promesse d’aides financières par l’intermédiaire du Plan Marshall permit aux États-Unis de faire pression sur le système politique de la République. En conséquence, les États-Unis s’impliquèrent de façon notable dans la définition d’une politique touristique de l’Irlande durant cette décennie.

Texte intégral

introduction

  • 1 A. Goddard, The Language of Advertising, London, Routledge, 1998, p. 3.

Although advertisements are ephemeral...their effects are long-standing and cumulative: they...combine to form a body of messages about the culture that produced them.1

  • 2 I would like to thank Terry Gourvish, Matthias Kipping and Nick Tiratsoo for their comments on an e (...)
  • 3 See also L. King “Advertising Ireland: Irish graphic design in the 1950s under the patronage of Aer (...)

1Figure 1 – Ireland: Fisherman’s Paradise - is representative of many posters Aer Lingus commissioned in the 1950s and provides an effective demonstration of the Americanisation of much Irish tourist imagery of the period.2 On an aesthetic level the illustrative style employed reflects knowledge of contemporary American design and popular culture, specifically the animated films of United Productions of America which emphasised flat-bright colours and exaggerated comic figures.3 However on an ideological level, the poster also contains a number of visual signifiers that testify to US involvement in the formulation of a vision of Irish identity aimed at targeting the American tourist market.

  • 4 The term ‘Ireland’ is used here to refer to the 26 counties of the Republic and excludes reference (...)

2By focusing on advertisements produced by the Irish national airline - Aer Lingus - this chapter will discuss the effect of Americanisation on Irish tourist imagery in the immediate post-World War Two period. It is an examination of national identity; of how images are formulated to represent a particular culture at a particular time; and the individuals and circumstances involved in such constructions. It will be argued that although Aer Lingus is a product of modernisation, the pictorial symbols that advertisements like Figure 1 contain — fishing, examples of indigenous architecture, mountain scenes - promote the pastoral and ‘pre-modern’ aspects of Irish society. It will be suggested that during the 1950s, financial pragmatism encouraged successive Irish governments to emphasise these aspects of Irish culture to fulfil the expectations of the tourist industry, while simultaneously the period also witnessed many attempts to articulate the successes of Irish modernisation post independence.4 It will be suggested that the desire to balance both these concerns established a practise of promoting the country as simultaneously modern and pre-modern, evidence of which can still be witnessed in examples of contemporary advertising. It will be demonstrated that in the absence of coherent government tourist policies during this time, Ireland - as a destination - was actively promoted by its national airline, relying on a formula of representation known to appeal to American audiences and given visual form by a number of Dutch and British nationals. As the involvement of these protagonists is central to the discussion of how these messages were constructed and disseminated, this chapter shares some common features with Pantzar and Heinonen’s, also in this volume. Similarly, the absence of a comprehensive study of this topic to date has necessitated the use of much empirical analysis, including detailed examination of consumer products such as magazines, advertisements, brochures, and films.

the development of irish tourism post-independence

  • 5 The Irish Free State became the Irish Republic in 1949, hence the use of both terms in this paper.
  • 6 Séan Lemass, cited in J. Horgan, Séan Lemass: the Enigmatic Patriot, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 19 (...)
  • 7 The concept was introduced by Brendan O’Regan, Head of the Sales and Catering at Shannon Airport.

3Aer Lingus was founded in 1936, 14 years after the Free State was established.5 As the one semi-state company with the potential to acquire a truly international profile, its function from the outset was quite clearly more than that of just the national carrier. Ideologically, the aeroplane was seen as a metaphor for Irish independence, while, politically, the establishment of Aer Lingus symbolised “Ireland’s ability to break free of its island restrictions and create meaningful links with the world outside”.6 From the outset, the Irish government was aware of Ireland’s strategic geographical location in relation to the future development of transatlantic traffic and from at least 1935 these “meaningful links” were clearly seen in the context of Ireland’s economic and political benefit from this advantage. By 1944, the Irish government had signed a bilateral agreement with the US that secured both the compulsory stopover in the Free State of all transatlantic traffic using Irish airspace and made provision for the eventual establishment the country’s own transatlantic route. It was with these developments in mind that Shannon airport was established, with, from 1947, innovative duty-free shopping facilities.7

  • 8 For example, John Leydon, Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, held key positions (...)

4More so than any other politician of the period, Séan Lemass, Fianna Fáil Minister for Industry and Commerce, was a key figure in both the history and development of Aer Lingus and in promoting the fiscal importance of tourism to the national economy. It was under his direction that the Irish Tourist Board (ITB) was established in 1939, and this, like Aer Lingus, came under the auspices of his Department. As Minister for Industry and Commerce for some 21 years between 1932 and 1959, Lemass’s influence in aviation and tourism development dominated that of other politicians, and it would appear that even when he was in political opposition he had the means to exert pressure and influence decision-making.8 Although the establishment of the ITB provided recognition of the possibility of tourism’s positive impact on the Irish economy, the organisation lacked a clear focus on policy and was in receipt of limited funding throughout the 1940s and 50s. The privately run Irish Tourist Association (ITA), founded in 1925, became responsible for advertising and promotion but it too had little financial support as it was largely supported by private donations. Thus, in the absence of State support and direction, a vacuum was created which resulted in Aer Lingus adopting the role of simultaneously promoting both its services and the country as a tourist destination. As the 1950s progressed, the responsibilities of the airline and the tourist authorities became increasingly more ambiguous.

ireland and the marshall plan

  • 9 B. Whelan, Ireland and the Marshall Plan: 1947-57, Dublin, Four Courts, 2000, p. 13-27, provides mo (...)
  • 10 Richard Bissel, ECA assistant administrator, cited in Whelan 2000: 329.

5Although the Irish Free State’s insistence on neutrality during World War Two had caused much anger in US circles, the country was invited to partake in the European Recovery Programme (Marshall Plan) in July 1947. Considering Ireland’s geographical position to the US it was felt by American sources that it was more problematic to exclude rather than include the country in the funding process.9 Initially the US considered that the Free State should focus on supplying agricultural goods to Britain and food to Europe. In 1949, as concerns about Ireland’s dollar income were voiced, it was suggested by the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) that among the areas that showed developmental potential, the tourist industry was “the largest source of foreign earnings and is the only important source...about which Ireland can do anything”.10 However, in spite of American predictions of the projected economic benefits, the Irish government was reluctant to engage in tourism planning. This political resistance was a combination of several factors: complacency as British tourism to the Republic was reliably consistent and accounted for the bulk of existing tourist traffic; disbelief that the Republic had much to offer by way of tourist attractions; and most significantly, the realisation that services - particularly standards of accommodation - did not meet US expectations and that this situation was unlikely to change without substantial State investment, which the government was reluctant to give.

  • 11 R. Fanning, “The Genesis of Economic Development”, in J. F. McCarthy (ed.), Planning Ireland’s Futu (...)
  • 12 There were coalition governments in 1948-1951 and 1954-57.

6None of this thinking was particular to the government of the day. As has been well recorded, in the immediate decades post-independence, successive Irish governments were more concerned with the “shape and form of Irish independence, not...the economic policies best suited to a newly independent State”.11 Consequently, for the three decades after 1922, considerable political focus centred on the creation of infrastructure - including schools and hospitals - while the loans and grants facilitated by the Marshall Plan between 1948-52 were largely spent on land reclamation and rural electrification. Within this context, the development of tourism was clearly not seen as a priority by the Irish government. As if to emphasise this view, on taking office in 1948, and in an effort to curb the spending of the semi-state bodies, the coalition government cancelled Aer Lingus’s transatlantic service on the eve of its inauguration and while also reducing the budget of the ITB.12

  • 13 Whelan 2000: 332.
  • 14 Whelan 2000: 334, and J. Deegan and D. A. Dineen, Tourism Policy and Performance: the Irish Experie (...)

7Although frustrated by Irish political attitudes, US pressure to develop tourism remained constant. As part of the Republic’s Marshall Aid plan, a Technical Assistance Programme (TAP) was established in 1950 to provide suggestions for potential tourist development. A group of Irish hoteliers were immediately dispatched to the US as part of a European delegation organised by Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) to study American tourism methodology. Although the itinerary covered all aspects of the industry, specific visits were organised to “publicity and promotion centres” and the subsequent reports unanimously agreed that the areas of “marketing and promotion” were an integral component of future Irish tourism strategy.13 As US pressure to formulate a coherent tourist policy increased the Irish government responded with tokenist gestures. Irish political opinion eventually conceded that reluctance to address the country’s lack of dollar earnings had resulted in “a serious adverse effect in our relations with the ECA and the OEEC which may result in a reduced allocation of ECA grant”.14 Consequently, it seemed inevitable that eventually some American suggestions would have to eventually be accommodated.

the christenberry report

8Arguably, the blueprint for how ideas of Irish identity could be visualised in order to achieve maximum financial gain were established by a document called The Synthesis of Reports on Tourism, 1950-51. This is more commonly known as the Christenberry Report after the Robert K. Christenberry who led a US delegation of tourism experts to the Republic in July-August 1950 under the auspices of the TAP. Using the observations of this group as a template, the Department of Industry and Commerce subsequently Consolidated six reports including those that had emanated from the Irish hoteliers tour of US earlier in the year. The report, while making observations and recommendations about the industry as a whole, concentrated on the development of Irish tourism specifically for the American market and it is the suggestions of the US team which dominate.

  • 15 Department of Industry and Commerce, Synthesis of Reports on Tourism: 1950-51, Dublin, Stationary O (...)
  • 16 Christenberry 1951: 27. The Report “conservatively” estimated over 20 million Americans to be of Ir (...)
  • 17 Christenberry 1951: 7.
  • 18 The first public television demonstration took place in the Republic in 1951 but RTE, the national (...)

9In order to assess the “dollar tourist potential” of the country, Christenberry divided the Republic into seven areas and rated them against their appeal to the potential American consumer. It focused on those counties around the perimeter of the island, dismissing approximately the half of the country that constitutes the Midlands region and Ulster. “Section II: Ireland’s Tourist Areas” analysed each province, identifying the western region of Connaught as having the most appeal for the US market “due to the magnificent wild scenery, the fishing and shooting opportunities”.15 The report further stated that this market represented for the Republic “one of the most attractive fields for cultivation in the United States because it is compact geographically and has strong national and religious ties with the old country”.16 The links referred to were those which had emerged as a consequence of generations of emigration from this region to the States, particularly to areas around New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Although for much of the indigenous population this predominantly rural area had become synonymous with poverty and mass emigration, the region held considerable nostalgic appeal for a large number of potential Irish-American tourists for those very reasons. In an effort to stress the potential for development Christenberry observed that in 1949, 21,000 US visitors had arrived in Ireland without the “stimulus of planned advertising, publicity and promotion”.17 As almost 100,000 Americans had visited Britain in the same year, the report clearly felt that the Republic could be marketed as an extension of these visits. The emphasis that the report put on advertising is understandable within the general context of tourism promotion which is based on the concept of selling a product – the destination - sight unseen to the potential consumer. In 1950s Ireland, the primary mechanism for such promotion was the printed media - particularly posters distributed through travel agencies and tourist boards - supplemented by some short films available through the offices of the ITB. Limited access to television ensured that in general there was little advertising competition from other media.18

  • 19 Christenberry 1951:26

10While making practical recommendations with regard to projected budgets and strategies, the report had a section entitled ‘Factors of Appeal’ which literally defined the attractions Ireland had to offer to the American tourist. Among those selected were the relative inexpensiveness of the country; the “breathtaking scenery”; the abundance of activities including golf, fishing and shooting, and the friendliness of the people. Comment was also made that the average American would expect Ireland to have “twisting, dirt-surfaced roads”, while Irish-Americans were likely to “think of the country in terms of thatched roof houses”.19 Central to the marketing of any tourist destination is the establishment of ‘difference’: the physical or psychological attractions which provide the potential tourist with a contrast to and escape from daily routine. Christenberry’s comments when combined with the selection of the Connaught region as having the most – American - tourist potential, defined Ireland’s ‘difference’ as the embodiment of pre-modernity. The implication was that a holiday in Ireland for the US consumer was an escape into the past from the modernisation of contemporary life, providing a romanticised ideal of a pastoral society that industrialisation had bypassed. That is not to deny that the Ireland of the 1950s was not a predominantly rural society but equally it was not an exclusively agrarian one either. Paradoxically this image contrasted sharply with the simultaneous expectation of modern and efficient standards within the Irish service industries, about which the report gave considerable discussion.

  • 20 B.P. Kennedy and R. Gillespie (eds.), Ireland – Art Into History, Dublin, Town House, 1994, p.139.
  • 21 See D. Negra “Consuming Ireland”, Cultural Studies, 15 (1), 2001, p. 76-97, for discussion on aspec (...)
  • 22 See B. Share, The Flight of the Iolar: the Aer Lingus Experience 1936-1986, Dublin, Gill and Macmil (...)

11With hindsight it would appear that far from being a “general outline” as intended, Christenberry became almost a blueprint for the visualisation of Irish culture for the purposes of general tourism development. That is not to suggest that specific tropes, marketed as being representative of Irish identity, necessarily began with this document. Far from constructing new images it - in many ways - formally articulated existing viewpoints which it left unchallenged. An example of an ITA ad from 1939 with the headline ‘Old Erin still survives in modern Ireland’– with its strap line “The ancient values remain unchanged in Ireland: yet Catering and Transport, judged by modern standards, maintain a high level of comfort and efficiency” - testifies to the fact that these ideas had already been acknowledged for marketing purposes.20 The pattern of representation that the report encouraged can still be observed in some of Ireland’s current tourist advertising, particularly that aimed at the US market.21 Fortunately for the various tourism organisations, what appealed to the potential US tourist/consumer would also conveniently mirror the expectations of their European counter-part.22

  • 23 Whelan 2000: 339.

12In May 1951, a Fianna Fáil government was returned to power and Séan Lemass was returned to his position of Minister for Industry and Commerce. Tentative efforts were made to implement some of Christenberry’s ideas as Irish politicians cautiously accepted that State intervention was crucial to the development of a cohesive tourism strategy. With the ending of Marshall Aid looming, Lemass warned that tourism “ranked second only to agriculture as the nation’s most important industry...the tourist trade was big business now and our welfare depended on it, but it could be made much bigger business”.23 But as one of the few politicians totally convinced of the necessity of tourism planning within the wider context of economic development, it was not until the end of the decade that widespread policy changes became feasible. However, it could be argued that his continued agitation – even when in opposition - helped to foster a climate that made subsequent changes possible.

tradition and modernity

  • 24 Interviews given to the author by those responsible for the company’s adverts have confirmed this t (...)

13In 1950 Aer Lingus began to consider a more ambitious approach to self-promotion. Sun Advertising, which managed the airline’s account for much of the following decade, began recruiting graphic designers from the publicity department of KLM, the Dutch national airline, conscious of the fact that there was little indigenous experience available with regard to handling large, specialised, corporate accounts. Aer Lingus had been using several British advertising agencies prior to this and continued to employ some British expertise throughout the decade. KLM had long-standing links with the company, but perhaps more importantly, was also a pioneer of corporate identity Systems, and, unlike other airlines, consistently produced cohesive advertising campaigns. It is not clear if the decision by Aer Lingus to import Dutch expertise was politically motivated, but it did demonstrate an awareness of the future importance of brand identity in the context of future economic growth that reflected Lemass’s thinking. As the decade unfolded, Dutch influence spilled over into other key, tourism-related companies including John Hinde postcards; Bord Fáilte, the state-run tourist authority which replaced the ITB in 1952; and CIE, the State-owned public transport company. Therefore, as a result of a pragmatic decision that Sun had taken in 1950, many of the protagonists responsible for the construction of images representing a ‘distinctive’ Irish national identity were Dutch or British nationals. Conveniently, their strategies for presenting these ideas neatly coincided with sections of what Christenberry had articulated.24

  • 25 The Atlantic/Overseas issue of Time has been used as a barometer. During the 1940s and 1950s the ma (...)
  • 26 The 1952 Tourist Act established Bord Fáilte, a new tourist authority which is confusingly referred (...)
  • 27 Irish-American John Ford directed The Quiet Man in 1952. Its version of Irish rural life was/is fre (...)
  • 28 Christenberry 1951: 35.

14Analysis of Aer Lingus advertisements from Time magazine in the 1950s provide tangible examples of how Christenberry’s suggestions came to be visually interpreted by the airline.25 While a selection from the beginning of the decade concentrate on listing the routes available to the traveller, from 1953 there is a marked change in emphasis as - in line with the report’s recommendations - ads begin to stress the friendliness of the Irish people and affordability of the country as a destination. Two full-page ads from 1957 however, demonstrate Christenberry’s suggestions more extensively. These were a joint venture between the Bord Fáilte and Aer Lingus and while highlighting the ambiguity between the roles of these two State bodies, they also hint at an emerging tension between different methods of representing ideas of ‘Ireland’ and ‘Irishness’.26 Holiday in Friendly Ireland for instance describes “friendly folk” surrounded by castles, “walled towns that the ancient Irish kings knew”, beautiful mountains and lakes and activities including fishing and hunting. The Ireland mythologised here is a country where modernisation is non-existent; a central photograph of a small town nestled at the foot of a mountain reinforces this message. The ad implies further American cultural influence in that it almost directly replicates a scene from The Quiet Man where the Irish-American John Wayne ‘returns’ to his ancestors’ village in Connaught and sees it nestled against the Galway Mountains for the first time. The ad’s claim that Irish people welcome the visitor with the greeting “top o’ the morning” is another Irish-American construct as the phrase is non-existent outside the highly romanticised versions of the country disseminated by such films.27 The second ad, Holiday in Dublin’s Fair City, reiterates a similar message. Although Christenberry had conceded that Dublin was one of the few attractions for the US tourist in the entire Leinster region, the text of the advertisement uses deliberately archaic language to project an image of a city devoid of the busyness of other urban centres. Dubliners “browse...booksellers, antique shops and auction rooms” while city is full of “taverns” where the locals discuss literature and heritage. In keeping with the report’s recommendations, the city is also promoted as a “the gateway to Ireland”, providing access to mountains, lakes and sporting activities. The listing of indigenous culinary dishes is clearly a direct response to the Report’s claim that “Americans are disappointed not to find Irish dishes and native foods on the menus”.28

  • 29 For example: the Irish Electricity Board – the ESB - used images of horses to sell the concept of ‘ (...)

15In both these ads the central photographs and text clearly imply a pre-modern ideal, yet both also provide evidence of modernisation, represented by the images of Aer Lingus planes at Dublin airport which they also contain. While it is not unusual that advertising strategies employ symbols of tradition to explain or promote ideas of modernity – relating the unfamiliar to the familiar – when used in this context it results in some confusion about the intended interpretation of these advertisements.29 The juxtapositioning of these images in the same advert - one implying the superiority of traditional life, beside another celebrating technological progress - seem to imply a contradiction encouraging the interpretation of a dichotomous national image.

  • 30 Atlantic/Overseas Time is again used as a barometer.

16This particular publicity campaign differs from earlier examples in Time in that its focus shifts from promoting Aer Lingus’s services to promoting the airline within the wider context of selling Ireland as a tourist destination. This strategy is unusual among European national carriers of the period which, apart from focusing on in-flight service and the technological capabilities of aircraft, usually promote the destinations they fly to as opposed to the country they represent. In addition, they do not appear to collaborate with their national tourist boards in joint promotional campaigns and thus maintain distinct and separate identities.30 Yet considering the economic climate of the Ireland in the 1950s, when few of the indigenous population could afford the luxury of airline travel, it is not surprising that Aer Lingus adopted this strategy. Clearly there was more financial gain for the company in attracting tourists to Ireland on its services as opposed to relying on indigenous travellers to use the airline to fly to destinations outside the island. It is also notable that by 1957, preparations to reinstate the Aer Lingus transatlantic route were underway, further opening the possibilities of increased tourism from the US. Therefore, it could be argued that, in an effort to create a market for its product, the airline’s advertising campaigns helped to re-affirm the inherent contradictions of Irish tourist promotion, representing a dichotomous view of Irish society in order to attract fiscal rewards.

17As the 1950s progressed and ambiguity over the airline’s function emerged, the roles of Aer Lingus and Bord Fáilte became increasingly less distinct. This confusion was assisted by the frequent utilisation of the same images to alternately publicise both companies (Figure 2). Although Bord Fáilte funding increased somewhat throughout the decade, the airline was still largely responsible for the marketing of the Republic as a destination, and often seemed to struggle to consolidate this role with that of publicising its own services. It is apparent that although clearly seen as necessary, addressing the suggestions made by Christenberry were not the sole concern of the airline during this time. From 1954 to 1956, for example, the majority of Aer Lingus ads in Time put emphasis on the technological capabilities of the aircraft, stressing speed and comfort. Such imagery implies excitement and pride in technological progress and falls within the wider conventions of airline advertising of the period including campaigns for various US airlines and national European carriers including Air France and Swissair.

  • 31 Éire is the term used to describe the 26 counties of the Free State and the Irish Republic. Aer Lin (...)

18These Aer Lingus advertisements echo the sentiments of some of the company’s earliest publicity examples that focused on the importance of technological acquisition in the context of nation building in the immediate post-independence years. For example, a 1936 press ad Éire Joins the Nations in the Air combines images of a plane circling the globe and the first Aer Lingus aircraft taking flight. The text articulates this moment of national pride claiming: “We are proud...born of our association with the progress of our country... Her scattered sons look homewards, proudly conscious of the Motherland’s achievements in many spheres — not least her position in international air transportation. Now are the ‘Wild Geese’ linked more closely in spirit, but in fact”.31 The ad, by its references to “scattered sons” and “Wild Geese”, ties the identity of the company to the wider history of Irish emigration, proposing the airline as the country’s link with its diaspora and its emigrant past. Like the ads from the 1950s, the past and the present are simultaneously represented; the central message is of national pride in the use of technology to modernise the fledgling State.

  • 32 T.K. Whitaker, cited in J.L. Pratsche., “Business and Labour in Irish Society, 1945-70” in J. Lee ( (...)

19As Christenberry’s suggestions were assimilated, it was clear that the versions of Irish identity which the Irish tourist authorities and the national airline aspired to promote, while having some common features, were beginning to conflict. As the airline’s dual function became more entrenched, a tension seemed to emerge between what Aer Lingus knew would sell the country as a destination for the – predominantly - US traveller, and what the airline wanted to promote in relation to its technological ability in the context of the country’s modernising achievements. Despite modest developments in the area of tourism, its contribution to the Republic’s revenue was moderate in the immediate years. Yet, as the country continued to suffer the effects of mass emigration and high unemployment, and the mood of despondency was “palpable”, the tone of the company’s ads remain remarkably optimistic considering the reality of the social and economic climate of the period.32

20The year 1958 is frequently celebrated as a watershed in Irish history because it marked the publishing of T.K. Whitaker’s Programme for Economic Expansion, a document which paved the way for the Republic’s subsequent economic development, by shifting the economic focus from protectionist policies to the encouragement of foreign investment. Significantly it also marked the establishment of Aer Lingus’s transatlantic service, which was another factor in exposing the country to external influences. As the route was being negotiated, Lemass reiterated that expansion of the airline was necessary within the context of national growth, stating:

  • 33 Lemass cited in Share 1986: 90.

I know that there still persists in the minds of many people in this country the idea the air transport is still something of a novelty or a luxury. I want to make it clear that the Government regard it as nothing of the sort...no intelligent plan of national development can fail to make provision for the growth of air transport.33

  • 34 Passenger numbers: 1958/59: 14,781; 1959/60: 21,733; 1960/61: 33, 160; 1961/62: 51, 360; 1962/63: 7 (...)
  • 35 Christenberry 1951: 29.
  • 36 Share 1986: 14. In the 1960s, Airlínte - Aer Lingus’s transatlantic company - changed its name to I (...)

21The subsequent success of the transatlantic route was reflected in the company’s returns over the next few years which showed a greater increase in passenger numbers than had been previously predicted.34 The publicity material distributed in the US during the 1958-60 period continued to market the Republic as a country to be visited within the wider context of holidaying in Europe, echoing Christenberry’s recommendations which had stated that: “the average American tourist travelling transatlantic cannot be induced to spend more that a few days in Ireland. The American tourist is cost conscious and determined to see more than one country in Europe”.35 Yet, unlike the ads in Time of the previous year, Ireland as a destination is not the sole focus of these brochures. Colour photographs of recognisable landmarks are used to represent individual countries - Big Ben for England and St. Peter’s Church for Italy - while Ireland, by comparison, is represented by images of Aer Lingus aircraft, examples of aviation technology, attentive cabin crew, and, in one example, ‘a typical Irish thatched cottage’ almost identical to Wayne’s family home in the Quiet Man. As with previous Aer Lingus ads, combining these narratives results in mixed and confusing signals for the viewer/consumer. Advertising the airline, its services, technological prowess and the tourist fantasy of ‘traditional’ Irish country life, produces mixed metaphors which imply that Irish society is simultaneously modern and pre-modern. Also notable in these examples is the marketing of the company as Irish Air Lines, a decision that arose as a result of company fears that Aer Lingus – derived from Gaelic - would prove problematic for US audiences.36

  • 37 S. Rothery, Ireland and the New Architecture: 1900-1940, Dublin, Lilliput, 1991, p. 215.
  • 38 These also appeared in Atlantic/Overseas Time.

22By comparison to these images of Ireland produced for external consumption, the posters that Aer Lingus produced for local distribution frequently focus exclusively on images of the aircraft, implying pride in the country’s modernisation and technological advancement. Figure 3, for example, was composed to accommodate additional over-printing, thus enabling indigenous industries to ally themselves to the company and, by extension, the country’s modernisation efforts to date. The incorporation of the image of the modernist Dublin Airport terminal expands this idea and can be frequently found in the airline’s publicity material of the period.37 By adopting these strategies, Aer Lingus was again working within the convention of airline advertising of the period which frequently equated technological progress with national achievement. Air France, for example, ran the campaign “Technically tops...Air France flies in the forefront of progress” through 1956 while Swissair similarly focused on images of cockpits and radar antenna for its 1957 ad series “Rest assured...when you fly Swissair”.38

conclusion

23Further discussion of the impact of US influence on the development of Aer Lingus and marketing of Ireland as a tourist destination is beyond the capabilities of a chapter this length. By focusing on analysing the influence of Christenberry, this paper has highlighted a specific example Americanisation: the marketing of one country - Ireland - in order to satisfy the expectations of another - the US It has been argued here that although the social and political climate of the Republic in the 1950s was inherently conservative, there is no reason to assume that this conservatism inevitably led to the formulation of an national image that implied a country almost devoid of modernisation. There are many Aer Lingus advertisements, posters and brochures - a fraction of which are discussed here – to suggest that there was an internal desire to project images of the country which acknowledged and celebrated the attempts at modernisation in the immediate decades post-independence.

  • 39 J. Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies, London, Sage, 1990.
  • 40 B. O’Connor, “Myths and Mirrors: Tourist Images and National Identity” in B. O’Connor and M. Cronin(...)

24In spite of the modernity of its illustrative style, Figure 1 works within the constraints of Christenberry’s suggestions, containing many of the features highlighted as satisfying the expectations of the American tourist. The means by which the country/commodity is identified is considerably more subtle than many other tourist images of the period as, without the qualifying type and references to indigenous architecture, it would be difficult to accurately identify the destination as Ireland. None the less, it still adheres to a clear formula of representation that Christenberry re-affirmed as being necessary in the context of tourism development. As has been discussed, what the individual tourist singles out as being worthy of their attention, is entirely dependent on how the sight/object contrasts with the individual’s everyday environment. These ‘gazes’ are constructed, assembled and reinforced by individuals who have a vested, economic interest in their promotion.39 This poster was designed by a Dutch designer, working within the recommendations of a report dominated by American opinion. Although Ireland’s tourist images were frequently formulated and manipulated by non-nationals, they were actively promoted by its national airline, operating as a de facto tourist board in a void created by a lack of State policy and funding. And as has been observed: “cultural and national identities [are] constructed from the representations which certain people both inside and outside our culture produce for us. The way in which we see ourselves is substantially determined by the way in which we are seen by others”.40

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O’Connor B. and M. Cronin 1993. (eds.), Tourism in Ireland: a Critical Analysis, Cork, Cork University Press.

O’Riain M. 1986. Aer Lingus 1936-1968: a Business Monograph, Dublin, Aer Lingus.

Osbourne P. D. 2000. Travelling Light: Photography, Travel and Visual Culture, Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Rojek C. and J. Urry 1997. Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory, London, Routledge.

Rothery S. 1991. Ireland and the New Architecture: 1900-1940, Dublin, Lilliput.

Shark B. 1986, The Flight of the Iolar: the Aer Lingus Experience 1936-1986, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan.

Urry J. 1990. The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies, London, Sage.

Urry J. 1995. Consuming Places, London, Routledge.

Whelan B. 2000. Ireland and the Marshall Plan: 1947-57, Dublin, Four Courts.

Annexes

Fig. 1 - Ireland: Fisherman’s paradise

Fig. 1 - Ireland: Fisherman’s paradise

Fig. 2 - Ireland: Fly Aer Lingus

Fig. 2 - Ireland: Fly Aer Lingus

Notes

1 A. Goddard, The Language of Advertising, London, Routledge, 1998, p. 3.

2 I would like to thank Terry Gourvish, Matthias Kipping and Nick Tiratsoo for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

3 See also L. King “Advertising Ireland: Irish graphic design in the 1950s under the patronage of Aer Lingus” CIRCA, 92, 2000, p. 16-19.

4 The term ‘Ireland’ is used here to refer to the 26 counties of the Republic and excludes reference to the six counties of Northern Ireland.

5 The Irish Free State became the Irish Republic in 1949, hence the use of both terms in this paper.

6 Séan Lemass, cited in J. Horgan, Séan Lemass: the Enigmatic Patriot, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1997, p. 88. Lemass held this Ministry in 1932-1948, 1951-1954, and 1957-1959; and was Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1959-1966. He stated many times that the establishment of Aer Lingus was his proudest achievement.

7 The concept was introduced by Brendan O’Regan, Head of the Sales and Catering at Shannon Airport.

8 For example, John Leydon, Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, held key positions on the boards of Aer Lingus and Airlinte - the company that managed the transatlantic route - for extended periods throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Sun Advertising, which managed the Aer Lingus account through the 1950s, was run by Tim O’Neill who had political connections to Fianna Fáil.

9 B. Whelan, Ireland and the Marshall Plan: 1947-57, Dublin, Four Courts, 2000, p. 13-27, provides more detailed discussion.

10 Richard Bissel, ECA assistant administrator, cited in Whelan 2000: 329.

11 R. Fanning, “The Genesis of Economic Development”, in J. F. McCarthy (ed.), Planning Ireland’s Future: the Legacy of T.K. Whitaker, Dublin, Glendale, 1990, p. 78.

12 There were coalition governments in 1948-1951 and 1954-57.

13 Whelan 2000: 332.

14 Whelan 2000: 334, and J. Deegan and D. A. Dineen, Tourism Policy and Performance: the Irish Experience, London, International Thompson, 1997, p. 16.

15 Department of Industry and Commerce, Synthesis of Reports on Tourism: 1950-51, Dublin, Stationary Office, 1951, [hereafter Christenberry] p.5-6.

16 Christenberry 1951: 27. The Report “conservatively” estimated over 20 million Americans to be of Irish origin. L. Gibbons, Transformations in Irish Culture, Cork, Cork University Press, 1998, p.23-35, provides comparisons between the myth of ‘west’ in Irish and American cultures.

17 Christenberry 1951: 7.

18 The first public television demonstration took place in the Republic in 1951 but RTE, the national station, was not established until 31 December 1961.

19 Christenberry 1951:26

20 B.P. Kennedy and R. Gillespie (eds.), Ireland – Art Into History, Dublin, Town House, 1994, p.139.

21 See D. Negra “Consuming Ireland”, Cultural Studies, 15 (1), 2001, p. 76-97, for discussion on aspects of how the Republic is marketed for the US tourist today.

22 See B. Share, The Flight of the Iolar: the Aer Lingus Experience 1936-1986, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1986, p.123, for comments on how the author Heinrich Böll is credited with projecting a romanticised Irish rural ideal which appealed to many of his fellow Germans.

23 Whelan 2000: 339.

24 Interviews given to the author by those responsible for the company’s adverts have confirmed this to be the case.

25 The Atlantic/Overseas issue of Time has been used as a barometer. During the 1940s and 1950s the magazine contained a particularly significant number of ads for airlines, aviation technology and various other companies anxious to associate their products with the glamour of air travel.

26 The 1952 Tourist Act established Bord Fáilte, a new tourist authority which is confusingly referred to in this ad as the Irish Tourist Board, the name of the defunct organisation. Fógra Fáilte was simultaneously established to deal with publicity but was dissolved in 1955 and its powers were transferred to Bord Fáilte. The Irish Tourist Association continued until 1964 and focused on publicising tourism within Ireland.

27 Irish-American John Ford directed The Quiet Man in 1952. Its version of Irish rural life was/is frequently recycled for Irish tourist imagery and can also be found in TWA posters of the same period.

28 Christenberry 1951: 35.

29 For example: the Irish Electricity Board – the ESB - used images of horses to sell the concept of ‘horsepower’ in advertisements from the 1920s. See H. Campbell “Irish Identity and the Architecture of the New State”, in A. Becker (ed.), Ireland – Twentieth Century Architecture, Munich/New York, Prestel Verlag, 1997, p. 84. I am grateful to Matthew Hilton for some helpful comments on this point.

30 Atlantic/Overseas Time is again used as a barometer.

31 Éire is the term used to describe the 26 counties of the Free State and the Irish Republic. Aer Lingus originally operated under the name Irish Sea Airways.

32 T.K. Whitaker, cited in J.L. Pratsche., “Business and Labour in Irish Society, 1945-70” in J. Lee (ed.), Ireland 1945-70, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1979, p.40. Whitaker was appointed Secretary of the Department of Finance in 1956. Between 1956 and 1961 over 43,000 people emigrated per annum due to unemployment. See J.J. Lee, Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 359 and T. Brown, Ireland: a Social and Cultural History 1922-1985, London, Fontana, 1987, p. 212. See also Deegan and Dineen 1997: 30, for tourism statistics.

33 Lemass cited in Share 1986: 90.

34 Passenger numbers: 1958/59: 14,781; 1959/60: 21,733; 1960/61: 33, 160; 1961/62: 51, 360; 1962/63: 74, 360. Cited in M. O Riain, Aer Lingus 1936-1968: a Business Monograph, Dublin, Aer Lingus, 1986, p.25.

35 Christenberry 1951: 29.

36 Share 1986: 14. In the 1960s, Airlínte - Aer Lingus’s transatlantic company - changed its name to Irish International Airlines – Aer Lingus, which was subsequently abbreviated to Irish International and later to Irish. By 1970, when the Boeing 747s were introduced, the name was changed to read Irish - Aer Lingus.

37 S. Rothery, Ireland and the New Architecture: 1900-1940, Dublin, Lilliput, 1991, p. 215.

38 These also appeared in Atlantic/Overseas Time.

39 J. Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies, London, Sage, 1990.

40 B. O’Connor, “Myths and Mirrors: Tourist Images and National Identity” in B. O’Connor and M. Cronin (eds.), Tourism in Ireland: a Critical Analysis, Cork, Cork University Press, 1993, p.68.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 - Ireland: Fisherman’s paradise
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1947/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Fig. 2 - Ireland: Fly Aer Lingus
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1947/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 264k
Titre Fig. 3
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1947/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 275k

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