Sim Rubensohn

27 November 2012

Sim Rubensohn was the co-founder in 1928 of Hansen-Rubensohn, the agency that ultimately sold to McCann Erickson in 1959.

A tough and well-connected businessman, he was best known for the groundbreaking political advertising produced by his agency. “Sim was a titan in the advertising business, up there with Bill Farnsworth and Keith Cousins. These were men of real power and influence,” said former AFA president Terry Connaghan. “Yet he was not widely known within the industry, preferring to spend his time with politicians, captains of industry and the racing fraternity.”

He had strong connections with the Labor Party in the 1940s. In effect his agency was the party's publicity machine. Despite this he was hired by Robert Menzies to handle the Liberal Party's advertising for the 1949 election. The 18-month campaign used 15-minute radio commercials featuring a character called John Henry Astral, voice of the people, who viciously lampooned the Labor government.

“So telling was the campaign that the government changed the law to outlaw political dramatisations,” said Connaghan. “So successful was the campaign that Menzies was elected in a landslide. It is a mark of the man that through all this Rubensohn continued to handle the NSW Labor Party account and a massive amount of State Labor Government business.”

It was said that Menzies had snubbed Rubensohn during the campaign, and that Rubensohn spent the rest of his life trying to unseat his government. He was unsuccessful in these attempts but came up with second prize when Gough Whitlam toppled Bill MacMahon in 1972. The Labor campaign with its slogan “It's Time” and compelling jingle by well-known singers, was another famous milestone of political advertising, this time on television. The election win was celebrated at a party starring Gough Whitlam at Rubensohn's property in Dural.