VFTL. Episode 3: Peter Souter.

Peter Souter:Showaddywaddy.jpgMy 7th boss.
Former hitch-hiker,
Frankenstien re-animator,
David Abbott replacement,
D&AD President,
ITV sitcom creator,
Radio 4 drama writer and
cousin of Showaddywaddy
lead singer Dave Bartram.

wavelogo 7-01.jpg

DELANEY FLETCHER DELANEY.'Some Women Are' Cancer, Peter Souter, DFD*.jpg

WOOLAMS MOIRA GASKIN O’MALLEY.'Escape' Eurax, Peter Souter, WMG)-01.jpg'Scratch' Eurax, Peter Souter, WMGO-01.jpg'Boy' Tri-Ac, Peter Souter, WMGO-01.jpg'Girl' Tri-Ac, Peter Souter, WMGO-01.jpg'Twins' Tri-Ac, Peter Souter, WMGO-01.jpg


ABBOTT MEAD VICKERS.Peter Souter:Paul Brazier.jpg
'This Whippet' RSPCA, Peter Souter, AMV*.jpg'During The Recession' RSPCA, Peter Souter, AMV-01.jpg'Bill' RSPCA, Peter Souter, AMV-01.jpg'Before They're' RSPCA, Peter Souter, AMV**.jpg'Injection:Radio' RSPCA, Peter Souter, AMV.jpg

'Industrial Secrets' The Economist, Peter Souter, AMV*.jpg

'Envelope 2' D&AD, Peter Souter, AMV-01.jpg'Dead' D&AD, Peter Souter, AMV-01.jpg

'This Ad Has' Queen Elizabeth's, Peter Souter, AMV*-01.jpg'Radio' RSPCA, Peter Souter, AMV-01.jpgPetr Souter:AMV:BBDO.jpg

'Jordan' The Economist, AMV:BBDO.jpg'Ever Go Blank' The Economist, AMV:BBDO.jpg

'Lolly' Guinness, AMV:BBDO.jpg'Iceberg' Guinness, AMV:BBDO.jpg'Fan' Guinness, AMV:BBDO.jpg




WRITER.'Goldfish Girl' Peter Souter.jpg'Hello:Goodbye 2' Peter Souter.jpg'Married. Single. Other 2' Peter Souter.jpg'Married. Single. Other 3' Peter Souter.jpg'Married. Single. Other' Peter Souter.jpg

BOSS No6: Tim Delaney

 Tim Delaney, Pink Circle-01
DAVE: Why advertising?

TIM: I wanted to be a hotel bell hop boy when I left school at 15.
But when I looked in the newspaper want ads – Junior Opportunities – they only had 2 ad agency messenger jobs. I went up to London and one of them offered me a job.

DAVE: What was your first job in advertising?
TIM: A messenger- in a tiny basement room with 4 others. Quite Dickensian,when I look back.

DAVE: Did you try and get into Colletts, like every other aspiring creative at the time?
TIM: When I started copywriting at 19/20, I went with an art director to see Collett’s Head of Copy called Robert Pethick.
He was charming and said we needed to have more in the book. I remember writing back to him about ‘impetuous youth’.
Later, when I was CD at BBDO, Collets were always poaching our guys, so we sent over a price list of all members of our creative department with different descriptions.
For example ‘Ron Brown – period piece, in need of some refurbishment, good value at £6,000.’ We didn’t hear whether they enjoyed it or not.

DAVE: When did you become aware of the creative revolution going on in New York?
TIM: I used to save up to buy shirts from a place called Austin’s in Shaftesbury Avenue, the only place in London that sold American brand Oxford cloth tab collars and button down shirts.
This was a Mod thing.
But I was certainly plugged into American graphics and ads – I use to buy Life and Look magazines and of course Esquire with all those great covers for my train rides home. In there were ads but also illustration by all kinds of graphic luminaries like Paul Davis and  Jean Paul Goude.
Somehow it all clicked with me.

DAVE: How did you end up at PKL?
TIM: I started writing in a little agency and I quickly became aware that I could write headlines (copy was harder for me). So I picked the 3 best creative agencies – Collett’s, DDB + Y&R – to try and get interviews.
Y&R offered me job immediately so I took it, telling them that I would stay for a little while and then go to a proper creative agency; can you image.
It sounds awful now, but then I just thought I was telling them the truth and what was wrong with that? Anyway, I didn’t like really like Y&R but when an ex-Y&R art director left PKL to go to DDB, he told me they were looking for a new team.
So I got an interview with Peter Mayle at PKL, and he hired me during the interview.
I remember walking down the Kings Road to my flat ,floating with joy. 

DAVE: Wasn’t it full of rebels, rascals and ruffians?
TIM: PKL in London was run by Peter Mayle, who was one of the great bosses – naughty, mischievous, mildly anarchic, a terrific salesman and a very good copywriter and talent spotter.
He was CD and there was a Chairman, (Sir) Nigel Seeley, a fabulous toff, and Dick Hedger who was a suit, a bit of a flogger.
But they had style and we had fun. Peter used to take the Creative Department to lunches at all the great restaurants in Chelsea and Knightsbridge. Mind you we worked from 8 till 11pm most days and almost all weekends.
Prior to my arrival, we heard that Tony Paladino, an Italian NY art director, had a fight with Nigel and broke Nigel’s arm.
But the maddest thing that happened when I was there was when Peter told me to not think of moving (which I wasn’t) because something was going to happen. It did : he fired 8 accounts in one day and cut the agency in half; I was kept on in a tiny creative department,working even longer hours.

DAVE: Did you deal with Julian Koenig, if so what was he like?
TIM: I heard he was in the office but by the time I’d got back from lunch he’d gone. Big pity.

DAVE: George Lois – a first class maniac?
TIM: Peter used to talk about George Lois as a larger than life character but he never came to London.
I knew him more for his Esquire covers, which I now found out he didn’t do – at least not exclusively.

DAVE: And Fred Papert, who was he?
TIM: Papert was the account guy. No one ever talked about him.

DAVE: It all sounds like chaos, do you think chaos is good for creativity?
TIM: It wasn’t chaos in PKL London, it was pretty near perfect working environment. We had great accounts, the department was small but talented and we all g0t on, and Peter made sure everyone knew it was all about the work and us.
New York was probably different ; I wish they had sent me for a couple of weeks.
Tim Delaney, Harrod's'1pm',PKL-01
DAVE: Remember getting your first ad into D&AD?
I first went D&AD when it was a lunch time affair at the Hilton in Park Lane.
I was working with John Gorham, probably, the best single graphic designer Britain has produced, and he asked me to write something in a booklet he was designing for Shell agricultural products.
I wrote some very basic words, no idea, and it got in the book.
My name was on it as writer.
My first ad I can’t remember, strangely.
Tim Delaney, 'Shell Report', John Gorham*DAVE: Which writer did you aspire to be at this time?
I liked all the writers at Doyle Dane in New York. Their names were even inspiring : Evan Stark, Charles Piccarillo, Ron Rosenfeld, Bob Levenson, John Noble. Plus Ed McCabe of course.
They were like Gods; far away and in no way mortal.

DAVE: You must’ve been one of the first fifty or so at BMP?
TIM: First dozen. They figured out quite quickly that Gabe Massimi wasn’t much of a talent and that John Webster was as near a genius as you will ever find in the genius-free zone that is the ad industry.
So when I joined there were just 4 creative people: John, Alan Orpin (who the account guys used to dismiss as John’s alter ego – implying he wasn’t somehow involved-weird) David Ashwell, the art director who joined from PKL who I went to join there.

DAVE: Did you have a brown, BMP branded mini?
TIM: No, nor did anyone else.
Where did you hear that story.
We were in Goodge Street, just below Cramer Saatchi, a creative consultancy, run by Charlie and Ross Cramer.
BMP's First premises-01
DAVE: Ever work with John Webster?
TIM: Yes I worked on a couple of pitches with him.
We didn’t get the accounts.
But then
 we had a run of 12 straight pitches we didn’t get.  Tim Delaney, Trade Union 'Shut Up',BMP* Tim Delaney, Trade Union 'Stop',BMP*
DAVE: Learn anything from him?
TIM: I learned that looking at American Art Director annuals isn’t about copying, it’s about getting inspiration and learning about structure – how few words are needed in a spot etc.

DAVE: Why leave small, creative BMP to join a big, bad, American BBDO?
TIM: I hated BMP, even though I worked with great people.
I hated the way Planners bombed work,the way they used it to formulate strategy.
We would work our butts off and they would come in the morning as say it was all blown out.
I understand now why that was a good way of refining ideas but at the time it really annoyed me.
It was open plan as well – I hated that.
I like a door and for it to be closed when I’m working.
I met Paul Leeves and Alan Orpin there though – two of the funniest people I have ever worked with.
I went to BBDO (which was small and failing) because PKL reversed into it, and it became PKL but bigger.
So Peter Mayle asked me to go back and be  a Group Head. I was only 25,which seems strangely young now. I wouldn’t dream of giving a 25-year-old that much responsibility nowadays.
Tim Delaney, 'Learning To Be A C.D.', Direction-01
DAVE: What’s the difference between a good creative and a creative director?
TIM: A good creative answers a brief and executes well or hopefully brilliantly.
A Creative Director needs to fulfil a number of roles.
Creatively he needs to set the tone for the ideas that represent the agency’s point of 
To do this, he has to be good at strategy and later in the process, he has to be a good proponent of the idea in a client forum,that sometimes includes their very senior people.
First and foremost, he needs to have the confidence of his department which I believe means leading by example.
But many great Creative Directors have operated simply by guiding others (
or so I’m told).
Tim Delaney, Dry Clean, 'Spots' BBDO-01DAVE: Why were you, of all people, made Creative Director of BBDO at 27?
TIM: When Peter left to go to New York, he made me Creative Director. I was 27.
Then at 29 they made me Deputy Managing Director for some reason. And then after a Palace coup , I was made MD and was still Creative Director.
The guys in NY said the problem of my age would get better every day.

DAVE: Whose work was influencing you at the time?
TIM: In London, the gold standard  was always Collett’s and whatever campaign John Webster was up to.
Everything David Abbott did was also there to be emulated.

DAVE: I find a lot of advertising is faux funny, (or not funny is another way of putting it), in that you can tell that it is a funny ad by the construction, but nobody actually laughs.
The Sony Radio campaign is genuinely funny.
I’ve never understood why more agencies don’t use proven funny men to help create the content of ads, rather than just read the words of unfunny admen.
They know funny.

TIM: When I worked on the Sony account, it was very personal to me.
I had pitched and won it with my art director and I wrote a lot for the campaign
(although not all the best stuff).
When we decided on doing radio, I knew that comedians would write way better than me or any advertising writer because radio is a very different form.
So I simply asked the funniest man in TV and Radio to write a campaign; and that’s how John Cleese came to write what I think it still one of the funniest and most effective radio campaigns.
We worked together – him as writer, me as producer/ sounding board for 9 years. In the last few years , he let me write and he would rewrite. A lovely man.

DAVE: It was obviously going well at BBDO, why leave?
TIM: It was a roller coaster at BBDO. The work was always good, and quite often great. But BBDO needed a bigger presence in the world’s third largest advertising market.
So I set about lining up potential agencies for NY to buy : Saatchi’s, CDP, BMP (which went close) and I realised that, by definition,  I was not really going to be part of what I was setting up, which was fine but I had to start thinking about my life and not just helping the BBDO people in NY, who I liked,by the way.

DAVE: Wasn’t AMV a BBDO target at the time?
TIM: When David first went over to form Abbott Mead Vickers, I think it was tougher going financially than he realised.
So they sought a partner. BBDO, myself and the MD, had talks but they chose to go with Scali McCabe Sloves in NY, which I think was a very good fit.
Later, of course, they were bought by Omnicom and became part of BBDO.

Tim Delaney, Zanussi 'Plug', BBDODAVE: How did you end up advising Prime Minister Jim Callaghan in 1978?
TIM: I had always wanted to help the Labour Party.
Then I bumped into Edward Booth Clibborn in Paris when he was plainly having an illicit weekend with someone other than his wife and to ease the embarrassment he started talking about his contacts in the Labour party publicity department.
It went from there.
I ended up working for 18 months on the campaign ( which famously got postponed from Autumn 1978 to Spring 1979) and then during the actual 5 week campaign I was in No 10 most nights of the week working with Tom McNally, David Lipsey and Roger Carroll.
Before they put gates up, I just used to park my second-hand Porsche outside No 10.
The campaign was an amazing experience; I had to write 4 10 minute Party Political Broadcasts and shoot them while I was running an agency.
Also, there were amazing dirty tricks going on during the campaign but mainly within the governing Labour party.
Despite that, we did well from the campaign point of view .
The Sunday before the election Thursday, Labour was just ahead from being 20 points down. But after the Tories spent a fortune in the last week, we lost by 32 seats. I tell people I’m responsible for Margaret Thatcher getting into Downing Street.

DAVE: Did you know Ron Leagas before starting an agency with him?
At BBDO, I decided I shouldn’t do be both MD + CD, so I went looking for an MD.
He was a candidate.

DAVE: Did you start with any business?
TIM:  No. I was MD of a business, so I felt I couldn’t take anything from that business.
In the event Sony fired BBDO after hearing that I was leaving and asked us to pitch for a part of their business. I said ‘No – it should be all or nothing.’
I didn’t believe the brand should have different voices from different agencies.
We got our first piece of business on the Friday of the first week.
We ran an ad for the agency that week and it got us another piece really quickly but it also got us into a law suit as we attacked another agency’s work.

Tim Delaney- Endell Street-01DAVE: ‘We’re going to rip business out of big agencies like tearing meat off a carcus.” I bet that made you popular?
TIM: Did I say that? It sounds good, I wonder where I found the nerve to say that.
Although I have always thought that big agencies were essentially lazy and not very talented. And we started with no accounts so we had to be confident of our ability and display a desire to handle big accounts not tiddlers.
Tim Delaney 'Riches?%22 Campaign-01

DAVE: I remember at college, not an advertising  college but a regular college for civilians, people were quoting the ‘Phirrips’ ad.
Did you know that script would ‘blow up’?
TIM: Utilising the same attitude as I had employed on Sony, we asked two of the funniest people on TV at the time to do some  scripts and recordings for our pitch for Philips.
It is a fantastic spot and the beginning of a great relationship with Mel and Griff, not just on this projects but on others.
We did a great job for Philips but they seem almost congenitally unable to let agencies tell what a great
 company they are.

Tim Delaney - Phillips Radio 'Phirrips'-01
(The whole campaign can be found here:  http://heywhipple.com/radio/  )Tim Delaney- Phillips Radio 'No Point'-01
Tim Delaney, Phillips 'Deidre'*Tim Delaney, 'Next Office'' D&AD*Scan_06822DAVE: Ron Leagas is out, why not chisel the blighter’s name off the door?
TIM: I believe agencies are brands and when you mess around with names on the door you confuse people, clients, with a kind of flightiness.
Our agency is commonly known as Leagas to this day and I’m cool with that.
Tim Delaney Article 'Direction', Early 80's-01Harvey Nichols, 'All England', Leagas DelaneyHarvey Nichols, 'Dhurries', Leagas DelaneyTim Delaney- Day By Day Article-01DAVE: Here’s one of your weeks in the eighties. Changed much?
TIM:   Life is pretty much the same except that almost all our client meetings and shoots involve travel. Plus we have offices Hamburg, I want to get to those as often as time allows.Tim Delaney, Tetley Bitter 'Blood' Tim Delaney, Tetley Bitter 'Maternity'*
Tim Delaney, Tetley Bitter 'Nouvelle'
DAVE: So by 1990, you’ve really got a handle on this firing malarky, you were even firing people who didn’t work for you.
Campaign, 'New D&AD Revelations', Tim Delaney-01
TIM: Edward Booth-Clibborn was Chairman of D&AD but was also running his publishing business from their offices.
It was a mess and there was all kinds of funny business going on.
We had a whistle-blower who our lawyers asked to sign an affidavit about the misdemeanours at D&AD and that left us no choice but to suspend the Chairman and the Financial Director.

Tim Delaney - Timberland 'Eyes Are Frozen'-01

Tim Delaney, Timberland 'Boot'Tim Delaney, Timberland 'Exposing'Tim Delaney, Timberland 'Non'Tim Delaney, Timberland 'Wagging Tongues'Tim Delaney, Timberland 'We stole'DAVE: You’ve been writing ads for that posh shop in
Knightsbridge in the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and noughties.
When are they coming back?

TIM: Clients create the advertising they think is right for their brand.
I cannot spend time lamenting what they do after they have moved on.
For Harrods , I think we did great work for 14 years.
What they do now is their business.
DAVE: Exactly, rubbish isn’t it?
Tim Delaney, Harrod's 'Come On' Tim Delaney, Harrod's 'Decorate' Tim Delaney, Harrod's 'Gives' Tim Delaney, Harrod's 'Nibs' Tim Delaney, Harrod's 'Santa'
Harrods, The Sale - Cutlery, Leagas Delaney
DJ -Harrods 010DJ -Harrods 016DJ -Harrods 026
Leagas Delaney Building-01
DAVE: I’ve read that you don’t believe ‘Advertising is something you can pass on to someone, it’s intuitive, a gift, like scoring goals in football’?
TIM: Being good at most things in life requires innate talent allied to effort and ambition. Messi, Suarez, Neymar : they probably all have brothers who are not  great footballers, however hard they train.
Advertising is like that. You either have it or you don’t. It’s why so many people pretend to have it – most account people pretend to understand how communications work; in my experience, not many actually do.

Linguaphone, 'Are you a man', Leagas DelaneyLinguaphone, 'The world is', Leagas DelaneyLinguaphone, 'Travel is supposed', Leagas Delaney
DAVE: Unlike a lot of advertising agencies you actually run advertising.
 In a revolution, everyone has to be a revolutionary otherwise you get your head chopped off. We run ads because the objectives of our clients’ comms programmes requires us to.
What you are referring to is the dumbing down of mere advertising by digital agencies who have little knowledge of brands and even less talent at persuading consumers of anything.
As Ishiguro the writer said recently, ‘Machines (technology) can work; it can’t imagine’. Clients respect 
ideas; its agencies and digital ones in particular who have lost – or never gained – respect for them.
DAVE: Exactly, Ishiguro, I was gonna quote him, but you beat me to it.Leagas Delaney 'Saatchi' Ad'Tim Delaney, 'Woolies ad'-01Tim Delaney, 'Front page', Hose ad-01Tim Delaney 'Butllin's'-01Leagas Delaney 'Chasing' Ad'Leagas Delaney 'Dated' Ad'Leagas Delaney 'Lescarbeau' Ad'Leagas Delaney 'Nationwide house ad' Ad'
DAVE: You pitched unsuccessfully for The Guardian, so ran an ad calling them chicken. A sure way to guarantee you never work with that client again.
But they appointed you soon after?
We knew we deserved to win the pitch.
The editor even said so.
But they fell for a ridiculous visual gag which ran out of steam as gags always do, and they came back to us for the substance in the campaign we made for them.
They told us not to run the ad, implying that we wouldn’t get a chance at the business again, but I did anyway.
They had foregone their right to tell us what to do with what were in effect our ads.
Leagas Delaney 'Guardian ran and ran' Ad'GuardianTim Delaney, Guardian 'Hotel'-01Tim Delaney, Guardian 'Needle'-01Tim Delaney, Guardian 'Newspapers'-01
DAVE: How did you end up being owned by a rival agency, Abbott Mead Vickers?
TIM: I decided that Leagas was not right. A nice guy but he simply wasn’t in the business for the reasons I was.
Trouble was, we were a partnership which means that you can’t fire someone, you have to break up the partnership.
So I had to roll the partnership into a limited company.
By the time I had done that, Leagas Delaney was losing money.
So I needed someone to pay Leagas to exit and put us back on an even keel again.
I could not have wished for better partners than David Abbott and Peter Mead.
Scan_0333 Scan_0328 Scan_0347Tim Delaney - Nationwide 'Richest'-01Nationwide_0003_DearMissDixon Nationwide_EncourageYouToSpend Money_0004Tim Delaney, Nationwide 'Banks Must Like Small Business'-01Tim Delaney, Nationwide 'Out Of My High Interest'-01
Tim Delaney, Nationwide 'Life Doesn't Give You 90 days Notice'-01DAVE: Did you collaborate with David Abbott much in those years?
TIM: David and I hardly met let alone collaborate.
He was respectful of our integrity which was repaid in the way we ran the company.
We were flat-out busy all the time so there was very little time for socialising or working on projects together.

DAVE: Although the art directors and Head of Arts have changed over the years, the work has always had a certain sophistication, or appreciation of style.
TIM: That must be down to my incredible aesthetic sensibility!!
Seriously, all you have to do is look at Helmut Krone’s work to know that populist campaigns should have a differentiating look and feel and that people quite easily distinguish between something crafted and thought through and sloppy, slap dash art direction.
Apple designs are beautiful and populist – that’s the short answer to your question.
If it was a question.
Ordnance Survey, 'Ever heard', Leagas DelaneyOrdnance Survey, 'John McAdam', Leagas Delaney
Ordnance Survey, 'Warning', Leagas DelaneyOrdnance Survey, 'Still There', Leagas DelaneyOrdnance Survey, 'Stuck here', Leagas DelaneyOrdnance Survey, 'Walk away', Leagas Delaney
DAVE: Don’t you ever get sick of writing all those tiny little words that nobody reads?
 I have always believed that if you write like you want people to read it, then people will do so.
Even the smallest piece of writing in the smallest leaflet.
What’s the alternative : write rubbish knowing believing that no one reads it?
That’s a kind of nihilism – although I’m pretty sure most so-called writers think that way nowadays.

DAVE: ‘I don’t like advertising, I just like ads’. Why?
Advertising as an industry is full of over blown, egotistical, opinionated weirdos. This is because no one knows exactly how it works.
So in the land of the blind etc,etc, a big character or personality can pretend to know the secret of how to win a piece of business, which slogan will catch on, what a client will buy. And so on.
But ads, they are crafted pieces of expression which have to be thought about, nurtured, learnt from.
It’s only the same as saying Hollywood is one thing, making a film is another.

DAVE: Something ‘chemical’ seemed to happen when you got together with Steve Dunn, you just churned out endless great campaigns?
TIM: Steve and I quickly and tacitly understood that we complemented each other.
We both loved what we did for a living ( although Steve did go off it for a while) and we both had the same idea of what constituted an idea.
We are both competitive too; we liked to win. Not so much awards, as beating a problem. You’re right though, it was a 
strangely productive relationship.
Some days we would 3 campaigns, all of them pretty good.

AVE: I remember when I worked with you there was a cupboard on the top floor stacked with digital people. 1995. Possibly the first in-house digital department?
TIM: Certainly we were very early adopting and adapting to digital.
We had a separate digital company  in 1996 – Digital Partners – which is way before Martin Sorrell knew how to spell the word;  kind of ironic now as people immediately think because we care about the craft of our work, particularly print, we can’t possibly ‘get’ digital .
Fortunately our clients know how good we are at providing digital ecosystems.

Tim Delaney, adidas 'We Knew Then' 1 Tim Delaney, adidas 'We Knew Then' 3 Tim Delaney, adidas 'We Knew Then' 4

DAVE: You might have gathered from this site that I’ve kept a lot of stuff; rejected ads for The Economist, alternative Nike layouts and pitches we lost at CDD, (they alone take up a lot of space),  but I didn’t take any proofs for the Patek Phillippe ads I did.
At the time, I thought ‘they’re ok’, but over time they’ve become a benchmark for luxury advertising. Is it the sheer consistency of message?
TIM: It’s not just the consistency of the campaign that makes it a benchmark for all luxury goods campaigns.

It started out quietly with the original thought of ‘Begin Your Own Tradition’ which gave rise to the longer line now ‘ You never actually own…etc’.  
So it took some time to get settled and then really never looked back.
Over the years we have updated the look and feel and the photographers.
It’s a wonderful campaign which reflects the values of the family that owns the brands and the products they create. Perfect harmony.PATEK PIANO small shad
Tim Delaney - Pictet 'Work'-01 Pictet_3 Pictet_2
Dave - Time Delaney
DAVE: I find that people who haven’t worked with you seem to have a totally wrong impression of you –  some kind of lanky, serious-minded maniac who fires people on a daily basis, I worked with you for five years and  never found you to be lanky.
TIM: I am lanky.

Tim Delaney - Tripp 'Steal'-01



Nb. If that’s not enough reading, here’s a bit more.Tim Delaney, Article-01
Tim Delaney 'Basics'-01

Tim Delaney, GQ 'The Delaneys, cover-01Tim Delaney, GQ article 'The Delaney's'-01Tim Delaney, GQ 'The Delaneys'-01Tim Delaney, GQ article 'The Delaneys 3'-01

The Economist. Venn.

I worried about The Economist.
It was an open brief, which meant the whole AMV/BBDO creative department would work on through the year, in downtime, lunch hours and weekends, depending on hunger levels.
This had been going on for about ten years.
When I was Creative Director on the account, on average, for every ad I’d approve, fifteen would be rejected; there were twenty something creative teams.
So, with four bursts of ten posters every year for ten years and a few one-offs and specials thrown in, I’d say that about a thousand executions had run and about fifteen thousand concepts had been created.
But my main worry was whether they had lost an element of freshness to the public.
Awards were certainly down. No campaign continues to win as much once it becomes very familiar.
Here are a few of the 48 sheets Sean and I did at the time.
Economist artwork 48 sheets The Economist - %22Lose The Ability...%22-01The Economist - %22Mind%22-01

One day, whilst driving home, I spotted a big red poster in the distance, I couldn’t tell for quite a while whether it was one that Sean and I had done.
It got me thinking, the format is unbelievably well branded, but ten years on, do civilians approach the posters in a similar way? Thinking “Oh…there’s one of those red Economist posters, I’m sure it’s saying something witty about intelligence, but I can’t be arsed to read it.”
In a nutshell: Were they getting too predictable?
I thought the colour and font were so distinctive we could try and add an element of surprise and freshness by producing a mini campaign every quarter, that continued with the same messages but had a slightly different graphic look.

I spotted a venn diagram in Vanity Fair, a red circle overlapping a blue circle,
a bit like this one:

I thought it’d be a great variant on the red look, and different, but a clever structure to write to.
I had a go at writing some.
The Economist Venn Scribbles (g)-01 The Economist Venn Scribbles (e)-01
The Economist Venn Scribbles (c)-01 The Economist Venn Scribbles (a)-01
It was a like a Mensa Test: One circle is red and says: “Reads The Economist”,
the blue circle says something else that’s clever, and the bit at the bottom says
something that is the summation of this that is both clever AND funny.
I couldn’t do it.
I just couldn’t unlock the formula.
I explained it to Sean.
He rattled off a load:
The Economist Venn Scribbles (b) *-01
Once he’d unlocked the formula, I started start writing them too.
The Economist Venn ScribblesDPS (a)-01
We loosened up a bit and started swearing.
But as the scamp below indicates, were still to discover the spellcheck filter.The Economist Venn Scribbles %22Tourettes%22-01

They were sold, bought and art-worked.
c2587af0df018aacb9db0bef851d54be0049d7e2e4782bb2fd2574389e11999bb8863393bc08ffc2f1c5272da59acf3beddeff54e390924c5ee8566e27672ca3The Economist , venn, No 106b9484e970a027acb66e1779fac3a602e77a2ad0e48b1a67db8fde60235d93b0

Then, C.E.O Andrew Robertson came in: “I can’t do it, The Red campaign was David Abbott’s gift to the agency.”
It was decided we should run them along side the familiar red ads.

They worked well as cross-track posters, people could get the structure, then see how it played out, whilst waiting for their delayed train.

multi line 

These ideas were bought, proofed and cromalined.
They got pulled at the last minute for various reasons.

REASON: You can probably guess. (It’s surprising it got so close to running, it’s funny though.)

REASON: It’s a bit weird. (Although one of my favourites.)

REASON: Why risk offending Jezza?

REASON: It mentions a brand name.

REASON: It’s a bit childish, although it does use a lot of long words.21aedc1f4a91b64721d8f82b362661e3

A whole bunch of rejects were ganged up as a possible cross track, but didn’t happen.
The Economist - Venn, Rejects-01

The following year, posters in the red style were deemed sufficiently fresh to win a D&AD pencil ( “Jigsaw”) and a Campaign Posters Gold (“Long Copy”).
So perhaps Andrew was right, it was ‘David Abbott’s gift’.

The Economist. (Black.)

Not long after setting up DHM, we got a call from Media Guru and all round clever clogs Mark Palmer asking whether I could help The Economist out with a presentation.
Of course, they’re The Economist.
Essentially I put together a fancy looking power point presentation for them to present to different parts of the world.
Titled ‘The Ideas People”, it set out the argument that The Economist wasn’t a dry factual business publication, it was stimulus for creative minds to generate ideas.
I used the universal, possibly clichéd symbol for an idea, the lightbulb.
It helped unify the presentation, and made complicated words and charts simple and charming.

Here are some of the slides:
The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation, City%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation, Iceberg%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Turnips%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Turnip & Sons%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Turnips Department Store%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Turnip.Com%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Globe%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Find Your Idea%22-01 The Economist %22Ideas People Presentation,Hand%22-01

We waved goodbye and they went off happily to share their presentation around the globe.

Six months later they call up “Hey….That presentation went down great, could you do us some ads on the same subject?”
“Of course, you’re The Economist.”

At the time, the famous old red style was being replaced by a brand new shiny black style.
 economist-dissection new-ads-posters-economist-various--large-msg-119160728005 economist_ill_3 www.creativereview.co.uk_crblog_wp-content_uploads_2007_09_knitting16 E2 economist-curiosity
I thought we’d better tie it into this new style.
At first glance, I liked it.
It’s always bloody tough replacing famous campaigns, and this looked clever cool and modern.
But the more I tried to break it down and try to figure out how it worked the more I worried about it.
It wasn’t fish nor fowl.
It didn’t have big powerful headlines like the famous red ads, and it didn’t have visual ideas.
As someone who used to creative direct the previous campaign it felt like people had written to the previous campaign only to discover their ads had been given to some skinny-jeaned Hoxton types to add some pictures.
The result was that the pictures didn’t seem to be imparting any information, they felt like a whimsical adjunct to the headlines. In some cases just making them difficult to read.
There’s nothing wrong with that, I just prefer things that are clearer, if the picture doesn’t have a role bin it.

So I briefed out creatives: “I want pictures that say The Economist helps you have ideas. No words please.”

The beauty of having such a focussed brief is that it means you get a lot of ideas handed in.
These are the ones I picked.

IDEA: Reading The Economist helps you think of ideas.
PICTURE: Someone reading a copy with a lightbulb going off above their head. (Very basic and a bit obvious, but very clear.)

The envelope from the illustrator arrived with a first rough, but the idea must’ve fallen out on the way over, because I just couldn’t see it?
Also, it didn’t feel very ‘Economisty”.
The Economist %22Book%22 Rejected Rough

We tried another illustrator.
The Economist %22Idea%22

They lost the idea in exactly the same way. Spooky.

We got a new one, Noma Bar.
I’d wanted to work with him for years.
I’d tried and failed to track him down for Merrydown after seeing a little illustration of his in The Guardian.
He sent in a bundle of ideas.
They were all good.
The issue for me was trying to hold onto the idea being communicated and not get seduced by the cool illustrations.
Take this one, it’s probably better looking than the final one we used, but do you get the idea from it?
The Economist, Noma Bar, rough 5-01
Same with this, it’s a bloody clever twist; the bulb being the head, but I don’t think anyone would get the idea.
The Economist, Noma Bar, rough 3-01The Economist, Noma Bar, rough 4-01
This one was nearer.
Again, I thought it was clever, but worried the face would distract from the very simple, basic idea: You’ll think of ideas when you read The Economist?
The Economist, Noma Bar, rough 1-01

No face and turning the bulb the right way up helped.
I increased the dead black space around the illustration to make the ad stand out more.
The Economist %22Idea%22

IDEA: The Economist will set your mind racing with connections.
PICTURE: A copy of The Economist with a mind map coming from it covering a boardroom table.

The first rough.
The Economist  %22Head%22
Now I must point out that I like to give people enough freedom to re-imagine an idea in a way I might not have thought of.
It’s like Film Directors, if they cast well, they don’t have to direct as much.
So I figure I’m picking an Illustrator Photographer or Director, I’m buying into their world, shouldn’t feel constrained.
Sometimes I don’t even give Photographers or Illustrators layouts, I just describe the idea, that way they can imagine it picture the idea the best way they can imagine it.
But sometimes you have to say thanks for that, it doesn’t work, I want you to now do it exactly like this.
So as much as I liked the look of the illustration above, the idea wasn’t really coming through, it needed to be much more tabley, more mind mappy.

The second attempt.
The Economist %22Boardroom%22 Rough a

It was definitely tablier and mind mappier.
But the idea still wasn’t coming through clearly enough.
Firstly, because the mind map was 3D it didn’t look like a mind map.
Secondly, it didn’t feel as though the thoughts were coming out of The Economist.

Third go.
The Economist %22Table%22 3

Much better.
Bit of a weird table though? Maybe we should cut a chunk out of that big blank bit at the end?
The Economist  %22Table%22 Rough 2

That’s it. Colour it in!

IDEA: Be switched on.
PICTURE: Replace the red bit on a switch with a logo.
The Economist %22Light Switch%22 Rough 3-01
The first rough looked good but didn’t feel switchy enough. Too oblong.
(Perhaps that’s the shape of the switches in his country?)

Another go:
The Economist %22Light Switch%22 Rough 2-01
Better, but the actual switch, button bit looks too small.
Also, aside from whether it’s technically accurate, this would make the logo too small.

Let’s simplify the switch by losing the fold, and make it bigger.
The Economist %22Switch%22

IDEA: The Economist sparks ideas.
PICTURE: The Economist logo as the spark jumping from one connection to another on a spark plug.

The first rough looked great, very graphic.
The Economist %22Spark Plug%22 Rough 1
But shouldn’t we zoom in to the idea bit?
The Economist  %22Spark Plug%22 2 Rough
Looks nice and graphic, but shouldn’t we zoom in to the idea bit?
And isn’t that spark a bit big…for a spark?
The Economist, %22Spark%22

IDEA: Er…The Economist creates ideas ?
PICTURE: Idea shaped bubbles coming from a bubble blowing instrument(?). (Not the best.)

The Economist %22Bubbles%22

IDEA:  Syphon ideas from every issue of the Economist.
PICTURE: The contents of The Economist being poured into one end of a funnel and lightbulbs/ideas coming out the other.

A whole bunch of interesting graphic interpretations came in.
The Economist  %22Funnel Roughs%22 x 6

In the end we plumped for the curvy, rainbow like one.
It felt more upbeat and dynamic.
The Economist %22Funnel%22

IDEA: The Economist helps you think of unique, money-making ideas.
PICTURE: Replace thought bubbles with copyright bubbles.

First rough. Yep, that works.
The Economist %22Copyright%22

IDEA: The Economist attracts ideas. (I thought we were saying it generated them? Oh well.)
PICTURE: The Economist as bait, the ideas as fish.
The Economist %22Fish%22

IDEA: Surprising ideas come out of The Economist.
PICTURE: An idea springing out of a Jack In The Box.

First rough.
The Economist %22Jack In The Box%22 Rough 2Why is the bulb grinning insanely…more to the point, why has he, I mean it, got a face? It doesn’t look like an idea bulb with a face on it. Rub it out.

The Economist %22Jack%22

IDEA: The Economist helps you make connections, which leads to ideas.
PICTURE: A dot to dot drawing of a lightbulb next to a red pencil.

For some reason, the mad cap illustrator drew the pencil being held by a little brain? cloud? Marshmallow?
The Economist %22Bulb-Brain Boy%22 Rough-01

We decide to keep Marshmallow Boy, he was just so cute, but insist on the dot to dot drawing being on paper.
The Economist %22Lightbulb Man%22

IDEA: The Economist makes you brighter.
(Whoa! that’s a bit off brief isn’t it? I thought this was about idea generation?)
No illustrator required.
The Economist %22Brightness%22

IDEA: The Economist is like mind fertiliser, it’ll help you grow ideas.
PICTURE: A plant in a pot with idea/bulbs growing from it. The logo is on the little dibber thing that tells you what the name of the plant is.

First rough.
The Economist  %22 Bulbs%22 Pencil 3
“Bit realistic isn’t it? The bulbs look like they are made of glass?
This is an analogy, metaphor…it’s not real life.”
The Economist %22Bulb%22 Sketch

“Too real!”
The Economist  %22Bulb%22 Rough, 6
“The pot and dibber thing are there, which is good, but make it more diagrammatic.”

The Economist  %22Bulb%22 5 Rough
“Better, but go even simpler…like a diagram – flat colour, simple”

The Economist %22Plant Pot%22 Rough-01
“Great…good be by the way, TOP BEE!…Maybe lose the currency symbols and make the pot 2D, like a diagram”

The Economist. %22Plant%22JPG

Putting this stuff together, it’s a good reminder that however good an illustrator is, you have to constantly check they don’t stray off into creating a nice picture, rather than interpret the idea.

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.


I just found this batch of rejects for The Economist.
I was surprised at how many shots we’d had at the brief.
I knew the work was getting past the Creative Director, because I was he.
It must’ve been the client.
I can’t remember who first coined that phrase ‘bouncebackability’, (I think it was a footballing Ian, Holloway or possibly Dowie), but it’s a crucial, if unglamorous skill every creative needs.
Your ideas are torched every single day.
As good as you get at debating, persuading and plain arguing, you’re still going to go again, again and again on the same brief.
You need to be positive every time.
Anyway, The Economist, it was a tough brief, after years of using advertising spaces to flatter the readers intelligence, we now needed to tell them ‘Great news – Colour pictures!’
It was difficult to think how this wasn’t a clash with the high brow image of our reader that had been carefully built up over the years.
We tried to be Economisty, but talk about colour.

1st GO.
Economist Scamp14Economist Scamp13Economist ScampREJECTED: Too like the regular Economist work’. (Spelling ‘hear’ wrong probably didn’t help.)

2nd GO.
Maybe we should do something more visual.
Economist Scamp8Economist Scamp11Economist Scamp9Economist Scamp12Economist Scamp8

REJECTED: ‘Not Economisty enough’.

3rd GO.
We got a bit sarcastic this time.Economist Scamp15Economist Scamp6Economist Scamp5Economist Scamp7

REJECTED: ‘Too sarcastic!’

4th GO.
Maybe we should do something more businessy, more office based.
We could write them from the point of view of the people on the receiving end of this technological breakthrough?Economist Scamp2Economist Scamp3Economist Scamp4REJECTED: ‘Bit chatty, not really our tone’.

5th GO.
More intelligent maybe? And technical sounding?Economist Colour Overlap5Economist Colour Overlap6Economist Colour Overlap4Economist Colour Overlap3Economist Colour Overlap2Economist Colour Overlap

Rejected; ‘Too clever-clever’.

6th GO.

‘Too clever-clever’? Really? Isn’t that a compliment from The Economist? Whatever, they still wouldn’t buy.
Maybe this time we aim for a ‘single clever’ campaign.Economist Colour Blocks3Economist Colour Blocks2Economist Colour Blocks


Although in retrospect, I think I prefer the ‘clever-clever’ campaign.

THINGS I HAVE GLEANED Pt 2; Don’t over think it.

Whilst at AMV/BBDO Sean and I got a brief to write an ad for the British Television Craft Awards.
The BTA Awards with the word ‘craft’ inserted are less desirable than the ones without that word.
But they’re awards none the less.
It got us thinking – what creatives would enter an awards scheme aimed at recognising everyone but the creatives who came up with the idea?BTA, Crap at ideas?.jpg
Initially it said ‘Shit at ideas?‘, but the word ‘shit‘ was felt to be too strong for those delicate types that read Campaign.
I liked the idea so I tried really hard to make it look great.
A simple bit of type seemed too… simple.
Then BINGO! – ‘What about if our idea about ideas being overly crafted was overly crafted itself? That’s clever.
Let’s over art direct our idea to the point of looking pretentious, making it look ironic and therefore hilarious, right?BTA Awards, 'Crap At Ideas?'.jpgWrong.
Making it look like a pretentious, overly art directed ad meant people didn’t look at it long enough to engage with what it said.
Obvious really.