Hugh Paton

27 November 2012

Hugh Paton, the self-described “advertect”, was the father of the advertising industry in Melbourne, founding Paton Advertising Service in 1904.

Arriving from Scotland via Queensland, Paton struggled hard to put his printing and sales experience to good effect. “What a struggle the first 12 months were! What a job to keep the pot boiling!” he recalled. “All day long I would trudge around Melbourne calling on advertisers trying to get them interested. It was heart-breaking pioneer work. Those I talked to mostly could not understand how I, unfamiliar with their particular trade, could write advertisements about it.”

The Georges department store was one of his first successes. “I remember how, after many interviews with Harley George of George & George the big department store, he, probably tired of my importunities, asked me to write a series of six advertisements on men's tailoring. He silently read them while I waited anxiously for his verdict. Then he said, 'Yes, these are very good, but can you keep it up?' After that I wrote advertisements for all departments in the store.”

Paton's client list expanded rapidly, and by World War I he was well known enough to be appointed co-ordinator the Commonwealth Government's Liberty and Freedom loan campaigns. Prior to the war his income had been in the form of fixed fees from advertisers. This changed after 1918 when newspapers starting paying agency commission.

Paton Advertising was a major force in the 1920s, expanding into Sydney and Adelaide.

Paton was a leading player in industry associations and the push for greater professionalism and the standardisation of commission. He was a founder of the Victorian Ad Club, and a president of the Advertising Service Agents Association and the Advertising Association of Australian and New Zealand. He also played a leading role in the creation of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, being one of the three foundation administrators.