Is This The Oldest Surviving Poster On The Tube Network?

Is This The Oldest Surviving Poster On The Tube Network?
The Otrivine poster at Charing Cross
30 years on display? That's not to be sniffed at. Image: Londonist

The oldest surviving poster on the tube network?

It's not unusual to see posters up on the London Underground network for a show that's no longer playing the West End, or an event that ended a Christmas or two back. But some ad campaigns apparently last longer than others, to wit the poster of a hay fever-suffering gnome, pictured above.

We recently received an email from Londonist reader Nigel, who pointed out that this poster for Otrivine nasal spray — featuring a garden gnome surrounded by flower beds — has been up just across from the ticket barriers at Charing Cross Underground station for a while. A long while.

In fact, Nigel figures the poster's been kicking around for 30+ years: "I'm 63 and I reckon it's been there at least half my life," Nigel says, "It always catches my eye because it looks like the gnome is enjoying sniffing something mind-altering and not a nasal decongestant."

A close up of the sniffing gnome
The gnome has seen everything from Gareth Southgate's penalty miss to Brexit. Image: Londonist

Google searches for the ad prove fruitless, so we reached out to Otrivine, who told us they estimate that campaign dates back to between 1980-1995 (nice and precise, then). "We can certainly guarantee you that this is not a current campaign that we have," they added. Just as Nigel reckoned then, we're looking at a poster that's likely weathered 30 years — possibly a darned sight more. This gnome has seen at least eight prime ministers for goodness' sake.

While we're aware of certain facsimile posters dotted around the Underground (and fragments of vintage posters in ghost stations), we think this might be the longest-serving original. What do you reckon? Do you know of an even older original poster that graces a still-functioning station? Or do you know more about the now-legendary gnome of Charing Cross? Let us know in the comments or email will@londonist.com

In the meantime, it's fair to say Otrivine has got its money's worth; whatever few hundred/even thousand pounds they splashed on this back in the 1980s or 90s is still paying dividends. That's not to be sniffed at.

Last Updated 02 February 2024

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