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Sixty years of government ads in online retrospective

LONDON - A 1940s public health announcement warning people to disinfect their hankies separately from the rest of their washing is among a number of ad campaigns to be put online to mark 60 years of the Central Office of Information.

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Despite being created to promote good health among the British public, the ad shows a man drinking a pint and smoking a pipe in the 1948 ad. A bowl of disinfectant is then shown, as a voiceover speaks to the actor in the film, saying: "A bowl of disinfectant. Hey! You don't drink it man! That's for the soiled handkerchief which is full of germs. You put the handkerchief into the disinfectant, which kills the germs and so stops the spread of infection."

Other films on the site include a 1947 campaign that has resonance today -- urging people to watch their meters as the country faced a coal shortage and an usually cold winter.

Another is a pedestrian road safety campaign from 1948, reminding people to use the crossings marked by studs and black and white poles, which had been introduced in 1934. It told people: "All you have to do is to walk between the studs and you won't get knocked down."

The ads are the first in a series to be hosted by the National Archives to mark the COI's anniversary. Other campaigns to feature will include Keep Britain Tidy and HIV awareness. They can be viewed at

Alan Bishop, chief executive of the COI, said: "These historic films led the way in communications, just as the ads and films we produce today are often pioneering or challenging both in creative approach and subject matter.

"Having the films available online provides a great social commentary that will be of interest to many."

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