My advertising career started close to home and spread quickly, carrying me round the world with it. John Hocknell let me in (Stocker Hocknell Ltd., Amersham). He interviewed me as a would-be art director straight out of college, remarked, “I hate artists – can you write?” and hired me. I’ll always be grateful.
I went to London with a ludicrously small portfolio and an amazing man named Reg Godin (Newton & Godin) hired me as a copywriter. At that time I was only eligible for a job like that because I said so, but Reg took my word for it, taught me there was more to advertising than I had ever imagined, and gave me a grounding without which I wouldn’t have got much further.
After many adventures I was hired into Collet Dickenson Pearce, an agency with such an awesome creative reputation that I was literally scared to open my mouth at first for fear of saying something uncool. I got over it, made my first TV commercials and learnt, from John Salmon, how to reject copy without causing pain. I’d worked all weekend on a long copy ad for Olympus Cameras. John read it, sat back and said: “There are people in this department I’d accept this from. You can do better.” I’ve used that approach many times since.
The next hot agency was TBWA. An old friend, Neil Patterson, was working there. He mentioned me to John Hegarty. John hired me and I never looked back. Through the Singapore Airlines account I met Ian Batey (Batey Advertising, Singapore) who expanded my horizons and later hired me on numerous freelance projects.
Everyone I’ve mentioned I would regard as a mentor. You can’t go looking for those. You just have to get lucky.
In a satirical moment, I wrote this:
THE STORY OF CON
A mythology of Advertising
Above the city, Mount Expensus stood.
Upon the mountain dwelt the Great God Con, who lived all his days upon Expensus and wrought dreams for the mortals in the City. And the City was called Consumus.
The mortals worshipped at the foot of the mountain, although few of them would admit it. But more than anything else they worshipped their Household Gods, which were called Paraphernalia.
Now there dwelt among the mortals a God – as great as any on the mountain – whose name was Brandex. He it was who sent the Paraphernalia among the mortals and greatly did he desire their loyalty. But ever and again it happened that the people grew indifferent to their Household Gods, and greatly did Brandex dread this, for always at such times there came to plague him Ulsa, the avenging Goddess who flitted ever among the Gods.
Then would he seek out the Great God Con.
The time was approaching when Con must needs descend to the labyrinth beneath Expensus for his yearly meeting with the Profit Margin. All the Gods who dwelt upon Expensus held this tryst in awe, for well they knew how the Profit controlled their destinies; if he was pleased with their efforts, he would send amongst them a God whose name was Bonus, to gladden their hearts. Bonus carried great cheers with him and upon Mount Expensus there was no more popular God than he.
So it was that the Great God Con was exceeding glad when Brandex came unto him. They gathered together in a place where the air was magically conditioned, and toyed with Con’s Pipes of Havana. It was a mighty tryst. With Brandex were many Gods who trembled at hiss word. There was Logo, who desired always to be greater and more visible. And Extranius, a God whose presence was never quite explained. And Nitpikka, who loved only to dwell on trifles and whose voice would not be hushed.
With Con were all his following. Billius, the God of Ceremonies. Bullshitta, who could make the meanest of Paraphernalia sound like unto the best thing since sliced nectar by the sheer beauty of his voice. And there were many other Gods who spoke their piece.
First Con addressed the gathering with much pomp and ceremony, vowing that all mortals would do his bidding. Then up spoke Blatheron who could speak for all eternity and yet say nothing. Then Testicles who understood the habits of mere mortals; and Spacius, who knew well how to make them listen.
And when each God had spoken, Brandex was thoughtful and made them summon Xerox, to remind him of all that had been said.
At last he bade the Great God Con to make some Magic, that the mortals should harken unto him – and on it sprinkle Pixie Dust to dazzle them.
Then the Great God Con summoned unto him those who would weave the magic – Layoutese and the Great God Pun. And he spake unto them in a voice of thunder saying, “I command you to devise some magic which will dazzle all who behold it, that the mortals shall be delivered from their indifference, and Ulsa cast out from the Bosom of Brandex.
Hearing these words, Layoutese and Pun took themselves off to a quiet place called Orifis, there to meditate. They worked in secret for there were many gods who, knowing that Magic was being wrought, would wish to be instrumental; they would clamour at the door before the time was right.
They set themselves to wait for the coming of Zappus – an elusive God who held the key to Magic – who came only in answer to the most earnest prayer, and not always even then. At last their patience was rewarded. In the gloom of the Orifis a great starburst suddenly appeared and from it stepped forth Zappus. Pun and Layoutese at once began to weave their spells.
In course of time they consorted with many gods without whom the Maagoc could not be wrought. They met with Typo the magician who manipulated mystic symbols. They visited with Phocus the one-eyed God and commanded him, “Bring forth images to enchant the mortals – on an experimental basis, to cover us in the event of a blow-out.”
And Phocus in turn consulted with Procura – the Goddess who chose nymphets to model for him – who sent to him the maiden Scrubba. Then Phocus blinked at her and wrought her image, and when it was done he summoned Apperture, his handmaiden, bidding her take the images into the Dark Place and bring them to life.
And this she did – but in the Dark Place there lurked the Giant Grope; and what Grope commanded her she did also.
Soon Pun and Layoutese were visited by a God who would make moving pictures to aid their Magic – a merry deity, who would make the most pleasing quotes which came from the top of his head, but would not thereafter be held unto them. And he was called Bius Dinna, and there were many such as he who would foregather in the summer time at Cannae, there to adulate one another.
But Pun and Layoutese seldom harkened unto them.
When the Magic was ready, the Great God Con invited Brandex to a meeting place, there to present unto him the mysteries which had been wrought. With Brandex at the meeting were Logo, eager for aggrandizement, and Extranius, without whom the meeting would have been in no way different but whose father had exceeding power over Brandex. There, too, was Nitpikka, for whom the name of Brandex could never be often enough repeated, especially in the headlines.
Brandex looked upon the Magic and at first was greatly pleased; but Nitpikka believed that she alone knew how the Magic should be wrought and Brandex harkened unto her. He commanded that new Magic should be made, for he wished that the worth of the Magic should be tested against other Magic.
Then Misinterpreta, the winged messenger of Con, carried the news to Pun and Layoutese, who were exceeding wrath. Layoutese uttered a great oath and swore to wrap his mighty T-square around the head of Misinterpreta. And the Great God Pun did curse the ancestors of brandex.
When their wrath was known to the Great God Con he pondered whether to send amongst them the God of Fire, Elbo – but he relented and instead sent Blatheron to remind them of the coming of Bonus.
The Pun and Layoutese consorted with the God Apissup, whose left eye looks ever to the right and whose right eye to the left. And as sometimes happens in the presence of this God, Zappus suddenly appeared to them and spread his light, which was lighter than the lightest light.
In that moment, new Magic was born. Layoutese made cunning images. Pun made symbols which had one meaning for some – two meanings for others. Con puffed his Pipes of Havana and was pleased. Testiclese raised his silver eyebrows – a sure sign that he comprehended two meanings. And Bullshitta believed he found in it yet another meaning which was not there at all – and when this was told to him, he was quiet.
Then Testiclese summoned certain citizens from the City of Consumus and asked them to compare each work of Magic with the other. These mortals were a psychographic, demographic, socio-economic cross-section of mortals – and they spake harsh words, denying that such Magic could ever work on them – they should cocoa. Yet Testiclese knew their minds better even than they did themselves – for that which meant little meant much to him. So he spake with Layoutese and Pun and they agreed that no new Magic should be wrought.
“It would not be according to the will of Zappus,” they cried. “It would be sorry Magic, like unto that which is known as ‘Mainstream’, in which Zappus has no hand.”
And so Brandex was called for a third time, which seemed to him like the thousandth time; and he was exceeding irritable, for Ulsa was troubling him again. The Pipes of Havana and the rare juices of Hine were forbidden unto him.
“Let us gaze again upon the first Magic,” quoth he, wearily, “for it was cunningly wrought. If only Logo could be greater…”
At this, even Nitpikka fell silent.