Where were you bought up?
Farley Road, Catford, S.E.6. Mr Smiths was where the Richardson Gang had their 1966 Gangland slaying. My Mum worked there. Frankie Frazer used to escort her up the Road.
He famously said ‘I’ll take you home Lilly, you meet some dodgy characters around here’.
That’s where I was dragged up.
Was advertising your first choice?
Not exactly. I was invited to leave Haberdashers Askes at the age of sixteen.
Fortunately the only teacher who had any faith in me was the History master.
He asked me what my father did for a living.
A Co-op butcher, but I don’t fancy putting my hand up a Turkey’s arse for a living.
He asked me what my other relatives did.
My Uncle’s in the Print and had a bigger car than my Dad”, (my Dad drove a Reliant Robin, just like Del Boy’s.)
The History Master said his neighbour worked in an Advertising Agency, and he’d have a word, he said it’s close to the Print.
He then said “Mind you Cozens if all else fails you’re a big lad, how about the Police Force?”
I Thanked him, but couldn’t see my self as a Copper.
To cut a long story short I sent off letters to J.Walter Thompson, London Press Exchange, and Colman Prentice & Varley and was offered a job in the postroom of each one.
A post boy at Colman Prentiss Varley. A surprising amount of your generation’s great creatives started life in the post room.
Yes, for the princely sum of £3 per week!
How did you switch to creative?
I was offered a job as a typographer. Out of ten other Typographers I was the general dogs-body, my nickname was“Bread”as I got the sandwiches every day.
At the time, CPV was probably one of the most creative agencies in the country, how did you get into the creative department?
I was already in there albeit, as a lowly Typographer.
But I was keen and determined to make a name for myself.
I used to tinker with the body copy and the Copywriter never spotted it, imagine Tony Brignull or the late David Abbott not spotting that.
What ads were getting you all hot and bothered at the time?
One ad that stood out from CPV was for Yardley lipstick which had a holster, with lipsticks instead of bullets. Shot by the late great Terry Donovan.And almost anything that came out of CDP.
It was London’s answer to DDB New York, the work was first class, I can still recite the names Alan Parker, Charles Saatchi, Paul Windsor, Terry Lovelock,etc, etc.
I’ve only ever seen Colin Millward’s name preceded with the words like ‘dour’ or ‘genius’ next to it. What was he like?
Working under Colin Millward was exactly that, unpredictable one day, unyielding the next. I don’t remember him shouting, he was actually a very quiet man.
Frank Lowe invited him on the Benson and Hedges shoot, which was going pear shaped because of the weather. The Arizona desert had never been that flooded.
Each evening we had a pow wow back at the hotel.
Also four of the Iguanas had died due to the cold weather.
The ones in the film were as John Cleese would say a ‘Deceased Iguana’.
Hugh Hudson never put a foot wrong, a joy to work with. I couldn’t imagine any other Director doing such a fine job.
You then moved from C. J. Lytle to L.P.A.
The print ad above was the very first ad of mine that got into the D&AD book. I was at LPA with a bunch of like minded Creatives, including Alan Midgley and Ron Mather.
I found the ad above in a magazine from 1970, but it features in the 1973 D&AD Annual. Don’t know what happened there? Long judging process?
Er? Can’t remember?
How did Peter Mayle come to hire you at BBDO?
I was working at the Lonsdale, Crowther Agency with that very fine Art Director John Foster when we both decided we’d had enough of mediocrity.
John was a mate of Des Sergeant, who was Head of Art at the new look BBDO.
This was the big one for both of us.
Peter Mayle was the Creative Director and a fitness fanatic.
I decided to join his Gym and not let him know I was an up and coming copywriter.
Fortunately Des was doing the interviewing, as Peter was on a shoot somewhere.
To cut a long story short, John and I got the job and fitted in perfectly. We’ve shared a boss; Tim Delaney, how was he for you?
Probably the same as it was for you.
Cool, fun then.
BBDO seemed to have been a breeding ground for the more fancy Collett Dickenson Pearce?
Peter Mayle left and created a big gap.
I voted for Ron Brown to be Creative Director rather than Tim Delaney, so my days were numbered when Tim got the job.
Everyone at BBDO had their books and reels in Collett’s.
Most of us got the jobs there.
You’re teamed up with a young rascal called Alan Waldie, how was that?
Waldie, no one uses his Christian name, is apparently not a well man.
So I won’t go into the negative side, suffice to say that it wasn’t all Guns and Roses.
Waldie was like nobody I’ve ever worked with, his reputation as a drinker was legendary.
I nicknamed him the Jeffrey Bernard of Adland.
The B&H campaign was what made our name.
We also took over the Heineken campaign, and the Olympus camera campaign.
I teamed up with Graham Watson who was in my group and together we went to TBWA.
What was the brief for the B&H campaign?
“Do something that’s never been done before”
How did your roughs go down internally, did anyone understand them?
I can’t draw. Waldie was a brilliant Artist, his roughs were superb.
This was 1978, when planning was in its infancy.
I’ve read that when the posters first went up people would just stop and stare. Presumably trying to work out what the hell they meant?
Dave Trott told me he was one of those people, he thought ‘They used to have all those puns about gold, now what are they telling me…Benson & Hedges are like cheese?’
True. You couldn’t fail to notice them.
Look at this one in situ, it’s so powerful, why don’t people create posters like this anymore?
We had an open canvas, a great client, and a strong creative team. On our day Waldie and I were second to none. Sometimes 1+1 does add up to 3.
The posters didn’t make much sense, so how did you translate that into film?
Waldie and I independently came up with Hugh Hudson as the Director.
We’d never worked with him before but that was beneficial.
The three of us had many meetings and a few arguments mainly over the resolution shot at the end.
Hugh wanted to keep it abstract and obscure, I wanted to keep it simple.
We came up with Battersea Power Station which worked superbly.
The music was written by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. It was taken off their Consequences Album
Did you know how good the ad was when you wrote it?
We knew we couldn’t have done any better.
CDP was the best creative department of the day, fun or stressful?
It was fun and stressful. But the BBH creative department was better.
How did you find Frank Lowe?
Curly bloke, tall, cricket jumper?
Oh him!It couldn’t be going better, why leave?
Graham Watson was in my group at CDP, I was in the CDP bar when he came over and asked if I was happy at CDP? I said not particularly why are you, ‘Not particularly’ he replied.
He arranged a meeting with John Hegarty and John offered me the job.
On the first day of 1980, Graham and I pitched for the Knorr account, which we won.
On the second we wrote “Kipper”.
Not bad for two days work.
After creating one of the best three commercials of the decade, you make another one; ‘Kipper’ for Lego.
The absolute polar opposite of the B&H spot.
‘Iguana’ was filmic, arty and used an amazing music score and stunning locations. ‘Kipper’ was stop-frame, funny and used a voiceover and a simple tabletop in a studio?
I never wanted to write so called ‘Arty stuff’.
Looking at both ‘Iguana’ and ‘Kipper‘ I know which one I prefer.
‘Kipper’ by a long shot! It’s as funny today as it was when we first wrote it.
At this time you must’ve considered opening Cozens, Thingy & Wotsit?
I always felt more comfortable bouncing ideas about.
How did you come to be one of the five founding partners of BBH?
Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty invited Graham and myself up to the Double O 7 bar, above the Hilton.
When we got up there Jerry Judge, and Martin Smith two great account men were also invited.What were the first few months like?
We had so many meetings in John’s House in Highgate that it was referred to as ‘the office’.
The early Levi’s work seemed to really set it apart as an agency for classy products?
There were two commercials that Graham and I wrote. ‘Rivets’ and ‘Stitching’.
Both were intended to show how tough the jeans were.
In 1985, you leave BBH to direct?
BIG BIG MISTAKE, it’s cold out there.
Paula Yates persuades you to chuck in directing?
True, once I heard she was directing commercials I thought I’d pack it in.
Too many directors out there and not enough good scripts.
How did you end up back in your old seat at BBH opposite Graham Watson?
John Hegarty rang me up and offered me my old job back with Graham.
I was very grateful.
In 1989 you become the envy of creatives everywhere when join Grey for a ‘Triple Seymour’.
A triple ‘Seymour’ was £300,000.
For the kids out there a ‘Seymour’ was one hundred thousand pounds. That was the ceiling busting amount paid to lure CDP’s Geoff Seymour transfer from CDP to Saatchi & Saatchi. Also, in the 80s, £300,000 was a lot of money.
So Mike, at the time, Grey Advertising was probably the most appropriately named agency in the world?Yes it was an eye opener, but I think they are doing better work now.
You got them doing some good stuff, particularly the Bernard Manning ads?
Yeah, the first year went well.
I used to work with Derrick Hass, probably the most sensitive creative I’ve come across, how did you find turning down his ideas?
The worst day of my advertising life was having to fire Derrick Hass.
We can’t end on that gloomy note.
So I’m going to end on a rumour I heard you, if true, there’s no better demonstration of just how different the life of a creative was in your day; Whilst at BBH you and Graham Watson bet another creative team that you could get bought lunch by suppliers every day for a year. True?
‘The Greedy Bastard Lunch Champions’ were not myself and Graham, but Paul Smith and Mike Everett at CDP.
If they were short of a ‘Knife and Fork’, they would badger me for one.
All the suppliers were on their guard, especially when the big hand was on its way to one o’clock.
This was in the days when one of them nicked a huge wad of receipts from the Kebab and Hummus and sold them to the junior members of the creative department.
John Richie, (Father of Guy), was one of two Directors who could sign the lunch off.
Sadly, Nigel Bogle saw things differently.
Ah those were the days.
14 responses to INTERVIEW: Mike Cozens.
Great stuff. Once again.
A “Seymour?” That’s funny, I always thought a one hundred thousand quid a year was a “Cozens.” Not counting the Porsche’s and Platinum Am Ex, etc. I’ll have to ask Jerry Judge. After me, he’s the expert on such matters. Cheers/George
Brilliant stuff, remember everyone. Maxx
Thanks Max. Best, Dave
My first job in advertising was washing your Aston Martin when you were at Ted Bates for a tenner, Max. And you approved my first ad. A sales ad for Aquascutum. Hope you’re well, Tim Gillingham.
fantastic Mike. beer soon
Afternoon Dave, nice to see two of my RangeRover pictures. AD Brian Morrow.
Thanks John, Brian Morrow? Perhaps these ads aren’t Mikes? Best, Dave
It is always interesting to read the inside stories how great advertisements were conceived because as a contributing photographer you hardly ever got the inside story. Thoroughly enjoy reading about people I know and have worked with over the years.
Excellent work as ever Dave. Thoroughly good read.
Hi Dave. Great interview. Great work from a true legend.
My connection to that B&H Gold birdcage ad…
I was an young art director working in a ‘through-the-line agency’ in Carlisle Street in the mid-to-late 80’s. One morning, whilst having a fag out of the creative department window, something caught my eye in the street below. A neighbouring business were having a refurb and dumping stuff into a skip. Amongst the dusty plasterboard and torn carpet was a shimmer of gold; an object so iconic, so recognisable and so significant I choked on my smoke. Surely not… Where had it come from? Where had it been? Was it ‘the original’? Had I just discovered the B&H Birdcage?
I rushed down the stairs and out into the street to check I wasn’t mistaken. I was pleasantly surprised. Condition-wise It weren’t half-bad – a fine piece of modelmaking with the pack still stuck to the perch.
Incredulous that it had come to this and infatuated with its legacy, I did what any self-respecting creative would have done, and rescued it from a crushing fate. I took it back up to the department, and gave it some TLC. The other creatives couldn’t believe it – it was like finding Tutenkamen.
Within minutes it was hanging from the ceiling, pride of place in the middle of the room. Word quickly got around the agency and everyone came up to admire and be in its presence.
It became our creative Talisman – even my trade ads for NAAFI looked like they had Gold D&AD written all over them. Stroppy, corner-cutting Suits would be silently pointed to it when trying to water down our work.
It soon took on a life of its own. One week, someone put three empty packs of B&H Gold 10s in the bottom of the cage, which made them look like ‘eggs’. Then someone sprayed some pigeon feathers gold and put them in too. A few of us even swapped our ubiquitous Marlboro Lights for B&H Gold.
Alas, all good things come to a end. After about a year it started to come apart. A few boisterous after-work drinks sessions put paid to it and the final straw came when we ourselves had a refurb and the big boss said it’s going. Period. We gave it a good send off.
So where did the cage come from? Well, next door to us were John Blackburn Design, quite a packaging hotshop at the time. Me thinks it was from there but can’t be sure. Was it the original in the poster? I’d like to think so, but it could’ve been a stunt dummy or a replica. Having said that, the quality and scale seemed just perfect for the shoot. Perhaps you or others know better.
Whatever the truth, I’m going with my version.
To think nowadays it’d be a layered Photoshop file after CGI.
Let’s skip that thought.
Hey Mark, what a nice, quirky addition to the post. Thank you. Best, Dave
Why hasn’t Mike Cozens reminisced over the time he pounded the typewriter on the 2nd floor of Leo Burnett Co at 17-19 Stratford Place around 1966-67? (These were my formative days in advertising, highlighted by the numerous occasions I witnessed the secretaries wetting their knickers whenever Mike stepped out of his office for a cup of coffee!) Sorry, Mike – but the truth must be told! By Malcolm Glenn (retired and jealous)
After leaving CDP & then FGA to become a photographer’s assistant, I was at the D&AD awards the year Chameleon aired. On a large screen with the volume cranked up, I’ll never forget the very long standing ovation it received and it still sends a shiver down my spine whenever I replay it.
Bravo to Mike, Waldie, Hugh & everyone involved in the making. Plus of course the Client being brave/sensible enough to let the agency get on with creating ads. If only those days would return. To quote John Pearce when firing Ford, ‘Terry Beckett is fully aware we make the ads, they make the cars.
Pingbacks & Trackbacks
[…] October 1997, after maybe 16 months of employment, our CD (they didn’t have ECDs back then), the double-Gold-Pencil winning Mike Cozens popped into our office and closed the door. (I now fear closing doors, and am very careful about […]