Museum Of Brands And Packaging Celebrates 50 Years Of Which?

By Caroline Lewis Published: 17 October 2007

photo of an exhibition display

Courtesy Which?

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London is delving into the archives of the UK’s oldest consumer rights origanisation for its latest exhibition (running until December 3 2007).

October 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of Which? magazine, which has been ceaselessly testing products and campaigning on behalf of consumers since its first publication.

Founded by Michael Young in 1957, it started life in a converted garage in Bethnal Green. Young went on to set up other insitutions including the Open University. The first products tested were aspirins and kettles, and the magazine flew off the shelves. Within one week of the initial publication, there were 7,000 subscribers.

It’s now the second largest national consumer organisation, aiming to offer unbiased advice about products.

“Although we’ve widened the range of issues we cover and the number of products we test each year, Which? has been consistent over the last five decades in its commitment to making individuals as powerful as the organisations they deal with in their daily lives,” says Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive of Which?

“Our relentless campaigning has improved product safety and given consumers more rights. Today, Which? continues to guide people through an ever-increasing choice of products and services and to campaign on the issues that really matter to consumers.”

photo of a display of vintage magazines and washing powder boxes

Courtesy Which?

The exhibition includes more than 300 vintage copies of the magazine and unusual facts about the activities of Which? over the years, at the forefront of the consumer revolution.

In 1963, it published a revolutionary supplement on contraceptives, and called for a ban on lead paint in toys in 1964 that led to its first campaign success. In 1982, World Cup winners Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Gordon Banks and Martin Peters helped to test out footballs, and it gained its youngest tester when 14-year-old Kieran Leigh wrote to Jim’ll Fix It to join Which?

More recently, Which? has provided a popular guide to challenging bank charges and has campaigned successfully on pensions reform, estate agents and legal services leading to changes in legislation in 2007.

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