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The History of Lürzer’s Archive

What makes an "Archive" photographer?

Fri 08th Jan, 2021

By Creative Arc

What is the history of Archive?

Lürzer's Archive is a bimonthly magazine and worldwide database. It presents advertisements, posters, television commercials, digital and interactive advertising from all over the world. The magazine has a current paid circulation of more than 25,000 copies. The industry describes it as "one of the leading advertising magazines in the world." The magazine was founded in 1984 by Walter Lürzer, head and co-owner of the advertising agencies TBWA Frankfurt and Lürzer, Conrad. The latter merged with Leo Burnett in 1980. Walter Lürzer subsequently left and embarked on a project he had long wanted to start: to provide inspiration by sharing great new advertising from around the world and interesting new advertising concepts and trends which, at the time, were difficult to come by.

The target audience for the magazine was fellow creatives and those responsible for advertising on the client-side. Today it's hard to imagine just how insulated ad creatives were before the web came along. Their only option to find out what was going on outside of their own countries was to rely on awards annuals such as the Cannes Lions book or the D&AD Annual – in which campaigns could be up to two years old by the time they made it onto their desks. It goes without saying that in the decades since the advent of the internet, the problem creatives face is quite different. Nowadays, there is not too little information out there, but way too much! Trying to find a decent campaign on the web has become almost as complicated and possibly even more time-consuming than it used to be 36 years ago before the magazine was founded.

This is why we at Lürzer's Archive have redefined our roles as curators of outstanding International advertising. Curating is, by its very nature, about pruning, editing out, discarding. "Il faut cultiver notre jardin," said Voltaire in "Candide," and we very much understand our role as cultivating and parsing the dense "jungle" of web-based information about creative advertising out there. Since 2004 Lürzer's Archive has published the "200 Best" series. The biennial volumes regularly present works from advertising photography, digital artists, illustration, and packaging design. An expert jury selects the 200 best creatives in each category based on the submitted works. Digital campaigns have been presented in Lürzer's Archive since February 2011. A digital version of Lürzer's Archive for iPad and iPhone has been available since November 2011. 

We are fortunate that for each magazine issue, a wealth of campaigns (print and TV) is submitted by ad agencies and production houses, from which our Editor-in-Chief, Michael Weinzettl, makes a selection. There is also a digital section in each issue, which gets picked by various experts in the field, usually creative directors and creatives from all over the world who volunteer to provide us with outstanding digital work.

How long has it had this particular look/style?

The very first issue of Archive consisted of less than 50 pages and was saddle-stitched together. Sometime in the early '90s, as Archive received more and more submissions, the page numbers increased, and we began to perfect-bind the pages together. At that time, each page had "broken lines" and "hole-punch" indicators for readers to cut pages and place them in binders by category, which many creatives did! We did away with this design in the early 2000s, but many can recall it. However, it's still used on every cover. Speaking of covers, this is the perfect moment to talk about our memorable covers and how they're chosen. Selected campaigns are reviewed for their visuals per issue, 5-6 are chosen as possible covers, and then posted on our website and social media for our readers to decide. The one with the most votes usually gets the cover, but occasionally our editor-in-chief, Michael Weinzettl, makes the final decision.

It feels like there are two distinct and equally valuable sections within the publication, the editorial content, and then the submission from photographers. What is the vetting process for photographers to advertise? 

Generally speaking, because Archive readers consist of top industry creatives, we don't usually have to vet work from photographers as most who advertise are well aware of the level of work expected from our readers. Occasionally our sales reps will consult and review portfolios to help a photographer (or illustrator!) select an appropriate image. 

Do the photographers select images to go in any particular theme of the publication? 

Not really. Unlike Communication Arts, Archive doesn't have themed issues as the content is based on what's submitted during the Call for Submissions period and left-over campaigns from the previous issue. Photographers will use images based on the timing of the issue or current events.

Do the photographers plan their images as a series?

Yes, many do! Some shoot specifically for their ad in Archive.  

How many issues does a photographer commit to in advance? 

Archive is produced six times a year, every two months. Photographers are encouraged to advertise at least 2-3 times a year for continuity. 

How would you characterize an "Archive" photographer?

An Archivephotographer is someone who knows how to think outside the box!

Are there rules around the text that they use or a number of images?

No rule: they can have any copy/text they want or not have any copy at all. Many years ago, a well-known photographer took one spread and only used his logo – no contact info, no photograph!

To create the look, how much direction/involvement do you have with the photographers?

New photographers often ask for assistance in choosing an image or images. I share their pictures with my designer for her input as well. We offer free design services in most cases, and we will give a photographer a few layout options. Generally speaking, both my designer and I recommend less over more!

Have you ever had to reject a layout?

When the magazine pages had the broken lines and hole-punch indicators, many advertisers thought it would be smart to design an ad that included these design elements, making it look like it had been selected to be featured. That was frowned upon!

Have you had any reaction or feedback about the photographer's "ads" from creatives?

Of course, mostly if it was a very provocative image! 

What have you noticed about the submitted work over the years?  

Not as much care seems to be put into print ads as it used to. Digital work dominates nowadays, to the point where it's almost the lead medium - much less print and film. That doesn't mean that there aren't any more beautiful or creative print campaigns, but it's not where the innovative approaches can be found. I'm guessing that print will never go away (wishful thinking!), but it will occupy a niche existence for now.

What have you noticed are the trends based on what images are submitted by photographers? 

The current trend seems to be what photographers think will get them work, not about showing their vision. There appears to be a lot more lifestyle, food, CGI, and less conceptual, automotive, portraits, and landscapes. Less fine art, too. 

 Who have been some of the photographers most consistently with Archive?

Tim Tadder, Sandro, Dana Neibert, Tom Hussey, Andric, Paul Aresu, Dan Goldberg, Martin Wonnacott, Andy Anderson, Stan Musilek, Claudia Goetzelmann, Erik Almas, Pat Molnar, Matt Hawthorne, Jeff Ludes, Bruce DeBoer, Stewart Cohen, Dean Alexander, Markku Lahdesmaki, Vincent Dixon, Callie Lipkin, Noel Barnhurst, Andy Glass, Stephen Hamilton.

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