Like it is
Way before Keysie and Graysie got into trouble, Adland had its own sexism scandals.
Several years ago, an English CD got a job in a US agency. Shortly after he’d joined, one of the female staff was apparently unsure about a new haircut and began asking people what they thought of it.
“Well,” replied the Englishman, “I’d f*ck you”.
He was put on a plane back to England more or less immediately.
Then there was the Neil French episode.
The thing about Neil was that he always told it how he saw it. (I think he was coached early on in his career by Roy Walker. “Say what you see, Neil” he used to tell the ad supremo on regular occasions.)
I’m a bit hazy on the details but they seemed to involve Neil, a french maid’s costume and some implication that women were less employable as CDs because they had a tendency to get pregnant.
I forget who was wearing the maid’s outfit, but somebody was, and that may be the most interesting part of the whole story.
Anyway, Neil, who spoke his mind on every occasion, and I love that, got into trouble. I thought it was a shame, because I always admired his courage.
Unfortunately, you don’t get much “telling it like it is” in the business these days.
Ron Collins had that quality too. So it was very sad to read of Ron’s passing the other day.
I never saw the famous Sooty puppet apparently used for critiquing students’ work, but I can well believe the story. Ron ran on two fuels called “mischief” and “maverick”.
Allegedly he once set about suing Zanussi for a faulty dishwasher in his house even though Zanussi was at the time one of the agency’s key clients.
There are actually very few examples of ‘telling it like it is’ from the UK that I know of. There was ABM’s famous pitch for British Rail where they kept the client waiting for an hour in a litter-strewn waiting room and said “Now you know how your customers feel about you”.
And there was a journalist who used to cover Adland in the 80s for the Evening News. When the paper ended her column, she wrote a final piece telling the industry’s bigwigs exactly what she thought of them. I THINK it was Allison Pearson, who went on to much bigger things, so I like to think that her honesty and courage paid off handsomely.
It certainly made for a great column.
My mate Andrew Cracknell is currently writing about the real Mad Men of 1960s Madison Avenue, and he’s got a wealth of stories to tell in this vein.
“Erwin Ephron, a media department head, remembers [Carl] Ally’s short but devastating analysis to Hugh Hefner after a long and high minded presentation on the quality of Playboy magazine’s original fiction; “Fine Hef – but take the t*ts out and see what happens”.
“His giant reputation for unpredictable and at times near suicidal behaviour was augmented when he once told the sales force of his Volvo client, “you guys couldn’t sell c*** in a lumber yard”.
“Carl was not above scrapping with his own clients, as he once did with one of the main Volvo dealers.”
Quite possibly straight after the comment above. I’m not sure I’d like to be told I “couldn’t sell c*** in a lumber yard”.
I mean, how difficult can that be ?
Even rarer, in my experience, are examples of clients telling it like it is. Although Jeremy Bullmore has a great story of a client who said, at the end of one pitch in which the agency had poured days of work and thousands of pounds into their effort:
(Imagine this in a broad Lancashire accent) “Well, before we finish, I’d just like to say one thing to the advertising agency. I think you’ve got a bloody nerve showing us work like that”.
But I wonder if we’d all be better off putting the word “authentic” into less creative briefs, and trying to live up to it more in real life ?
I wonder if we’d all be better-off if there was less p*ssy-footing around ?
I wonder, incidentally, if it’s ok to use the phrase “p*ssy-footing” ?
Given that when I wrote the phrase, the Campaign filter asterisked the whole word.