Central SMT

Special Features Focus on : Advertising

Contributed by Douglas G MacDonald, April 2004

A Bit on the Side

Although Central vehicles had side/rear panels painted on deckers since the 30s, it was not until after the British Transport Commission took over the SMT interests in 1949 that advertising on buses in Scotland came more to the fore. The nationalised companies’ overlords knew there was additional revenue to be gained via this medium, as they already had a track record with advertising in and around railway stations, etc. Their own off-shoot company British Transport Advertising dealt with all contracts, both for regional and national clients. If an advertiser wanted exposure in various parts of Scotland, BTA would offer panel ads on so many buses in Ayrshire (Western SMT), so many in Fife (Alexanders), and so on. The more exposure sought, the higher the cost, which was also affected by the duration of any contract.

The Scottish Bus Group also had their own in-house company, Travel Press and Publicity, responsible for timetables, brochures, and other literature. The only on-vehicle ads they devised were promotional ideas: Travel by Bus, Glasgow-London Express Coach, Next Time I’m Going By Bus, For all Special Occasions Hire Your Private Coach from … , etc. However, these always played second fiddle to money-spinners booked via BTA. While rear-end ads (mainly top panel) were commonplace on double-deckers, their single-deck sisters were less fortunate. Only as Central’s batch of Y-type Leopards grew did small ads appear on their back-ends, but nothing like as prolific.

Unlike Glasgow and Edinburgh Corporation fleets, Central and the other SBG companies chose not to employ the practice of small wrap-round ads on the front corners, between decks. (London Transport, of course, had them front and back!) In the mid-70s, Glasgow Corpy - alright then, the new-fangled PTE - entered uncharted territory with all-over advertisement buses. Two early examples which immediately spring to mind are the Atlanteans emblazoned with Yellow Pages and Barclaycard liveries, all at considerable extra cost to the advertiser, of course. The SBG as a whole perhaps sat back and cautiously watched to see how successful this scheme would be. When they eventually dipped their toes into the water, they didn’t go the whole way. The compromise was to retain company livery on roof, upper deck window surrounds and lower deck panels, right round the vehicle. From memory, Central’s first dolly-bird deckers were two FLFs, one carrying a striking two-tone blue and white ad for Ian Skelly’s VW dealerships, and the other pictured in this feature, BE261 extolling the virtues of another car dealership, Douglas Motors of Hamilton.

From the 50s, a lot of the ads were actually painted onto the side/rear panels, then as technology advanced, vinyls came into the equation, and not forgetting paper versions. In the 21st century, advertising is with us every day and everywhere, whether we like it or not! The multi-nationals, nationals, and even local companies all have so many different ways of getting their messages across to the consumer, from the traditional billboard hoardings, newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, sponsorship, right across the spectrum to the new-tech text, e-mail and computer pop-ups. However, you’re now going on a bus-trip back to that earlier era, and it will hopefully revive a few memories.

The ageing, utility-style body on L191 has been tarted up by the addition of a 1950s side-panel ad for Wrigley’s chewing gum. Remember the slot machines outside cafes, newsagents and sweetie shops?
The cavalier figure on L263 quenching his thirst with McEwan's Export was a familiar sight across the whole of Scotland for many years. The Export ad was in red with white trim, while the Pale Ale version was in green with white. This appears to be a paint-applied job. McEwan’s became part of Scottish Brewers, and then Scottish & Newcastle (S&N). The product is still with us today, but perhaps no longer ‘the best buy in beer’. 
Running back to Hamilton Depot, L341 carries an ad for cigarettes, in an era when tobacco companies had carte blanche to promote their products. The ad itself appears oversized for the side panel on the vehicle.
An assortment of rear ends on the apron at Motherwell Depot. L214 carries an ultra-slim Dryburgh’s ad, while L220 sports a lower panel ad for Uniflo oil. While its two sisters stand undressed, L243 is doubly covered top and bottom. The lower ad is indiscernible in this view, but the upper ad is arguably the most seen on a Scottish bus from the 50s to the 80s. Glasgow-based Askit powders have been produced since 1917, and are still available for headaches and hangovers, albeit now part of the Roche Pharmaceuticals empire.
Laying over outside Killermont Street Bus Station before heading back to the new town of East Kilbride, L467 strikes a fine pose and a fine match in this 1960s colour shot.
Laurie’s (Chieftain) former Atlantean HR1 rests in the rain at Glasgow’s Carlton Place end-point. The claim of being Scotland’s best sweets was no idle boast from the manufacturer. Along with their Mint Imperials and Butternuts, plus a range of other candies and boilings, King's fragrantly flavoured Oddfellows came in a clear bag with two-tone blue stripes on the twist-top. The company no longer exists, but their factory was only a stone’s throw away from Central’s Wishaw Depot, where now stands a BUPA Care Home.
The open cab window suggests a summer’s day, as B36 approaches Motherwell Cross on Hamilton Road, on the 56 from Glasgow to Shotts. The ad carried was ubiquitous throughout the 1960s. Devised by the Scottish Milk Marketing Board to promote the white stuff, it was a trendy ad on a black background, with multi-coloured lettering, and encompassing a milk bottle. The long version of the fleetname and the cream window surrounds on the cab door indicates this LD is still to have its first repaint. 
Back into the toon, and to almost the same spot as L467 in picture 5. The lives of all of Central’s Albion Lowlanders were to be short, and this Northern Counties bodied example was no exception. A4 carries an illuminated side ad panel, and unless I am mistaken, the Lowlanders which had this feature were the only CSMT buses ever to carry illuminated ad panels. Without the help of those mischievous monkeys - sorry chimps - from the legendary TV campaigns, the ad ‘tips’ Brooke Bond as the best tea!
Captured in sunlight, B139 lays over at Ross Street / Buchanan Street terminus in Coatbridge, before embarking on a cross-county journey on either the 14 to Meikle Earnock or the 1 to Hamilton. Once again, the advertiser’s design/writing team deliver the goods with a catchy and long-remembered slogan. The green, cast-iron shelter poking into view on the left was not a place to stand alone on a dark night. It had only one lamp inside, which invariably had been vandalised. Grant’s Garage, which occasionally came to the aid of distressed, mainly overheated Central vehicles on the stance, has long since carried out its last service. The site is now occupied by private housing, and were it not for the Shark’s Mouth pub at the corner, would be totally unrecognisable.
Staying in Monklands, but moving up the road to neighbouring Airdrie for this view. It was only circa 1969/70 when Central started using Gartlea Bus Stance as the the terminus for services 11/12/13 and 201. Prior to that, they started off from just down the road, and round the Cross, on Broomknoll Street. BE267 represents my own favourite batch of FLFs, with the dark green seating, and a buzzer instead of a bell! If Askit was the most-seen rear ad, then this one pushes close for prime position in the side panel stakes. John Haig was a reputable distiller based at Markinch in North Fife, before being swallowed up by the Distillers Company. Table lamps made from empty Haig’s Dimple bottles still light up many a room around the globe! The ad was simplicity itself : two colours and an easy-to-remember strapline.
As a new decade dawned, the creative people who designed the DCL brands ads came up with this as a successor to the Haig in every Home campaign. The torn corner hints that this is a paper-based strip adorning the side of B205, pictured in Peebles, working the legendary Limited Stop service to Glasgow.
Emerging from the depths of Glasgow’s Anderston X Bus Station, D3 sets off for the quaintly-named West Crindledyke (by Newmains). Travel Agent AT Mays lasted longer than the Fleetline, but in recent years has been taken over by competitors.
As described in the introduction, Central started off with half measures when it came to increased-size ads. BE261 turns into the (then) recently-opened Buchanan Bus Station, with a broad band display for the Hamilton-based Renault dealership of Douglas Motors.
Working out of Gavinburn (Old Kilpatrick) Depot, T153 heads along the front at Helensburgh. In a method more used by other SBG companies, the Leopard carries a roof-side paper panel ad for what I think may be the local paper. 
Seeing that money could be made, Central (and their SBG overlords) also adopted the broad band ads for single-deckers. Wellhall Garage held a  Lada franchise, thus dating the view of T297 to the late 70s or early 80s. Climbing away from Hamilton Top Cross, the Leopard displays Glasgow, but is clearly heading in the direction of Fairhill.