New exhibition in the APG|SGA ePoster Gallery: hot drinks in advertising

What are you drinking – coffee, tea or hot chocolate?

Oct. 31, 2022

So will it be an espresso, Earl Grey or hot chocolate? The APG|SGA ePoster Gallery that opened today showcases posters for comforting hot beverages. A virtual exhibition brings the charm of vintage posters to life by telling the stories behind poster art from the last century to the present day. The collection came about in collaboration with the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, and its aim is to explore the symbolism of coffee, tea and hot chocolate – once exotic luxuries – in advertising. 

We’re used to seeing collaborations between movie star legends and hot drink brands these days: think George Clooney as the face of Nespresso, Brad Pitt as an ambassador for De’Longhi or Sean Connery’s memorable commercials for Teekanne. But what did advertising campaigns look like over a century ago, back when tea, coffee and hot chocolate were still luxury treats? A look at the history of advertising in the APG|SGA ePoster Gallery shows that the repercussions of colonialism were still being strongly felt at the start of the 19th century. Adverts were often centred around stereotypes without a second thought. It was not uncommon for dark skin to be associated with black coffee. Industrialisation was the driving force behind a shift in the racist and exoticising imagery used in advertising, finally leading to an end to those images we would deem totally unacceptable in this day and age. The main coffee brands dominating the Swiss market started building their campaigns around the irresistible aroma and strength of their coffee. 

Tea didn’t gain a foothold in Switzerland anywhere near as easily as the super-popular stimulant coffee. Adverts for tea bags filled with words like “nice and mild” couldn’t quite grab the public’s attention in the same way. But the invention of soluble cocoa powder led to the rise of hot chocolate. Breakfast routines were revolutionised and popular poster campaigns focused on energy boosts and stamina as benefits.

The ePoster Gallery covers the entire spectrum of the history of posters for hot beverages and showcases the enticing effect of a steaming hot cup of coffee in advertising. The collection of posters advertising hot beverages was researched by the archivist Nico Lazúla from the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.

More poster history
_    Visit the virtual poster exhibition at the “APG|SGA ePoster Gallery: coffee, tea and hot chocolate
_    Part of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s poster collection is available to view in its online catalogue or eguide.ch.
_    Posters from the collection can also be ordered as reproductions for private use. 

Panorama of poster art 
The poster collection at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich is one of the most important archives of its kind in the world. It contains around 350,000 objects, with about 120,000 digitally catalogued, all documenting the national and international history of the poster from its origins to the present day. From this pool, the APG|SGA eMuseum draws exhibits for its occasional virtual exhibitions, which have provided financial and cultural support for the museum for years now. The diversity of historical, thematic and geographic subjects results in both a panorama of poster art and a glimpse into a visual archive of day-to-day life. 



Nadja Mühlemann
Head of PR / press office