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TitleProfits and loss accounts of the British advertising agency Millington, Ltd (1927-1941)
Year Start1927
Year End1941
DateWednesday 7 February 2018

These tables record the fluctuations of the profits and loss accounts of a leading Shanghai-based advertising agency - the British firm Millington, Ltd. - from its founding in 1927 until 1941. The figures are drawn from reports of the boards of directors and annual general meetings, published in the local press (China Press, North China Herald) or hold in the Shanghai Municipal Archives (SMA_Q275-1-1840).

I have used these tables to build the related "graphs" (see the "Graphs" sections). They have proved precious materials to analyze the possible impacts of political events and the economic conjoncture on the advertising business, through the case study of this exceptionnally well-documented agency. The figures show that after a period of rapid and spectacular growth (1927-1931), the company experienced serious losses between 1932-1935, probably due to the war in Shanghai in 1932-1933, and the economic depression that immediately followed. The firm's situation shortly improved in Spring 1935, at the cost of a drastic reduction of its capital. Millington, Ltd. went through hard times again in the wake the bombing of Shanghai in August 1937. The first semester of the year 1938 was said to be the worst time that the firm had experienced during its entire life. Yet Millington prompty recovered and eventually recorded the best profits ever known in its history at the last annual general meeting in 1941.

This case study suggests that even the strongest companies in Shanghai might suffer from political and economic troubles at various scales - not only in Shanghai, but in China and the world, especially in the case of a worldwide-connected agency like Millington, Ltd. Yet, the impacts of political and economic history on the advertising business are far from being clear and simple to reveal and interpret. Their effets may be postponed. Moreover, other internal factors related to the specific history of each company may interfere. As far as Millington is concerned, the profits or losses made by its other branches in Hongkong and Singapore may have either counterbalanced or worsened the crisis in Shanghai. This graph eventually suggests that wars are not always detrimental to the advertising business - quite the contrary. Although Millington, Ltd. seemed to suffer from the first war in Shanghai in 1932-1933, and immediately after the bombing in August 1937, the years 1938-1940 appeared to be the most profitable time for the company in its entire history.

KeywordsMillington, crisis, depression, reduction, loss, profit, fluctuation, conjoncture, delay, postponing, war, Shanghai, Hongkong, Singapore

Millington_Accounts_Synth_1927-1941.xlsx (41.83 ko)

Millington_Accounts.xlsx (138.72 ko)

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