Being chosen as one of fifty people to pitch an idea for the cover of the D&AD’s 50th Anniversary Annual is great for the ego.
What a great list to be on: Terry Gilliam, Sir John Hegarty, Bob Gill, Wim Crouwel, Sir Paul Smith, Phillipe Starck Neville Brody, Dave Droga, etc.

Then comes the anxiety.
What the hell am I going to do?
The results will be very public and I’m up against 49 of the best people in the business.
Terry Gilliam – brilliant! Sir John Hegarty – amazing!, and Bob Gill – top ideas bloke, Wim Crouwel – superb, Sir Paul Smith – obviously a genius, Phillipe Starck – incredible, Neville Brody – awesome, Dave Droga – amazeballs.
How the hell am I supposed to compete with that lot?
That was only eight of the blighters, there’s another 41 of the fuckers on the list.
I decide to re-read the brief, it’ll focus and therefore calm me.Screen shot 2013-12-13 at 09.47.56
Jesus Christ! What does that even mean?
What the hell does ‘The Power of Creativity’ mean? 

That’s not a brief it’s just a bunch of words.
That’s just great, so the blank page I usually start with is even blanker than usual.’
The creative process has started.

A lot of non-creatives assume that what creatives want is absolute freedom, miles of blue sky.
It’s not true.

If your target doesn’t have edges how do you know where to aim?
Cigarette advertising is a great example, it was a pretty dull category until the Government brought in a ton of regulations, there were so many do’s and don’ts, mainly don’ts, that it became almost impossible to create an ad.
Within a couple of years it was one of the most creative categories around.
Having a problem forces you to focus.
‘The Power of  Creativity’? Why not make the brief ‘Do whatever’.
What problem am I trying to solve?
After a few aborted attempts to think of an idea, unfortunately not one for a cover, just one to help me understand the ‘brief’, call them.
D&AD Bod over the phone: ‘You don’t have to think of an idea if it’s too hard, you could simply sign a piece of your work and that could be your cover!’.
I guess I could do that, if I want to look like a pretentious, self-obsessed twat.
Okay, it is what it is.
I’d designed a D&AD Annual before, it complicated, involving lots of fancy foreign designers, printing on silk and lenticular panels, I may not have an idea yet, but I knew I wanted this one to be

I wanted it to be very me, whatever that means?
So how the hell do I do that?
I guess the only way for it to be ‘very me’ is to be very revealing.

The younger me would have been too cautious to do something revealing, I’d be too aware of what my cover said about me.
But worrying about others inhibits creativity.
I’ve worked with creatives, good ones, who’d avoid any brief that didn’t look like it would yield gold. Consequently they’d make only one or two ads a year.
To them, it was quality control, if they didn’t do anything bad then people wouldn’t think bad of them.
I’ve always thought ‘just have a go!’ Create some stuff, even if you didn’t win an award you’ll have gained something; knowledge, insight, a relationship, who knows?
Also, there’s a possibility that you were wrong, that unpromising brief might lead to something great.
I digress, where was I? Oh yes, what do I put on this cover?
I must’ve spent a month or so going around in circles, I’d have a half idea…then bin it, I’d think of a terrible idea…then bin it, another half an idea…hang on, what about an idea with a bin? Rubbish! Bin it.
It was annoying.
But, the brain works in mysterious ways; it occurs to me that this is the idea, this whole annoying process of not being able to think of an idea.

Maybe I show a stream of consciousness where I get irritated by the fact that I can’t create an idea? It’d be a very honest example of creativity.
Also, I hadn’t seen it done before.
A few days later I was on a plane to Vienna, trapped, the perfect place to try to solve the brief and write whatever pops into my head.
Occasionally I would get distracted, my mind would wander, those distractions and wanderings got written down too.
Two and a half hours later I had over a thousand words.
I was lucky I had so many words kicking around my cranium that day, although, to be fair, these weren’t carefully chosen words, it was just an unedited splurge.
I thought I’d write what’s true, be uninhibited, and review it later to cut anything embarrassing.
1st D&AD 2012 COVER
I wrote without inhibition, I thought I’d get it down an edit out anything that was too odd or revealing, but reading it later I realised I couldn’t cut anything out, not because it was all good, but because it was true.
As disjointed and at times random as it was, it kind of hung together.
If I polished and fiddled with it may not feel like a genuine stream of consciousness, it needed to be raw and a bit random.
I liked that it was full of stuff Creatives often hide, it reveals to non-creatives the ugly side of creating; the bad ideas, egotism and plain idiocy.

But bringing ideas to life is tricky, Woody Allen says that his films are at their best before they are filmed, that what ends up on the screen never as good as what was in his head.
For me, turning a doodle into something finished is one long decision-making process.
The more I question myself the more decisions I’ll have to make, the more decisions I make the better chance I have of executing something well.
The best ads can’t be separated into idea and execution, they are one in the same, ‘Form follows function’ as the Modernist Architects used to say.
How do you know whether your form is following your function? You break your idea into as many pieces as you can and question each against its function.
For example, if you have a brief to restore trust to a major bank in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, a typeface like this may not suggest ‘trust’.
Whereas a font like may well do.odoni-and-walbaum_0003

1st PROBLEM: How on earth is this going to fit onto a square book cover?
1st D&AD 2012 COVER.jpg
We could run the text on and make it square-shaped, but not having any breaks or pauses in the text would make it look uninviting to the reader, but that’s irrelevant, it would have to be reduced so much that it’d be too small for them to read anyway.
It be put it in columns, it needs to be one long, unbroken stream of consciousness.
It’ll have to go sideways.1st D&AD 2012 COVER.jpg
Continue reading


About a year into  Leagas Delaney, I got thrown together with another loose end to become a makeshift team, the loose end was Dave Hieatt.
Here are a few of the things we did:
Adidas Run013

Adidas Run (a)005-01

Adidas -Straight Lines-01

Adidas - Didn't come down'  (a)005-01

Adidas - Name On It. -01

In between writing Adidas ads, Dave asked me if I wanted to make some T-Shirts with him.
I would be the third partner, aside from Dave, there was  a City-boy, business type, (I can’t remember his name only his goal; to own a house  with a drive in drive out drive way).
Dave had  a very clear vision: To make very ecologically sound, ethically decent, high quality, ie, expensive, T-Shirts aimed at the niche sports like BMX-ing, Surfing and Skateboarding.
Dave had a name; Howies.
He liked it because it sounded genuinely American.
I didn’t like it because it sounded genuinely American. (He’s from the valleys in South Wales?)
Howies it was.
We designed a few T-Shirts over a couple of weekends, this is the first one that got made:
Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 11.59.41

(It was based on this idea. I could never get Adidas to buy it.)
Adidas - Life* rough -01

But within weeks it became apparent that Dave REALLY wanted to do this, whereas I was happy to knock-up the odd T-Shirt, but didn’t want to go to BMX meets, meet various cotton mills, T-Shirt manufacturers, look into the ethical use and disposal of dyes, etc.

So I concentrated on my day job, while Dave did his day job AND built Howies into cool brand admired globally.

Cut to a decade later. Dave calls up asking for some advice on Advertising.
I tell him I’m weeks away from setting up a new agency, he says Howies can be DHM’s founding client.
(Excellent, payback for that ‘Life*’ T-Shirt that they’ve been selling for the last ten years.)

DAVE: “Timberland have bought in, they’re going to help us expand abroad. We need to start advertising, but we don’t want to look like we’re selling out.”

There’s an old BBH line from their AAR reel that I’ve always loved; ‘Don’t sell, make people want to buy’.
So I thought let’s not do ‘ads’, let’s produce bits of content that feels like their brochure, but put it in bought media spaces.

Talking about Howies view of the world seemed to be the way to go:

Howies Ad Scribbles Howies %22Promise%22 Scribble Howies %22Buttons%22 Scribble Howies %22Water Level%22 Scribble

LOOK: Lets avoid anything that says advertising, so goodbye logos, end lines, cookie-cutter layouts, brand colours and graphics.
TONE: Not full of superheroes, normal people who want to do the right thing, self-effacing, show personal insights rather than global ones. Overall, we have to show humanity.

Having the headline and brand name in the same font, at the same size really helped the pages not to feel like advertising.

The first roughs:

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 11.55.48Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 11.55.18

Rejigged, they became the first ads:
Fuel Used - HowiesACHINGPrint

The opportunity came up to make a couple of films for the web and cinema.
Instead of showing amazing surfers or skateboarders, why not show terrible ones? The films would be more empathetic if they were based on people trying.
Also, rather than show a group having fun, let’s show an individual ‘in the zone’, not giving in and enjoying the solitude.
We had a working line that summed it up; “Get better, fail more”.
(Shot by Charlie Crane, first bits of moving film that ever went through his camera.)

Next was  a brief to talk about the amazing qualities of Merino wool.
We had a first go:
Howies merino
Dave: “They’re a bit similar to the first batch, let’s do something completely different, let’s keep moving around”.

Luckily, my old writer Tony Barry was bored, he’d just switched from creating to directing and hadn’t quite adjusted to Directors life where sometimes your diary is all windows.

We worked on the brief together, and frankly, just had a laugh.
After a couple of days we went through a pile of scribbles.
Every few bits of paper, an ad featuring a sheep would turn up.
Howies %22Biodegradable%22 Scribblejpg Howies %22Previous Owner%22 Scribble Howies %22Dispels Dirt%22 ScribbleHowies %22Wash it...%22 Scribble-01

We rounded up the sheep ads and presented them to Dave:

merino scamp 22-11

Dave loved them.
I now had to find a way to make them relate to each other, stand out and look cool.
I chanced on a fantastic Japanese illustrator called Kin Pro.
Unfortunately she spoke no English so everything had to go through her friend of hers who spoke bad English.
(I’m not knocking her, my Japanese isn’t great either.)
Trying to explain details like why the sheep was wearing a very brightly coloured hat took patience.

FIRST ROUGH: “Looks good, but the red eyes are a bit weird? and that black bit at the bottom looks a like an oil slick, and might get in the way of the type.”
SECOND ROUGH: “Better, I preferred the yellow sky though, it looked like dusk, and the mountains jump out too much.”
all we do


base layer


They worked well on the stores too.
howies shop front

My brother, who’s a bit of a BMX legend, get’s interviewed by a leading BMX magazine and had a rant: “Soul-less businessmen are moving in on sports like ours trying to make a quick buck selling cheesy T-Shirts, companies like Howies, it’s run by an Adman!”
Dave mentions it in passing, I say “Yeaaaah…not ideal.”
It’s not mentioned again, we crack on.

David Goss and Ollie Wolf were given the brief for the skateboarding.
What I liked about the stuff they came back with was that I didn’t understand it.
I liked that they were using words I didn’t know ‘Oli’, ‘Grindbox’ and ‘Kickflip’.
I thought I better google them to make sure the guys weren’t just making them up.
It turned out they were real words, I now not only understood the ads and liked the fact that non-skateboarders wouldn’t.
Howies, skate  Grindbox

howies, skate - 300 ollies pg

howies skate This page

new howies skate 10-3-084

howies skate ads

There was also an ongoing brief for T-Shirt ideas.
We’d produce a batch of lines like this:
Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 22.00.54

Some then had a visual element added, like this:
Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 11.58.25 Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 11.58.06

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 11.56.39
The chosen ones were then finished up:

howies SS08howies SS08howies SS08
howies SS08howies SS08
Then sold like this:

howies T-thanks

One of the things that made Howies great was the quality of their ingredients.
Take denim, Dave would seek out the top denim guy in the world, and sweet-talk him into working with Howies.
Howies denim was surprisingly high quality, £300 a pair quality for a third of that.
So our job was to explain exactly why:


Howies DPS 466x306mm.indd
Howies_CutUnbleached - Coins,

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 12.03.04 Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 12.04.01

Unfortunately, Timberland didn’t deliver.
As their sales started to go through the floor, they got consumed with putting out the big fires and ignored their small, cool brand from Blighty.
(Does Wales count as Blighty?)
A huge shame, but not to Dave,  he’s banked the lessons and has since set up The Do Lectures and more recently Hiut Denim. Check them out:     &


This was a very popular ad when I turned up at Bishopsbridge Road.
When the client asked for more they were told the cupboard was bare, it was a one off.
Sean and I were briefed to create a campaign to deal with the rise of the new fangled beers that were popping up in the more fashionable bars.
We needed to run ads in the Face, Wallpaper and ID to talk to the fashionistas, opinion formers, hipsters or twats, whatever they’re called?
August Busch III and his gang wanted to really stick it to those newbies and say something like: ‘They’re kids, wet behind the ears, we’ve been making beer for over a hundred years, so we’re really good at it now.”
Account Man: “Heritage? In THOSE publications?”
Client: “But that’s the main difference between us and all these new lagers.”
Planning: “Nothing is less cool than banging on about being old, it’s so worthy and dull. We need a hip message to talk to hip people, and heritage isn’t hip.”
So the planners and client got into some kind of Mexican stand-off.
This was one of my bug bears at BMP, the planners were often too smart to say the obvious, they felt it was their job to turn the obvious into something ‘interesting’, so that the creatives could create.
A noble cause, but sometimes it would mean  ‘15% off Volkswagen Beetles’ becomes ‘The sixties is now even more attainable’.
Creative :Why are the sixties now even more attainable? Oh… because there’s 15% off Volkswagens Beetles …I get it…can’t we just say that?’
I’d think, just give us the most motivating thing to say and let us worry about whether it’s interesting, it’s what we’re paid for, if heritage makes people question buying those new beers,  let’s make heritage interesting. (It doesn’t have to be screeds of worthy copy banging on about the founders and their philosophy.)

First,  we thought of that old comedy staple, ‘she’s so old that… (fill in the crazy stone-age/prehistoric/Elizabethan reference of  choice.)

Then we thought: ‘America is virtually brand new’, hardly anything existed when Budweiser started, no Empire State Building, no Las Vegas, no Statue of Liberty.
Almost everything we associate with the U.S. didn’t exist when old Adolphus Busch started; 1876. (Yes, ok, I’ve read Wikipedia.)

Let’s try that in pictures:
Green book 28
We liked it, but worried that simply showing things that weren’t there might be a bit like the ‘Prohibition’ ad.

So what else was different back then?
Meanings! A Big Mac didn’t exist…it probably meant… a large bloke called Mac:
Green book 30

Any other ways we can slice this?
What about things that looked different a hundred years ago: ie; John Wayne wouldn’t have been so tall, he’d be tiny, in fact he’d resemble a tadpole.
We mocked them up.
Running the pictures left to right felt a bit traditional, so I ran them down the left hand side of the gutter, hipsters love the kind of shit.
We’ve got a bottle shot, we’ve got the word ‘Budweiser’ really big, do we really need a logo and pack shot? No, not if we want to look cool, and what’s less cool than desperately trying to flog your wares?
The Estate of John Wayne didn’t want him portrayed as a sperm, (perhaps because he’d effectively be nude?)

Budweiser Roughs001
The Estate of Bob Hope didn’t want him portrayed as a sperm either. (He’s English anyway, isn’t he?)

The two car companies didn’t want to  be associated with alcohol.

The two American Football teams passed.

That complete clown Ronald McDonald said ‘No!”

Passed-their-sell-by date disco group also said no.

Which left us with these three ads.
To break up the look of them, I gave each a different colour bias: greeny, browny and yellowy, to get technical about it.
Also, Dave Wakefield picked fonts that related to the date in each ad.
(Although he’s possibly the only guy in the country who would appreciate that detail.)
Budweiser008 budweiser-empire-state-original-47438Budweiser007
They went down really well.
They should’ve run for a number of years, but unfortunately Budweiser got obsessed with ‘Born on dates’, when their beer was first bottled.
What a terrible brief, is anyone worried they are drinking stale beer from a freshly opened bottle? It’s answering a problem people don’t have.
So we had to switch tack and start letting people know when their beer was born.
We got Platon to shoot them, they’re not bad, but not nearly as good.
Budweiser001 Budweiser002 Budweiser003 Budweiser004 Budweiser006 Budweiser005

A successful ad.

One of the first campaigns I ever made:
The agency was Cromer Titterton, my creative partner was Alastair Wood, the typographer was Andy Dymock,  and the photographer was Duncan Sim, the photographer’s assistant was a scruffy, curly-haired Brummie called Malc.
We shot for three weeks to get the three shots above.
Malc was treated like a 17th century slave.
We shot in the freezing, windy Highlands of Scotland, at the end of the day Duncan would sometimes say to the Brummie “Sleep here tonight, in the van, we don’t lose this spot…Night!”
We’d all go back to some fancy hotel, eat, drink and sleep, then turn up the next morning, Duncan would bang on the side of the van: “MALCOLM!Let’s go…COME ON!”
Up he’d jump and be lifting stuff within seconds from waking up.
Because he had it so tough, Alastair and I would try to help him out, smuggle him breakfast from the hotel, buy him drinks and generally try to make the shoot a bit better for him.
A year later, completely out of the blue, he called me up: “Dave it’s Malcolm, Malcolm Venville… Duncan’s assistant, can I get your advice on my pictures, I’m going to be a photographer.”
He turned up with a ramshackle box of photographs at my office in Edwards Martin Thornton: stuff from photographic college, random pictures of his girlfriend and a few portraits of reggae stars, taken as a favour for a friend’s magazine.
All were grainy and black and white.
At that time Advertising photographs were all colour and glossy.
Shame, I thought, he’s such a nice bloke.

I gave him a couple of tiny jobs to help him out financially.
The first, a portrait of my Nan for £50. (I remember asking her to wear black and white clothing so that I would get an idea of  what the picture might look like, I guess I didn’t trust him?)

For the second, I asked him if he was able to take a colour picture of some expensive plates? “Yeah, easy!”
I was a bit anxious, should someone from snooty up market jewellers Asprey’s ask to see Malc’s folio, to see why I’d chosen him to shoot their products, the nearest thing to being relevant would be some grainy black and white pictures of Lee Scratch Perry – “Some people have heard of him… and some people have heard of you.”
I get to the shoot to find he’d stuck the three plates to a pink wall with Elephant Gum, “Er…will that hold…those plates are worth more than this shoot?”, Malc: “Yeah!…yeah!…I think so.”

Next, he shot a poster for the IPA Society for writer Mike McKenna and I, this time Malc was a bit more bullish about how it should look,  insistent it be shot in daylight.
We used the cardboard back of a layout pad as the background and made the ‘models’ ourselves.

Shortly afterwards I had a proper ad that needed shooting.
One with a budget.
Should I risk giving it to my, by now, best mate, or give it to proper photographer?
He ‘pitched’ for it, showing me Richard Avedon shots as reference, again he wanted to shoot in daylight, and wanted a fifties feel.
Sod it.
Lighting Industry Fed 001

We then tried to hustle a few projects by offering free creative and photography, providing we had complete creative control.
Things like this poster. (Again shot in daylight and printed by Klaus Kalder on lith paper.)
feared hand
At that time, Malc was working out of a retouching company called O’Connor Dowse,  who gave him a room at the back of their offices to use as a studio, for free.
Malc convinced Grenville, the owner, that a big ad in Campaign would really put them on the map.
It’s possible that we felt an endorsement from London’s leading Art Directors REALLY would help O’Connor Dowse, but we were very aware that meeting the best Art and Creative Directors  would be pretty useful to us too.
Paul Arden, John Hegarty and Alan Waldie passed.
Graham Fink made Mike McKenna and I come up with better concepts for his image, quite right too.
This is the finished result:
London ADs 001
The ad was a great success.
I’ve no idea what it did for Grenville, but Malc started shooting regularly with the Marks, Denton and Reddy, and I was hired at Simons Palmer DENTON Clemmow & Johnson within the year.

CALL FOR ENTRIES: John Knight work and stories.

A few years ago I tried to find an old beer poster for a presentation.
Fortunately, I knew the Art Director’s name: John Knight, the agency name: TBWA and the client name: Bank’s.
I googled all the combinations, variants, even trying misspelling some of them..
Unfortunately the chaps at Google couldn’t find it.
So I trawled through all the old awards annuals, eventually finding it.
But what struck me along the way was how under represented an influential figure like John was.
His old TBWA boss, Sir John Hegarty, explained it this way: “Truly groundbreaking work never does very well at the awards, because it generally splits the juries and ends up being underrepresented. John suffered from that.”
In all areas of creativity, context is everything, what was breathtaking, innovative and controversial then, often feels familiar and ‘so what’ today.

Once a new, unique path is forged, it becomes open to the public, most using it without having a clue who discovered it.
But there’s no button on this keyboard that can help me put the following work in context, so you’ll have to take my word that it wasn’t the norm.

When I first got into Advertising, ads tended to looked like this…sainsbury
And then I came across one of John’s ads.Bank's, 'Unspoilt', John Knight, TBWA-01
No headline, logo, end line, product shot or pun. (
They were all the rage back in the day.)
Just a single photograph that evoked another era.
It made me think a brewery from Wolverhampton was cool.
Not an easy thing to do.
I found out it was produced by an Art Director called John Knight.Scan
He’s the cool looking one far left.
Known to friends as ‘JFK’, due to his habit of breaking up words with an ex-fuckin’-spletive.
“It used to shock people at the time, swearing wasn’t as common back then” John’s old writer, Ken Mullen.
When everyone one else was zigging, he was zagging.

He seemed to do his own thing.
He influenced a lot of people, including me.
Here’s why:

1. His Art Direction is bespoke to each client, it’s not interchangeable.
The beer posters are made from bits of pubs, the Laura Ashley ads are made from bits of fabric, the Castrol ads are made from car parts.

2. His Art Direction makes it feel as though a human was involved in making the ad.

3. His ads don’t feel like advertising. So they engage.

Here’s the earliest ad I could find of John’s from his brief spell at Saatchi & Saatchi.
John is the most junior person credited in D&AD on this Volkswagen ad, so I assume it’s his idea?

Although John was a sweary, hard-drinking Millwall supporter, he also had a sensitive side: he was an expert on wild flowers, helped green charities before they were reffered to as ‘green charities’ and bred canaries,
So although this was produced whilst John was at JWT, it was probably a favour to a group he belonged to.


John then managed to talk a Lord (Snowdon) into  shooting his Muscular Dystrophy poster for nothing.
“It ran for 14 years…every time it came down, fundraising fell”
– Writer Peers Carter.

He also did design.
Not that unusual today,  who isn’t a multi-discipline, 360 degree creative?

but back then Design and Advertising rarely mixed, few people did both.mehana

His most fruitful period was whilst at TBWA, the Bank’s campaign being my personal favourite. Bank's, 'Simply', John Knight, TBWA-01Bank's, Old &', John Knight, TBWA-01  Bank's, 'Humans', John Knight, TBWA-01 Bank's, 'Nothing', John Knight, TBWA-01 Bank's, 'Unspoilt', John Knight, TBWA-01Bank's, 'Resist', John Knight, TBWA-01jk33
(I presume this parodies the, very famous at the time, Fiat ad ‘Hand built by robots’.)

“He was no believer in deadlines. I remember once on Banks’ weeks and weeks were going by without anything happening, I thought the only way to solve it would be to get everyone in the same room to find the culprit. John came in last, looked around at assembled faces and said ‘looks like I’m gonna need fuckin’ legal representation’. –  Sir John Hegarty

He sweet-talked the least commercial artists of the day, David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi and Dame Elizabeth Frink, to knock out a few ads.
I would imagine that was a tough sell.
I would also imagine that getting their fees approved by Volvo was an even tougher sell.
But he made it happen.

vovlo_castle race
A campaign for Beefeater Gin knocking Gordon’s.
The green bottled one.

Great shots by Brian Griffin, I wish I could find all the executions.
(Brian found and sent in these first two)
Beefeater %22Harvey Smith%22 adAlan Pricebeefeater23 Beefeater Gin 'Beaumont', Knight, TBWA, Griffin-01

He was doing illustration/photography mash-ups before the term ‘mash-up‘ was released to the general public.
whats new1
Here he goes head to head with Art Director Ron Brown in a arguing for the use of Illustration rather than the ubiquitous use of photography at the time.

Actually, the debate is just as relevant today.
(I’m guessing Ron got into the business at the height of the DDB revolution, at that time people would’ve been chanting ‘Down with namby pamby illustrations! Up with squared up photographs!
By the time John got into the business the DDB  revolution was a decade old, using squared up photographs would’ve been like listening to Buddy Holly or having a quiff.

In the following issue, Gerry Farrell has a pop at him about the article.
But on the plus side, they use a nice picture. john knight25
A great product placement idea, with writer Chris Martin.

For the time, these layouts for Kawasaki would’ve been very ‘out there‘.jk_bikes

A great shot by Bob Carlos Clarke for Singapore Airlines.
That smudge above the guy say; ‘Sorry about Thursday’.

John Knight, Singapore Airlines 'Next Wednesday'-01

An incredibly distinctive campaign at the time.
Apparently John lined up artist Allen Jones to illustrate the campaign, it was all ready to go when the client got cold feet, worried that the imagery may be too erotic.
allen_jones3 Right Hand Lady 1970 by Allen Jones born 1937
In the end, illustrator Conny Jude did a great job.

Screen shot 2013-12-14 at 17.00.33 Screen shot 2013-12-14 at 17.00.19 Screen shot 2013-12-14 at 17.00.07 Screen shot 2013-12-14 at 16.59.01

“ Before we worked together at WCRS, I nearly worked with him at AMV, I was going to be hired to be paired with Brian Morrow an art director from TBWA, when at the last moment David Abbott informed me that Brian would be working with another writer instead. Brian contacted me and said ‘You should speak to John Knight, he’s the one I copy’. – Giles Keeble.

“For a writer like me it was terrific working with John, he’d take your thoughts and ideas into surprising places.
On Qantas, for example, I’d written a long copy ad about the effects of jet lag, John went down to the studio and, to echo the effects of Jet lag distorted and distressed all the type, which was fine, and then, without telling me, swapped around the first four lines of copy. It made no sense.
He then hid from me to try and avoid the possibility of me trying to change it.
When people, including me, saw what he’d done it seemed ridiculous, in retrospect it was brilliant.”
5.8613a_l-1John Knight, Qantas %22A-Z' John Knight, Qantas 'Gumtree' John Knight, Qantas 'Connections'

Very simple poster for Dulux Natural Woodcare using a cool, homemade font.
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“The Laura Ashley ads we did with the illustrations made from their fabrics were blown up and put in the windows of all their shops and used to stop people in the streets.” – Giles Keeble.

With photographer Lucinda Lambton for McVities.
John Knight, McVities 'Grandfather Clock' John Knight, McVities 'Clock'
These the only things I could find from his time at Leo Burnett.
They look pretty straight forward now, but I remember seeing it at the time and thinking that they weren’t’ like any McDonald’s ads I’d ever seen; “McDonald’s must be changing“.
John Knight, McDonald's John Knight, McDonald's 'Potato'
He didn’t have the talent to handle his talent.
He was a good influence in the department, would have made a good lecturer. Inspirer.” Sir John Hegarty.jk_pic

Nb. I knew Lorraine had been John’s partner for twenty years, I’d heard she’d inspired the Campari script which would later make her a household name.
It’s writer Terry Howard sat next door to John and would often hear Lorraine through the walls, he could never quite reconcile the elegant face with the fishwives voice.
When flicking around the internet looking for John’s work I found this headline about Lorraine’s time in ‘I’m A Celebrity Get me Out Of Here!’: ” ‘Tedward’ was a reminder of  Lorraine Chase’s former, deceased partner John Knight,” says Emmerdale star.


In 2009 we were invited onto a global pitch for something we’d never heard of: Vertu.
A luxury phone; and when I say luxury, I mean luxury.These babies were £60 – 70k.

Ironically, the brief was to “Take the bling out of the brand.”
(So let’s get this straight…, you want us to make these solid gold phones, with diamonds stuck on them, appear less blingy? So…what… more functional?)

We looked at the previous campaign. It tried desperately to justify the price: “It takes thousands of hours to make, uses tonnes of precious stones, 24 carat gold, it’s polished with Unicorns jizz, it’s worth it, honest Guv,”

To me,  true luxury brands don’t have to  justify their existence.
They have a bit of arrogance and swagger about them: “If you like our stuff great, if you don’t that’s your problem.”

So we felt that there were three key things they needed to get across:

a). Show them being used by people with gravitas.

b). Look arrogant.

c). Holding the phone was important.
The phones were very tactile, they were weighty.
We’d heard that the store staff felt if they could get a phone in the hands of  a potential buyer, they’d increased their chances of a sale.

Firstly, showing celebrities is hard, the product often disappears, especially if it’s something like a phone, it’s just too small.
Secondly, how do you stand out if your ad is essentially a person and a product?
I remembered a campaign I’d done for the Patek Phillipe pitch whilst at Leagas Delaney.
It was based on close-up shots of famous people’s hands, a bit like the old Alfred Stieglitz series.
Focussing on people’s hands not only made the campaign feel enigmatic, it allowed the watches to be life-size.

We pitched:  “The issue isn’t that people think your phones are too blingy, they’re not blingy enough, stop protesting and man up, if some people think you’re blingy, that’s their problem, they probably can’t afford a Vertu anyway, so get over it”.

Apparently, we were the only agency not to present a way to take the “bling out of the brand.”

We won and ran these ads all over the world.

Vertu Brand_Ducasse

Vertu Brand_GriminelliVertu Brand_Masters_MA-1Vertu Brand_MastersVertu Brand_YeohVertu Brand_ZhangVertu-Brand_Masters_Novikov_Lowres

Now, they look pretty straight forward, but it’s unusual for ads this simple not to be complicated by the process.
Sometimes well meaning and intelligent comments can kill a brand, particularly a luxury brand.


“I LOVE IT. Just one thing, would it be possible to pick a shot where we could see Michelle’s face? We’ve paid all that money to use her after all.”

“That’s better.
Although she looks a bit of a misery guts, were there any happier pictures from the shoot? 
Oh… and I wonder whether we should put ‘Michelle’ in front of ‘Yeoh’, just to be on the safe side?”

“Excellent! Excellent! Whoa!… Hang on, the phone’s a bit hard to see, perhaps we should put a pack shot at the bottom of the ad, elegantly done, of course. And could we just have a look at a colour picture of Michelle, people are used to seeing her in colour.”

“Fantastic!…Love it! Oh… hang on, what if someone likes the look of that phone and wants to buy one? Shouldn’t we show them where they can be bought? Let the dog see the bone, so to speak?”


“Great! A friend, who’s no expert by any means, made an interesting suggestion – wouldn’t it be more of an endorsement to swap the ampersand symbol for a love symbol? Sorry guys, but could we just try it?”

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“Ooh no, perhaps we just say it with words: ‘Michelle loves her Vertu’, it’s probably classier?”

“Now that is an ad, well done guys, perfect!”


In 2004 Nick Bell became President of D&AD, one of his first duties was to choose the designer for the next annual.
He chose me, or CDD to be more precise.
Back in 2004, the D&AD Annual was one of the few places you could get a concentrated hit of good advertising and design, consequently they were collected.
Getting the chance to design one was a great honour.

1st IDEA: If a thought is printed in the D&AD Annual it’s considered out of circulation.
From then on Creative Departments take joy in killing ideas with a casual ‘Been done!’
So the idea was to print the annual on overtly recycled, browny papers with a warning sign on the front saying ‘DO NOT RECYCLE’.
I liked the cognitive dissonance this would create, it looks ethical but it’s anti-recycling?
Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 22.14.21

2nd IDEA: Spoof the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ albums.
Less rational, but it would be cool for D&AD to be a bit cheesy and kitsch, possibly a reaction to some of the previous annuals that took themselves so seriously.
I also thought there’d be a lot of mileage in the music angle, in parodying music ephemera.
.Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 22.21.12

3rd IDEA: A pencil makes you immortal.
A pretty straight forward idea based on the thought that if you win a pencil you and your work will live forever, being admired by generations, or civilisations.
The visual was three D&AD pencils shot against a goldy, dusky sky to look like the Pyramids. A bit like that old Benson & Hedges poster.3rd ROUGH FOR D&AD 2012 COVER

The 2nd idea was bought.
Ok, so how do we flesh it out?
Maybe the category dividing pages could be designed like album covers?
The the jurors could look like a rock group?D&AD 2004
We could put all the guff about who they are, where they work and what they on the other page.
Hang on, the book is square…a spread would be two squares…we should have the front AND back of an album.
The jurors names could be arranged like song titles, the numbers work; albums tend to have about the same amount of tracks as juries had jurors, eight.D&AD 2004 4Jeez! Forty odd spreads, that’s a lot of work in a little time.
Maybe I could ask my favourite Designers and Art Directors from around the world to design one?
I started drawing up a list, it was a great, I’d just look at my bookshelves and copy the names: Paula Scher, Vaughn Oliver, David Carson, Fabien Baron, etc, etc.D&AD 2004 3I spoke to Mark Farrow, one of my absolute favourite album designers.
He said no, completely impervious to my arm-twisting and emotional blackmailing.
(To be fair, it’s fun to spoof an album cover design when your day job is advertising, perhaps less so when your day job is designing album covers.)
I tried reaching Fabien Baron, another big hero of mine, but I couldn’t breach his security wall.
I got in touch with Lee Clow, he was a maybe, but seemed to disappear.
John C. Jay was simply too busy running the Weiden Kennedy creative department.
Apart from that, I got my dream team.D&AD 2004 2

PHOTOGRAPHY: I thought I better work out a shot list for Paul Tozer, (the D&AD photographer), to ensure each shot mimicked clichéd album covers, so he could recreate them with
To avoid the jury photos looking like jury photos, I thought I’d give Paul a start point on each, and arrangement or lighting idea based on rock groups.D&AD 2004D&AD 2004 2

I mocked up the front cover…Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.57.01
…and a back cover.Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.57.58
Looks very flat, in both senses, it needs more ‘jump out the cake’ dynamism.
Angle it.

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Better, but maybe more angled?D&AD 2004 B&W mock-up. Very angled

Who goes on the front; advertising or design?
One cover will read the right way up, (the same as the content of the book), the other cover will effectively be upside down.

Who gets the premium side?
The rival factions fought, would conceding prime spot, ‘Now that’s what I call design & advertising 42’ was suggested, it seemed a bit of a cop-out, like an album called ‘Now that’s what I call music & dance 42’. Just less good,
It was starting to look like this issue is going to kill the idea.
How on earth do you give each equal billing?

Lenticular! We could have both names on the front, each being seen on their own from certain angles.
Also, because it’s plastic it may be like a nod to a C.D. cover, which would make it more unusual and feel special.

I gave Me Company, (a very cool design and illustration collective), the very basic mock-up I’d done to fancy up, make it look 3D, glitzy and spacey, spoofing those over-the-top albums that think they’re it.

D&AD 'Rejected Cover' 2004, Me Co.
It looked weird.
I couldn’t decide whether it was so cheesy it was funny, or whether it just rubbish.
I decided it was nearer the latter, what to do?
A change of brief: Yes a spoof, but a cool looking one, it’s the D&AD Annual after all.
Also, let’s ditch the red and concentrate on yellow, that’s D&AD’s colour.

D&AD Cover Frame 3
Much better!
We then had to figure out how the design would break into the eight pieces needed to made up the lenticular.D&AD Cover Frame 2D&AD Cover Frame 1

2nd PROBLEM: D&AD’s lawyers advise us that we can’t spoof an EMI property without their permission.
We ask, inevitably they say no.
We ask again, after a lot of negotiating, they say they’ll let us spoof their property providing a) we say on page one that they gave us permission,
and b) we give them a free ad in the annual.

The patterny bit at the beginning and end of fancy books, sometimes, in old ones it will be swirly marbling.
Maybe they could look like the albums paper inner sleeves, the Warner Bros ones had a repeating pattern of their logo printed on them, maybe we could echo that?

Also, it would be a good place to bury our permission from EMI.
We scanned an old paper sleeve and started ‘echoing’.

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Before I briefed the designers on their dividing spreads I chose one to design myself , I chose ‘The President’s Message’, as President Bell was responsible for giving me the brief in the first place, it seemed appropriate.

I gave the photographer this reference for Nick’s image:
Bob sent through his shots, I picked out this one.
It seemed moody and self-important, like an album cover.Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.56.24
I tried to turn it into an album cover, I wanted the type to be very minimal so as not to detract from the shot.Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 21.50.13I thought it looked too cool but felt I needed to spoon in some cheese, it looked too serious.
Maybe we could use that Westerny style lettering country rock groups like The Eagles were so fond of?

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 17.02.00
Or maybe we should make it look a bit psychedelic?
We could solarised the image.D&AD Annual 2004, Nick Bell Album; shot solarised
Perhaps we could do a duotone, with bold sixties style colours, like this.D&AD Annual 2004, Nick Bell Album; Santana cover.jpgI wanted the type to look pretentious, overly self-important, so I picked the type style used on the Trajan columns in Rome, in 113AD, it’s called Trajan, (obvs), then reversed it out of the image, it made it look very self-important, in a spoofy, good way.D&AD Annual 2004, Nick Bell Album; cover

The back.
I need a logo to help it look like a real album.
What label is this album on?

I looked through record labels.
I had a vague memory of Gary Glitter being on the Bell Record label.D&AD ANNUAL 2004, Nick Bell, Bell Records ref *.jpg
Perfect in one way, but it seemed weird to have the name of the artist and the record label the identical, also, what would I do? just cut it out and stick it on.
It didn’t feel very spoofy, it would be better to add a twist to something than simply take it wholesale.
PYE! It’s a gift.
D&AD ANNUAL 2004, Nick Bell, Pye Records ref .jpgD&AD Annual 2004, PYE into DYE
Then we just needed some ephemeral text, again to make it feel authentic.
What do album credits look like?
Produced by? His parents Malcolm & Rose.
Written by? Obviously Nick.
Arranged by? I guess that’s me, (bung a ‘J’ i to look poncy).
Featuring? Whoever’s in his text.
It would be good to have some numbers in there, like track numbers, let’s pull out the subject matter from the text and put numbers in front of it, like a subhead.

The designs start to come in.

Geoff Halpin.
Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.43.31Mark Denton’s.FRONT(I was one of the idiots he got to dance in front of about a dozen people at the photography shoot. Cheers Mark!)D&AD Annual 2004 'Art Direction, Back' Mark DentonCabell Harris.D&AD Annual 2004, Cabell Harris

Alan Kitching.D&AD Annual 2004 'Members' - Alan KitchingTom Hingston.Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 09.51.34Stylorouge.Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.43.59Paula Scher.
(After she’d completed her artwork D&AD informed me that the text she’d been given had been changed, I think someone had edited sections out.
It looked like a problem to me as shed beautifully fitted the text to the odd shade space in between the pictures.
I told Paula, she simply rubbed it out, leaving a massive, weird hole in the text.
A shame, but I guess she had bigger fish to fry.)
D&AD 2004,Illustration - Paula ScherSt Lukes.Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 09.53.08

3rd PROBLEM: Gerald Scarfe.

“Next Wednesday.”
“Monday, definitely monday.”
I waited for Gerald’s design right up to the day before we went to print.

I hung in there because, well, he’s Gerald Scarfe and I wanted one of his great, angry- looking bits of design amongst the other more considered pieces.
A very small parcel turned up.
I thought he’d work bigger than that?’
Still, very exciting.
I wonder how he’s handled the type?
Has he satirised the Chairman aspect?
Will he have made the super lovely Anthony Simmonds-Gooding look aggressive?
Is it going to look really gloomy?

Out plops the artwork.
This is almost actual size.

photo (4)
I peer back into the envelope to look for the other bits.
That’s it? That’s what I’ve waited eight weeks for? Where’s the words, the design the front cover, the back cover?
I now have a blank spread in the 2004 D&AD Annual with just this one little cartoon, the style was nearer that of a cheeky seaside postcard than the angry, punky ‘Fear And Loathing In Los Angeles’ front cover.
D&AD ANNUAL 2004, Gerald Scarfe ref.jpg

I can’t bin it, he’s done it for free.
I’ll have to build a cover idea around it.
In 24 hours.
“Right…er…he looks jolly…er, music hall, show tunes, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the roof.”
To make it look like those kind of albums I needed lots of slugs of words, any half joke I could think of went in – Side 1 – his face, side 2 – back of his head…er? Sod it done, next.’’Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.34.13Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 21.48.14
It turned out to be quite a pivotal moment for me, because I had no time to think about it, it was almost like a stream of consciousness.
There are all kinds of odd little bits of small print that I thought ‘Yeah, fuck it, that’ll do’ rather than analize it.

4th PROBLEM: “Bit of an error, D&AD-side, I’m afraid, we’ve forgotten the sponsors spread!
So given the utterly bonkers timing let’s just list the names on one of the spreads, we don’t have time to do all that album design malarkey.”
Well, let’s at least set it in an interesting font.
Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.50.52
No, we can’t do that, it’s such a cop-out, it’d be the only spread in the book that isn’t an album design.
We have literally hours until we have to send it to print…what to do? What to do?…What’s that record over there?
Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 22.30.14
That’ll do! Let’s spoof it, or as the lawyers would say create an homage to it. 
I took the ‘Six-Five Special’ cover as my ‘inspiration’.Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.49.10Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 16.50.11
(If you look carefully in the bottom right corner, there’s a code: H&O + R&C + 1.
It stands for: H&O = Harry & Olivia, my children, Roman & Charlie, my step-children, +1 = an unnamed baby on the way, now called Louis.)

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Remembering the annual was shrink-wrapped, like albums used to be, I thought it would be good to put stickers on that cellophane, also like albums used to have.NTWICA Stickers
Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 20.50.30 Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 20.50.11

THE FINAL RESULT:D&AD annualI sneaked one of my rejected annual ideas onto the back cover.
Waste not, want not.
Do Not Recycle

You could pick any one, but you were only allowed in if you were wearing one of these stickers.
(In retrospect it was like sending out 23 tickets to every person, gate crashing must’ve been rife.)D&AD Annual 2004 launch-Stickers whole 001

From brief to book took eight months, a helluva lot of hours were poured into it.
Once the annual was printed I’d remembered D&AD’s print producer mentioning that the books cost roughly £13 an item to make, so I called him to ask if he could get me a batch, maybe fifty, to give to CDD clients.
He said he couldn’t see a problem, he’ll clear it with the higher-ups and get back to me.
He doesn’t.
I buttonhole him at the launch night, he’s awkward, sweaty even, “The Chairman says..well, erm…He says we can sell them to you for…the wholesale price…£33… which, to be fair is still £27 less than it should be…so…”

So I have worked eight months for free and they want to sell them to me at a profit?
I gave the producer a message for the Chairman, a suggestion on where he could store his annuals.
Two weeks later a lorry turned up at CDD, someone wheeled in ten boxes containing fifty annuals. No charge.
As we’d had a accepted or awarded that year, we printed up these stickers and sent the annual out to our clients.
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NB. Six weeks after the annual was printed, a huge envelope showed up at the office.
Inside was Lee Clow’s album design.
As he’d stopped communicating and hadn’t given me a clear yes, I’d replaced him.
Annoyingly, it was better than the one we’d used.
It was for the Packaging section and was a spoof of The Beatle’s ‘White’ album.beatles-white-album-front.jpg

So, from memory, was no design for packaging design.
Very, very cool. Very, very late.


Whether it’s about human being, a product or a company, people make judgements first and post rationalise them later.
As Silverkrin, or one of those hair products put it; ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’.
So it’s important not to send out conflicting signals.
This requires discipline, every element that makes up a company’s personality needs to be pointing in the same direction,  to ensure you are sending out one clear signal.



Fonts are like voices, they can sound like Harry Redknapp or Stephen Fry,
and it’s important you pick the right voice for a brand.

Something feels wrong?                                         Feels right.

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Colour sets a tone, it creates an instant mood.
People already have associations with colour hard wired into them,
so it’s useful to use those perceptions. e.g. Red equals danger.

Something feels wrong?                                          Feels right.

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Words should come directly from a company’s personality, ‘interesting’ ways of saying
things can get in the way of communicating who you really are.

Something feels wrong?                                          Feels right.

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THINGS I’VE GLEANED, Pt 4: ‘Safe’ is sometimes right.

It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when rolling news wasn’t a thing.
Whilst at AMV/BBDO, we got a brief for BBC News 24 to explain that not only was rolling news a thing, it was a good thing.
It occurred to us that 90% of news was unplanned, random acts, terrorism, floods, accidents, things you just couldn’t predict.
That seemed like a good angle – news doesn’t stop happening, so BBC News 24 never stops running.
The thought was so obvious it ran the risk of insulting the intelligence of our audience, so we made the ads a bit sarcastic, tongue in cheek, as if “You already know this, but…”.
Like it was reminding rather than informing.
We wrote out a batch of headlines:
List 1
Dave Wakefield came up with a neat idea for the layouts, as it was for a rolling news station, let’s have rolling headlines, we’d show bits of one that had just gone and a bit of one on it’s way.
Genius, simple idea, that hadn’t been done. (I think?)
Client: “I like the idea, but what if those things happen when the ads are running? Terrorism? Hijackings? Natural disasters?”
What, you mean what if some NEWS happens?
“Could we make them more general, not such specific events?”
Jesus! Lighten up sister, it’s a joke, a bit of fun!
She was having none of it, out went half the work, (including our favourite script – the plane hijacking one: After the news announcer says ‘that’s the end of the news’, a plane hijacker puts down his gun, takes a seat and starts reading a newspaper.)
But we still shot these five, with Ringan Ledwidge helping us make fun of the idea that the news stopped when the announcer said ‘That’s the end of the news”.

The posters ended up like this, they felt a bit neutered, soft.
The campaign ran from the second week in September 2001.
Yes, that’s right, THAT September.
It was all taken off air and billboards straight away.
Fortunately we didn’t have the embarrassment of having to explain our ‘fun’ hijacking ad.
After that, nobody needed ads to understand the benefits of rolling news.