I was quite quick tongued, bright at school, without being very academically gifted or driven.
I cared about ‘stuff’ in general, zeitgeisty stuff; trends, tribes, what was cool what wasn’t, what was funny what wasn’t.
I liked art and English at school and not much else.
Got not very good A-level grades, which led me to Bristol Polytechnic to do a two year course in Business studies with advertising.
The advertising bit of it was 1 hour a week with a guy who had obviously worked at a printers or something so it was all about type and copper rollers and stuff like that, which didn’t seem very relevant but did leave me thinking about the creative side of advertising.
Also I met a mate on the same course who kept talking about how he was going to leave the course and do a D&AD course – Davie Hieatt, who remains a top bloke.
What did Hounslow College teach you?
So, Hounslow was at the time considered the second best (out of two) courses teaching you how to get an advertising portfolio together.
I did a copy test thing for Watford (no.1) – do an anti smoking storyboard, how would you describe toast to a martian, that kind of thing – and enjoyed it.
Evidently more than they did because I didn’t get in.
Which actually made me realize I REALLY had wanted to get in, and was left a bit stung by it. My first real taste of putting your soul out there for others to criticize which is what its all about after all.
So I got into Hounslow. Where Dave Morris was busy making sure his course became the number one. He made a lot of us out and about in the industry.
You met your partner of the next 20 years there. Love at first sight?
Not really no, but we kind got pushed together by dint of the usual merry go round of copywriter art director couplings and re-couplings.
But after a couple of projects it felt right. We both meant it.
Which agencies didn’t you get jobs at?
All the best ones. But we learnt from very good people when we were taking our book round them.
If you’d had a magic genie who could’ve granted you a wish to have a job in any agency of your choice, where would you have chosen?
Well initially GGT; they were our Shangri La, the holy grail. Creatives at GGT in ’87, ’88 were like Gods to us eager students, or premier league footballers with razor sharp brains. Walking around in socks eating toast being brilliant.
Who did you want to be; Trott? Webster? The spiky haired one from Kajagoogoo?
I wanted to be any of the GGT creatives, or Chris Palmer, Mark Denton, or Tom Carty or Walter Campbell.
We were in awe of them, but they took time in their evenings to slag our book off when they could’ve done something more interesting.
We learnt so much from them.
You’re offered a job at a new third wave agency Butterfield Day Devito Hockney.
There’s a previso. You’re told ‘You’re one of two teams we’re taking on, but we’ll let go of the second best one in three months’.
A pressurised start?
Yes, but brilliant. And no harder than getting anywhere near an agency in the year or so before; that taking your book round, changing it, going back, getting rebuffed, going again- that makes you or breaks you, doesn’t it? Even before that, 6 months into the college course, you knew the casualties would be heavy, that most of the class were going to be crucified out there.
Derek Day trained some great people, what did he teach you?
He taught me intelligent writing, thoughtful thoughts, and go go go again.
Why leave for DFGW?
We loved Dave Waters and Paul Grubb, who had gone from GGT to start DFGW. We had idolised them since those days, and couldn’t resist.
What was the difference between BDDH and DFGW?
We learnt how to write ads at BDDH, we learnt about the job, the whole thing.
At DFGW we learnt how to do TV.
What did you learn from my Emirates stadium neighbour Dave Waters?
ANDY: How fun and silliness are absolutely viable tools to make powerful advertising.
The economic value of fun and sillines.
What did you learn from Grubby?
Short form writing.
Grubby was known as the king of the end line.
I can’t think of an accolade I’d rather have.
You reluctantly leave DFGW to go to a better agency, BMP/DDB?
Reluctant because we loved working for Dave and Grubby.
But BMP was premier league, with a heritage of great work.
And we had to do it.
Pre-match nerves on your first day?
Of course. They had a strong squad.
I joined BMP/DDB a few months later and my leaving card from Leagas Delaney said ‘Goodbye’ on the outside, and on the inside ‘…to awards’.
At the time BMP/DDB was seen as quality, but slow and research dominated.
How did you find it?
That probably says more about Leagas Delaney than anything else.
I’m sure you remember every single (admittedly brilliant) press ad that came out of Leagas. And there were thousands of them.
But what people in the real world remember is Cresta bear, ‘Watch out there’s a Humphrey about’, the Honey Monster.
I seem to remember Webster saying no research had ever made his ads worse, only better.
You told me recently that you were only there two years.
That’s astonishing, you did a mountain of work?
Thanks. I think it was 2.5 years. But not sure.
Did you work with John Webster?
Yes, in our second week we presented a Walkers TV spot to him. Webster had started the Gary Lineker campaign a year or so before I think?
We wrote one which had Cantona doing his Crystal Palace kung fu kick (he’d executed it that season), but it was on a crisp-eating Linekar in the crowd.
I thought is was brilliant. When I’d finished reading it to him, he laughed (so far so good), smiled broadly (yes, yes), and said “it’s not just wrong, it’s a thousand percent wrong”.
We walked back down the long corridor and nearly kept walking back to DFGW.
Everyone is a bit anxious until they get something good out, what piece of work settled you in at BMP?
We did a Unison ad about public service cuts. Something like “come to a demonstration in the park, just past the old school, by the closed down hospital”.
And we did a party political broadcast for the labour party. John Major’s Pork Pie factory.
And a campaign on the light boards at piccadilly circus; watch out Ken Clarke operating in this area.
You managed to get the Simpsons to appear in a Doritos ad, ‘Doh!-ritos’, That should’ve been great shouldn’t it?
Yes it could’ve been.
Things don’t always go brilliantly though. I think the core idea of Doh!-ritos was a good one. Ambitious. But, you know, it just ended up being a bit so-so.
One thing I remember though is it was based around Homer in the nuclear power plant, and we only got clearance from the BACC if we agreed to stop running the ad if there was a nuclear war or a core meltdown in the UK. Erm, yeah, ok.
You’re a bit like Marmite Andy.
Twenty years ago that would’ve meant you’re black and gooey, but thanks to you and Rich, people know it means polarising.
Was there resistance to the idea in the beginning?
The brief was nothing to do with that, it was still all about my mate Marmite and kids and soldiers of toast and growing up and stuff.
But Rich loved it and I hated it, and it just seemed to us the most polarising thing on the planet, and had to be useful as a property.
My bravest ever client.
Skoda U.K. were brave, but this lady was something else, hats off to her.
We launched with two 30 second ads; one was ‘my mate marmite’ to that tune, with people loving it, and the jar at the end with the “my mate” logo.
The other was ’I hate marmite’ sung to that tune, with people spitting it out and stuff, and the jar at the end with an “I hate” logo.
She cried on the shoot for the second one, but still had the balls to do it.
I hope she’s as proud of starting that ball rolling as I am.
And no, Dave, I am not like Marmite; everyone loves me.
I’ve always thought it was a shame the ‘Use your vote’ campaign didn’t have major backing to run up and down the country, it’s one of the few political campaigns that makes me want to vote.
You reluctantly set up Fallon?
Yes, at BMP we got a black pencil (back when they meant quite a fucking lot not absolutely fuck all like now) for a Doritos idents campaign.
And Tony Cox, our creative director, put his head round the office door and said, smiling “what you going to do next year boys?”, then walked out.
Scary, but the best decision we ever made. And it wasn’t that we were reluctant, that’s a bit misleading. It’s just that leaving your hardly fought for comfort zone thing, you know? The deep sigh when you know you have to keep moving on to the next thing. It’s not reluctance, it’s just the realisation that there is never time to bask, no wallowing. Clean your kit then straight back to the battle.
Starting the London version of Fallon McElligott was a huge leap of faith for all of us; Michael Wall and Robert Senior knew each other very well, and they knew Laurence Green a bit. Rich and I had never met any of them.
It could have been a disaster.
In fact as far as we could tell lots of people thought it would be.
The usual industry naysayers gave us about 6 months I think.
Were Fallon McElligott a big influence?
They were great. Really supportive, without being too constraining; they let us make our mistakes and learn by them.
Pat Fallon was a real mentor to all of us.
How did you work in the same room as Rich for twenty years?
Let me rephrase that; how did you manage to work with the same creative partner for twenty years?
We’d have killed each other apart from the fact that we loved the work we kept producing together.
When I set up DHM our schtick was all about truth, ‘truth cuts through’, ‘truth endures’, ‘it’s the age of truth’.
Compiling your stuff here I can see truth was equally important to Fallon London; Skoda, Umbro, Ben & Jerry’s etc.
But, perhaps sensibly, you didn’t bang on about it?
We probably did bang on about, I think we are all told we have to have a thing by campaign etc, and we all walk around talking in sound bites for the next ten years.
You lucked out by landing the planet’s best Head of TV very early on? (It says here)
Yes we did, she would talk about interesting new directors, and how to make work better, not about where the new place for lunch was.
She was also the world’s greatest Richard and Andy wrangler.
What did you look for in the scripts and scraps of paper teams handed over for you to creative direct?
A truth, a difference, an ambition.
Your house is on fire, you can only save one of your ads. Which is it?
Fuck the ads, let’s go.
Okaaaay, what’s your favourite ad you’ve done?
I’m very proud of Marmite “love it or hate it” being in the country’s vernacular.
Your work is very direct. Has ‘direct’ gone out of fashion?
Good has gone out of fashion.
Which ads make you get all irritable with envy?
The ones that are better than the programmes they’re shown in.
What’s been the biggest surprise since you switched to directing?
I didn’t think it would be quite so different, and in a way it isn’t – everyone’s looking at the same piece of paper albeit from different sides – but going from the big Fallon family, with lots of structure and back up, to the far more exposed world of little old self employed me waiting for a nice script was quite a jolt. I love it obviously, but the pace is very different.
Who influences your work today?
Everyone and everything. It can’t be about this style or that method. It has to be the right thing for the project in hand. I don’t want a house style, I want whatever is perfect for the idea in front of me, to make the spot as great for that particular idea as it can be. Really I’m just doing what I always did; it used to be all about trying to write absolutely the exact right idea for a brand. And now it’s about trying to direct in absolutely the exact right way for a particular script.