Station 1ZR – Vacuum Oil Company

Announcer Dudley Wrathall began his radio career in the 1920s and worked for many years on Auckland station 1ZB. Prior to that he worked for 1ZR, one of the early private "B class" radio stations. These were forced to try and exist without any form of advertising revenue – radio advertising being forbidden by the government during the early years of radio in this country.

Like many early radio stations, 1ZR was set up by a music retailer, in this case, Auckland's Lewis Eady Ltd. It was a popular broadcaster during the Depression playing a mixture of music and religious programming. However, in a 1966 interview, Dudley Wrathall recalled how they strayed too close to advertising by naming the sponsor of a programme, the Vacuum Oil Company. (Note their sponsorship of a 1ZR radio programme is mentioned in this newspaper advertisement of the era.)

The station was already in disfavour with the government due to the populist political views of station manager Reverend Colin Scrimgeour. The Post and Telegraph Department (who controlled radio licensing) decided to crack down on radio station sponsorship and 1ZR was soon acquired and closed in late 1933. Like his workmate Maud Basham (Aunt Daisy), Dudley Wrathall moved on to 1ZB and continued to enjoy a long radio career.

As part of the 1966 interview, he re-created his offending announcement – which could be called one of New Zealand's earliest radio "commercials."

Collection reference 26338
Year 1933 (1966 RECREATION)
Credits Advertiser: Vacuum Oil Co. Pty. Ltd; Broadcaster: 1ZR; Announcer: Dudley Wrathall

Prime Minister M. J. Savage on Radio Advertising

Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage came to power with the first Labour government in 1935. He was enthusiastic about the new medium of radio, seeing it as a way to communicate his party's messages directly to the New Zealand people, without the intervention of (conservative) newspaper owners.

He introduced radio broadcasts of Parliament in 1936 (a world-first), the same year that his government launched the National Commercial Broadcasting Service.

This excerpt is from a speech he made at the opening of Dunedin station 4ZB, the fourth of the new commercial stations to open nationwide. He justifies allowing advertising on the air, reassuring listeners that government control of the new commercial stations means: "vendors of useless or harmful products will never be permitted to cry their wares over the air."

It seems that, in spite of initial concerns about the intrusion of advertising into their homes, New Zealanders took well to radio advertising. Concerns were likely alleviated by well considered and targeted advertising placement of the most relevant products to the most interested people: placing ads by geographic location and to fit thematically with the subject of the programme in which they were played. In a later speech, marking success of the first year of commercial radio, Prime Savage stated: "it doesn’t seem so long ago that certain people were loud in their criticism of the Government’s decision to establish commercial radio stations in the Dominion. […] However, I believe Station 2ZB alone, during the past year, has received more than 50,000 congratulatory letters and many thousands of telephone calls" – quoted in New Zealand Radio Advertising (Radio Publications, 1938), p. 10

Collection reference 181604
Year 1937
Credits Broadcaster: 4ZB, Dunedin

Ben-Hur Cigarette Tobacco

This is an early example of commercial sponsorship of a radio show, produced shortly after the government permitted radio advertising in 1936. In this case, a music programme is sponsored by Ben-Hur cigarette tobacco. "It’s choice Virginia leaf and it rolls a perfect cigarette." The theme music, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Harbach & Kern), has obviously been chosen with the sponsor in mind, and the music tracks (all songs from recent films) are introduced or back-announced with a reference to the appealing qualities of Ben-Hur tobacco.

The announcer (possibly Claude Agassiz) gives careful consideration to the linguistic pairing of the advertising slogans with the songs – for example, he matches the Cole Porter song "You’re the Top," with a reference to "the tip-top tobacco, Ben-Hur." Listeners are also invited to write to Ben-Hur for a free sample.

The audio quality is poor as this recording seems to have been made from a broadcast, as it was received "off-air," not recorded in the studio. New Zealand radio was only rarely recorded in the 1930s, with most broadcasts simply going out live-to-air. (Note: the music content has been edited for copyright reasons.)

Collection reference 258377
Year 1936
Credits Advertiser: Ben-Hur Cigarette Tobacco; Broadcaster: 1ZB Auckland

Watson's Camera House – Record the Happy Event for the Future

This promotional film was produced by a Hamilton company, Watson's Camera House, on a 16mm camera.

During the 1930s some photographic shops would make films on commission because movie cameras were too expensive for most people to buy. The film was part of a wider "Moving Snapshots" series, promoting this service. It shows footage of wedding festivities – replete with dresses, tuxedos, flowers, cakes and wedding cars – by "Watson’s Camera House and various amateurs."

"ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE with home movies," the closing title entices. 

Collection reference F28159
Year 1935
Credits Production Company: Watson’s Camera House

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St John Ambulance Baby Carnival

A film promoting one of the St John Ambulance benefit baby contests popular during the 1930s. "See YOUR BABY On The Screen... Your choice decides!! … Voting Box in foyer…" urge the intertitles.

Short films such as this would have been shown to local audiences as a prelude to feature film screenings.

This particular film was shot at the De Luxe Theatre – now known as the Embassy Theatre – Wellington. A parade of babies and toddlers are shown set against floral backdrops, enthusiastically playing with toys.

Collection reference F2608
Year 1939
Credits Production Company: Cinetone Productions; Camera: Lee M Hill, Havelock Williams; Piano accompaniment: Ella Hanify

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Cashmere Bouquet Cosmetics

A 1ZB announcer reads an advertisement for Cashmere Bouquet cosmetics. Makeup took off as a form of self expression and enhancement for all women during the 1920s and 1930s, having previously been perceived as morally unwholesome.

"Do you know the correct shades of lipstick, rouge and powder for your individual colouring? Cashmere Bouquet has makeup to suit anyone. You know, makeup really matters. Smart shoes, stylish clothes fail if your makeup is wrong..." This technique of evoking social anxieties as a means of selling products was a recurrent one in 1930s print and radio advertising. The listener is encouraged to visit the Cashmere Bouquet cosmetic bar at Woolworths to get advice from the beauty experts.

Interestingly, the announcer is believed to be John Batten – brother of pioneering aviator Jean! John Batten was also a film actor, in the Hollywood, UK and New Zealand film industries.

Commercial radio began in New Zealand in 1936, when the government (which had nationalised radio several years earlier) launched the ZB network of stations. 1ZB in Auckland, 2ZB in Wellington, 3ZB in Christchurch and 4ZB in Dunedin were soon great revenue-earners for the government, earning 10,000 pounds profit in their first year of operation.

Collection reference 184043
Year 1930s
Credits Advertiser: Colgate Palmolive Ltd; Broadcaster: 1ZB Auckland; Announcer: John Batten

Fascinac Shoe Lacquer

This spoken advertisement by an unidentifed female announcer is taken from a "Women's Hour" radio broadcast. From the 1930s up until the late 1960s, most commercial radio stations in New Zealand programmed a timeslot dedicated to female listeners. This was often between 9am and midday, when husbands and children had left the house for the day and it was felt the housewife was in need of some entertainment and education via the radio. It was also the ideal time for advertisers to reach their female customers.

In the early years, this was often the only time women announcers were heard on the air. The queen of the Women's Hour was Maud Basham, better known by her on-air name, "Aunt Daisy." For several decades she was a national institution with thousands of male as well as female listeners tuning in for her nationwide half-hour of advertorial chat and recipes.

The unidentified female announcer here also follows Aunt Daisy's conversational style, offering friendly advice on how to use the advertiser's product to save money: "I've been telling you we must practice economy – now those shoes of yours – perhaps they're looking shabby? But there's quite a lot of wear in them yet..."

With the Great Depression a recent memory and war on the horizon, products that could extend the life of expensive items – such as leather shoes – would have had great appeal to budget-conscious listeners.

Collection reference 255557
Year 1939
Credits Advertiser: Taubman's Paints; Broadcaster: 2ZB Wellington

J.R. Bruce – Manufacture of Biscuits

In this industrial film encouraging New Zealanders to buy local products, an uncle takes his niece on an outing to the J.R. Bruce biscuit factory in Timaru, to show her how biscuits are made.

The emphasis is on modern efficiency (although the biscuits are iced by hand). Dialogue includes: "We are just in time to see the butter poured into the container. Wafers made by this nearly-human machine are so light that they go two hundred and thirty to the pound."

As typical of industrial films, the poetic soundtrack reinforces the "Buy New Zealand Made" message.

Collection reference F4995
Year 1931
Credits Production Company: Industrial Films NZ

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Fleming and Company – The Manufacture of Breakfast Foods

This film, promoting Fleming and Company Ltd. in Gore, opens with an idyllic picture of pastoral New Zealand, before showing modern technologies being put to use in the factory – the rousing soundtrack celebrates worker, land and machine.

It balances patriotic slogans ("Support the country that supports you, buy NZ made") with a dose of humour ("Even oats have their days of lethargy, and we see them visiting the beauty parlour to have their faces lifted").

All stages of cereal production are shown: from harvesting the oats, to sifting the grains, to packaging them as "Creamoata" and "Milk Oaties."

Collection reference F4994
Year 1932
Credits Production Company: NZ Industrial News

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Bell Tea

An industrial film encouraging New Zealanders to buy New Zealand made goods. At the Bell Tea Co. factory in Dunedin tea is cleaned, blended, sieved, mixed, packaged and tested. In the storage room, which holds over 10 tons of tea, the tea is weighed, packed and labelled ready for distribution.

In a tongue-in-cheek way, the filmmakers break the fourth wall between the filmmakers and the audience while demonstrating an industrial-strength vacuum dust extractor: "As a special favour, we will show you the dust – mind your eyes cameraman!"

Learn more about the history of tea and coffee manufacturing in New Zealand.

Collection reference F2064
Year 1932
Credits Production Company: Industrial Films NZ; By courtesy of: Bell Tea Co Ltd;
Joint production: D. W. Reeves; Joint production: T. S. Harris 

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