The year kicked off with our first placement at McCann Erikson, followed by placements at Grey, Saatchi, BMP, Lintas and HHCL
VW: 'Upside Down'
Ahh, the days when car ads were still black and white! This was my first ever piece of advertising to actually run. It was created at BMP along with a long lost radio commercial while I was on placement in 1992. Created with Jim Bolton at Grey.
Aqua fresh: 'Shock Absorber'
Or 'Hock Aborber' as mates from college called it. They were just jealous that a) My partner Jim and me had a placement at Grey and b) We got an ad out. Created with Jim Bolton at Grey.
This was my first TV ad, shot after we left Grey where we were on placement in 1992. Created with Jim Bolton.
Fairy Liquid: 'Red Handed'
Back in the early 90s, placement teams simply came up with ideas and at some point in the future, those ideas were made and someone else took the credit. This was one of them. The original script had the little lad talking like Taggart but this was deemed too working class for Fairy. Created for Grey with Jim Bolton.
Mercury: 'Ministry of Information'
In the Summer of 1992 HHCL needed a team who could write in the style of Harry Enfield's 'Ministry of Information' persona, Grayson. These were my first ads for HHCL - they appeared on tube trains while I was on placement. Created with Jim Bolton.
See the joy! My first ever ad for HHCL makes it's public debut in 1992
Voluntary Service Oversees had a pretty fuddy-duddy image by the early 1990s and needed a poster to liven things up a bit. Created with Jim Bolton
The placement at HHCL lasted eight months and although we were paid around £100 a week this wasn't enough to live on. The Independent wrote a piece on placement teams which, incredibly, is still online.
Finally in May we were hired by HHCL. We'd made it into London's hottest hot shop and we felt like kings.
Mercury chewed at the ankles of mighty BT for a few heady years in the mid 1990s. The characters were created by Harry Enfield and the ad campaign was conceived by Liz Whiston and Dave Shelton and they just needed a few more ads. Created for HHCL with Jim Bolton.
Ads International article
The short lived Ads International magazine did a feature on me and Jim Bolton. I later went on to set up the Idea a Day idea bank with David Owen, the brains behind the magazine.
Pot Noodle: 'Potboiler'
I have no idea where this idea came from. The link to the product is tenuous and it just seems like an excuse to write soft porn and shoehorn a product on the end of it.
Campaign Faces to Watch
In 1993, our bosses at HHCL put us forward as Campaign 'Faces to Watch'. As if getting hired at what we believed was the world's greatest ad agency wasn't enough, this was the icing on the cake.
RWhites Lemonade: 'Mr Benn'
RWhites hadn't advertised since the eighties heyday of Elvis Costello's dad on a midnight run to his fridge. Naresh Ramchandani and Dave Buonaguidi had already brought the Secret Lemonade Drinker back, this spot just added a new twist.
The public seemed to warm to Grayson, his nameless wife and his friend, Mr Cholmondeley (Chumley) Warner. These TV ads won Creative Circle and BTA gold prizes.
Tango Word Sponsorship: 'Pet Detectives'
In 1994, TV sponsorship was a graphic design exercise and the budgets were tiny. For Tango's sponsorship of cult TV magazine show The Word, we created 102 separate clips and ran off with a D&AD silver pencil. This set featured DI Harry Haines from The Bill interrogating animals.
Tango Word Sponsorship: 'Johnny Ball'
As part of their sponsorship of The Word, Tango enlisted loveable eighties kids' presenter Johnny Ball to help explain the unexplainable. This was the first time anyone had used live action for TV sponsorship.
Tango Word Sponsorship: 'Housewives Survival Tips'
102 is a lot of idents especially on the tiny budget we had to play with. This set involved a housewife offering tips for extreme survival and were shot at a friend's place in Bracknell. Interestingly, the 15 second clips are the first ads on UK TV ever to have a web address on them.
Tango Word Sponsorship: 'Strachan McAlistair'
The Word sponsorship contained some of the strangest idents ever made. Tango enlisted mad Scottish bard Strachan McAlistair, a man who only writes poems about Harrison Ford and who has failed to grasp that Ford is actually an actor.
Tango Word Sponsorship: the full set
Weird goings on in the background, shrink wrapped people, a choir singing football chants, Africans whose names mean something ludicrous in English - here's the full unadulterated (and sadly lo res) set.
Having been a huge fan of Ladybird Books for most of my life, I used the style for this campaign from 1995.
Mercury: 'Local Paper'
This campaign for telecoms wannabes Mercury used 'local paper' stories placed in the national press. The stories all depicted people celebrating Mercury benefits by baking pies, hosting street parties and kissing one another. Inspired by Cornwall's Camelford and Delabole Post.
AA Driving School: 'Not cool'
These ads appeared in Smash Hits and other teenage mags and set out to deliberately go against the grain of the rest of the mag. After all, you don't want your driving teacher to be hip, you want to pass your test.
We scoured 1950's Good Housekeeping and other womens' magazines for a visual style and created a 1950's ad for Mercury - but in 1994.
Wales lucked out in the 90's thanks to Mercury. This OOH helped them celebrate.
Mercury's equivalent to BT's 0800 business number was 0500. They just needed to tell the world about it.
We loved how lots of Japanese gizmos came with instructions in English that wasn't really English. Mazda wanted to highlight its Japanese-ness and so this is what we did. Created with Jim Bolton at HHCL
Can posters flirt? In this campaign, the guy in one poster would flirt with the girl in the neighbouring poster. Sadly, the media company then did a deal which meant that none of the posters were side by side. That said, look how confident the client was with their product. Created for HHCL with Jim Bolton.
An OOH company had space available and wanted something that would make an impact. We suggested to the Churches Advertising Network that we run this poster and they agreed. As you'll see, I resurrected the line in 2014 for the dating website, Christian Connection. Created with Trevor Webb, Martin Casson and Nick Drummond.
Lego Technics: 'Robots'
This was originally meant to be stop frame animation but ended up as live action. We had real issues with Lego not wanting any non white cast (the Germans wouldn't buy non-white faces!) In the end we compromised with an androgynous Japanese actor. This was the first work we did with producer Pete Muggleston who went on to produce our ads for the AA, Blackcurrant Tango, Birdseye, Domino's, Suzuki and more.Created with Jim Bolton at HHCL.
Max Ehrman's poem works really nicely to describe the benefits of being an AA member. And yes, that is Ray Gardner marshalling Ford Anglias! If you look back at the Christians make better lovers posters, you'll spot my Anglia which is also in the background of this AA ad. Created with Jim Bolton at HHCL.
AA: 'Desiderata' Print
The beauty of having media strategists in-house at HHCL meant that we could try new things like this irregular shaped ad that dominated a newspaper page. In 1995 this was really new.
In 1995, advertising God was still pretty new. The Churches Advertising Network (now churchads.net) was asked to pull together a TV ad to go on national TV. The ad only appeared once in the middle of the News at Ten and features people who look completely normal but who are praying while being filmed. Created with Martin Casson and Trevor Webb and directed by Andy Lambert through TTO Films
AA Used Car Data Check: 'Protests'
Buying dodgy cars is a big problem and the AA provide a check to see if the car you are buying isn't knocked off or otherwise unsound. These ads tell it how it is. Created for HHCL with Jim Bolton.
Easter Church poster: 'Surprise'
For most of the 90's and 00's, I was part of a team of volunteer Christian creatives who pulled together advertising for Christian organisations. For Easter 1995 the Churches' Advertising Network decided to contemporise the Easter message. The resulting OOH created a bit of a scandal and helped our client become Campaign's client of the week.
Lost ads: Mercury Conversations
We created a lovely campaign for Mercury which used small spaces top right and bottom left of a page. A character in one space would converse with the character in the other. Sadly all the examples we did have been lost and all I have is a Telegraph cartoon pastiching the ads. Which I guess means they must have been noticed.
Still Tango: Litter Campaign
Still Tango was a radical departure from Tango's other drinks - for a start it wasn't fizzy and it came in a bottle, not a can. To launch it, we placed empty bottles at Glastonbury, the Oasis concert at Knebworth and various other music events. People were intrigued as to where they could get the product and the litter created a lot of buzz long before social media and long before D&AD had an 'ambient media' category. Created with Jim Bolton at HHCL.
Still Tango: 'Pirate / Disclaimer'
Our official TV launch for Still Tango was this pair of commercials that bamboozled the nation and which were banned from TVs for 'undermining the public confidence in advertising.' The club we filmed in was Subterranea under the Westway and we followed up our 'pirate' ad with a 'product recall' message featuring Tango's actual marketing director whose boldness earned him the title of Campaign's Client of the Week.
Meanwhile in seaside towns around the UK, we placed our own postcards showing some subliminal Still Tango bottles in the background.
Still Tango: 'Orange fur'
Having been off the shelves for some time, Still Tango needed a proper launch. We decided to stock it for one week only in one Forbuoys shop in Purley. To promote this we covered a van in orange fur and drove it around the M25. We also covered The Grocer and other trade mags in orange fur. I'm still not sure why. We then ran small space ads in the financial pages of the Daily Express showing the price variations of the product - if there were roadworks it made it harder for the product to reach the shelves and so the price went up. We also put ads in Loot (there was no eBay in 1996) offering to buy empty Still Tango bottles as collectors' items. Ahh, the 90s!
Still Tango: 'Spank'
Finally, when Tesco threatened to pull the product from its shelves if Still Tango didn't stop dicking around and make a TV ad, this spot was filmed. It shows the Tango exec responsible for messing up getting an appropriate reprimand from his boss. Created with Jim Bolton for HHCL.
Still Tango: 'Lofty'
Finally, when all the Still Tango nonsense was over, it was time to create an actual ad for the brand. Tom Watt was a legend in the 80s having played Eastenders weed, Lofty. To launch Still Tango officially, we resurrected the Lofty character in this bizarre public health message.
Still Tango: 'Postcards'
Having told the public that Still Tango was unofficial and should be avoided, the product then began fermenting and had to be withdrawn from sale. Fortunately, 300,000 people had called the phone number on the 'product recall' ad and left their addresses. They were sent a handwritten postcard from Marrakech telling them that Still Tango was still alive and kicking in North Africa.
Tango: Trade ads
Tango wanted shopkeepers to know that the brand was advertising and that this advertising would mean retailers would be selling lots more Tango. The ads needed to keep in the spirit of Tango which is why we did these.
In February 1996, Campaign did a feature on Jim Bolton and me. Integration was the new buzzword and they believed that we embodied the '360 degree thinking' that true integration involved. Basically it was digital before digital was invented.
Pot Noodle: 'Keith'
Keith was 16 and a typical teenager. His girlfriend was a 28 year old model. Regardless of how out of his league she was, his Pot Noodle always came first for Keith. The ads feature my friend James Johnson (Tango's 'Housewives Survival Tips' idents were filmed in James' mum and dad's garden in Bracknell)
Tango: 'Millionaire' trade ad
If you want to tell the trade to stock your product, why not slap a pack shot in the mag they all read? Because it's too easy, that's why. Instead, take a shopkeeper, bling him up, put him on the cover of his own magazine, then shoot him in his shop holding the magazine with some of your product in the background. Take care of the trade and the trade will take care of you... Created for HHCL with Jim Bolton.
RED CARD: Chelmsford Sponsorship
Britvic came to us with a blank sheet of paper - or to be exact a blank can of energy drink. We named it RED CARD, gave it a football theme and sponsored Britvic's local club, Chelmsford FC. The idea was that they were so bad that they needed all the help they could get. The attitude in the posters is because of the product name and how the players feel invincible thanks to the drink.
Tango: 'Cash Card'
Back in 1996 there was no ambient, experiential or digital to speak of. Giving away bank cards with six packs of Tango was revolutionary. The user had 3 attempts to guess the PIN and access £100,000. A medical student guessed it correctly, stayed awake for four days and cleared out £80k in £250 instalments.
Alpha Course: endline
OK, so the poster isn't mine but the line is. This was an early project for Christians in Media, the rebel band of advertising God-botherers of which I was a member. Created with Trevor Webb, Martin Casson and Nick Drummond.
Blackcurrant Tango: 'St George'
It's 90 seconds long and is apparently one of the greatest commercials ever made. You can watch the making of it here to see exactly how much of an effort it was and you can read about it in detail here. We called the ad St George because Ray Gardner seemed like a modern day English knight charging into battle.
The music we chose was Don't You Want Me by Felix. The idea of using music that people danced to while off their faces in clubs meant that they were more likely to have a deep affection for the track and therefore for the product. Or so we were told... The single charted but didn't make it to number one.
The ad was ludicrously long and was the kind of scale that might be for an airline, not a sub brand of a fizzy drink manufacturer. This was part of the idea and was a veiled attack on Coca Cola. The ad only ever aired six times during Channel 4's TFI Friday and received a warm welcome from adland- it was voted Campaign's Pick of the Week
It wasn't long before the national press caught on and began touting Ray Gardner as a hero for our time. Both the tabloids and the broadsheets loved Ray and his passionate diatribe. The anti-French sentiment was picked up on and either loved or loathed, but at the time the ad was written, the French had just blown up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour, and I was a paid up member of Greenpeace. See how I looked at the time the ad was written!
By November, Ray was a regular on TFI Friday and was now a drinking buddy of Chris Evans and Danny Baker. St George had also been Campaign's Pick of the Week and Creative Review's Pick of the Month, then in December Campaign chose it as their Pick of the Year.
By the end of the year, the ad was regularly appearing in round ups and best-of lists and was picked out as an example of stand-out advertising by both the trade press and the national papers.
The ad eventually took on a life of its own. It was even featured in an exhibition in the ICA. As far as accolades, it won D&AD silver, Cannes Gold, Eurobest Gold, BTA gold and was voted the best long form TV ad (1950-2000) by FilmFour. It has also been voted one of the 100 best commercials of all time.
Ray's own local community were quick to hail him as a hero and a couple of local papers where I grew up back in Cornwall also picked up on the Tango story.
Church ad: 'X-Files'
'The truth isn't out there, it's in here' seemed as good a line as any for the UK's churches, especially as the X of the X-files logo looks a bit like a cross. All was well until the megacorp that owned X-files pulled the plug and told us to cease and desist....
Orange Tango: 'Clowns'
In 1997, Tango decided to 'put something back' into society, and what better way of doing this than rounding up lots of clowns on an airfield, scooping them up in giant orange trucks and retraining them as estate agents. A great day out for the family! Also, see if you can spot 'Blackcurrant' Ray Gardner... Created for HHCL+Partners with Jim Bolton.
Martini Citro 'Sponge divers'
First thing, the picture quality of the original was better. Second thing, this was the WORST shoot I have ever been on. In fact it made me want to give up advertising. It goes to prove that you can stay in the best hotel in Capri, take a speedboat ride around the island, eat the best the Med has to offer and still wish you were home in Cricklewood. Created for HHCL+Partners with Jim Bolton.
Church ad: 'Flowers'
In August 1997, Diana Princess of Wales had died. The following Easter, we took an image of floral tributes and asked people to look to the church for answers. Created for the Churches' Advertising Network with Trevor Webb, Martin Casson and Nick Drummond.
Church ad: 'Copyright'
Basically, it's not Christmas without a trip to church. We suggested that only such a Christmas as this is worthy of the © symbol. Created for the Churches' Advertising Network with Trevor Webb. Martin Casson and Nick Drummond.
Name an airline? Who me? I couldn't possibly? Oh, OK then. This short lived but much loved airline was named by, ahem, me whilst at HHCL. What does flying in a plane operated by the airline that you named feel like? It feels good. Created for HHCL+Partners and Wolff-Olins with Jim Bolton
Short film: 'Hammerman'
This five minute film was directed by Andy Shelley and won best short film at the Wrangler Short Film Festival in 1998. It subsequently appeared on the TVs in long haul BA flights. A result.
This was part of a campaign where we decided to do about 50 different ads for Iceland. Which meant the ads had to be very cheap. Here are the Promotional Penguins. Tall penguin can often be seen peddling tiny kites on Millennium Bridge, tho he leaves his penguin suit at home. Created for HHCL+Partners with Jim Bolton.
J2O: 'What Men Like'
Launching a soft drink for men was tough. We needed it to feel blokey and so we hit upon the idea of finding things that men like, then photographing them as if they were part of a calendar that might be found in a mechanics' workshop. Created with Jim Bolton at HHCL.
The shoot with the girls being chased by a giant Terex truck was in an open cast coal mine north of Edinburgh. I don't think the models really had any idea of why they were there and only the one on the right saw the funny side. Photo by Harry Rankin.
Greenbelt Festival: 'Cereal box'
Greenbelt is a Christian arts and social justice festival and to celebrate its 25th anniversary, we created some DM that pastiched a cereal box. We even made the cereal ourselves using foam and food dye. Created with Trevor Webb and designed by Simon Manchipp.
Orange Tango: 'Prayers'
It helped having a Christian as a client at Tango (David Atter). He saw no problem in children praying about his fabulous product. An old lady whose vicar didn't like the ads made us a tapestry as a protest - I still have it hanging up in my shed.
Ray Gardner in France
Fresh from his adventures on the White Cliffs, we sent Ray to France to create some stings for ITV's coverage of the 1998 World Cup. ITV weren't sure what to do with them but played them anyway.
World Cup France 98 song
Ray Gardner gave it his best shot but we lost out to Vindaloo. We even used the tune to the Marseillaise. Created with Michael Auld and Jonny Hawkins
Tango: Trade ad
In 1998, Tango introduced snazzy black plastic bottles as well as cans and needed to tell the trade all about it.
Church ad: 'Fix the World'
Another Christmas campaign that never happened was this one from 1998. Like the Millennium and X Files ads that also didn't run, this one made the news too. The illustrations are mine.
Church radio ad: 'Justin Hawkins'
Back in 1998, Justin Hawkins was a student at Huddersfield Poly and he played songs for his mum and his mates on a Bon Tempi organ. We cashed in on this for an advert for the church for Christmas.
Classic Car: Magazine feature
By 1999, my white Ford Anglia had morphed into a modded, bright redshowstopper - the upside of having no wife, girlfriend, children, low rent and no expensive habits. As such the car featured in several magazines and even won best in show at the annual Run to the Sun event in Newquay.
ITV Cold Feet: 'Rose'
This low budget shoot was still attention-grabbing. None of us watched the show but there was a scene where a man presents a rose to a lady clenched in his butt cheeks. Thanks to the arse of Matt McMullen who worked in the HHCL design studio (and also helped create the Che Jesus poster) we pulled this one off.
Birdseye: 'I fancy your mum'
Thanks to playing Q in the Bond films and being the voice of Paddington Bear, Ben Whishaw is now a lot more famous than he was when he starred in this ad for us in 1999. Created with Jim Bolton for HHCL
Birdseye: 'Is your mum in?'
As if to emphasise the hotness of Sean's mum, his mates make a special detour just to see her. Still, it allows Sean to read from the box which is a nice example of the 'soft hard sell', where you don't realise you are being sold to.
Peter Werth: modelling
My friends at Quiet Storm needed some ordinary people to take part in their ad campaign for fashion brand Peter Werth. I managed to squeeze into a skintight t-shirt and jeans for just enough time for them to take a picture
Greenbelt Festival: 'Postcards'
To announce that the festival was moving to Cheltenham racecourse, we created some pull out postcards that doubled as festival information. Created with Trevor Webb.
Church ad: 'Che Jesus'
This poster was created for the Churches Advertising Network for Easter 1999 and achieved worldwide notoriety. Created with Martin Casson and Trevor Webb and designed by Matt McMullen (whose bum appears in the ITV 'Rose' advert from 1998).
I'm not sure why MPs felt the need to wade in with an opinion in the national press but they did. From the tabloids to the broadsheets, Che Jesus ruffled feathers and polarised people. Some found Che's violent campaigning an insult to their faith while others were overjoyed to finally have an image of a Jesus who didn't have blond hair and blue eyes - and who wasn't wearing a dress.
The ad made it into the Cape Times in South Africa as well as a number of other international papers. Depicting Jesus as anything other than the classical Victorian or Renaissance figure seemed to many to be blasphemy but to others it was a makeover that was long overdue.
The ad then became the subject of numerous opinion pieces in the national press. Whether people liked it or not, the image of Jesus as Che had begun to embed itself in both the media and in the church.
I don't have a copy of it but Alberto Korda was interviewed by the BBC World Service in around 2000 and told the interviewer that he liked the Che Jesus poster.
The ad was featured in the 'Seeing Salvation' exhibition in the National Gallery in London and also featured in the Millennium Dome.
After this, it went north to Glasgow to feature in an exhibition in the V&A based around the color red
In June 2006, the ad appeared in an exhibition in the V&A in London commemorating Korda's iconic image
In 2015, sixteen years after the original poster appeared, Showgirls director Paul Verhoeven used our image for the cover of his book about Jesus
Cherry Tango: 'Bum'
In 1999, Tango introduced a new cherry flavour. Our suggestion was to do this poster using an illustration by a waiter who was prone to doodle while taking people's orders - Jonny Voss. Only when someone pointed out that black and Asian people didn't have pink bums did we have to pull this one.
Cherry Tango: 'Slag it off'
Alternatives to this were 'Fruity like your Uncle Clive' and 'jam packed with the world's seventeenth favourite fruit'
Thomson Holidays: 'Beach'
Rather than show people having a nice holiday, we decided to do a period drama where a visionary called Daversham foresees a world where Thompson will provide top quality holidays for all. Created with Jim Bolton at HHCL and directed by Martha (sister of Ralph and niece of Sir Ranulf) Fiennes.
AA Insurance: 'Leo'
Leo was an inspirational boss who used physical metaphor to demonstrate the benefits of AA insurance to his staff. We wanted him to be in a wheelchair to make him even more inspirational but apparently the AA didn't have ramps in their call centres and didn't want to be caught out. We still snuck in an actor in a wheelchair though.
The campaign was shot by Declan (Father Ted, Cold Feet) Lowney and this was the last shot of the day. Minutes earlier, the lead actor let rip one of the most furious diatribes I have ever been party to because we changed some of his lines. Pure fury. Still, he nailed this in one take.
This was the church our Tango client attended and so he asked me to knock together an ad for their summer crusade.
100 Best Ads
As the century drew to a close, a book was written listing the 100 greatest commercials ever written. Happily, St George made the cut.
Christian Enquiry Agency: '10 Things'
We regularly provided cards that were commissioned by the Christian Enquiry Agency to go in tourist churches. Here is one from 1999. Created with Martin Casson and Trevor Webb.
Fanfare was organised by rebel Baptist minister Steve Chalke to bring a Christian element to the new millennium.
Yahoo: Christmas radio
For Christmas 1999, we commissioned high-voiced troubadour Justin Hawkins to sing to passers by on Oxford St in a super relaxed fashion, the idea being that he had already done his shopping online with Yahoo.
Church ad: 'Last Supper'
The year ended with a bang when we shot this this OOH for the Churches' Advertising Network. The idea was to take the Last Supper and transform it into a boardroom with the world's most powerful brands in attendance. Microsoft objected to being Judas and the campaign was scrapped, but not before garnering attention from the press.
Beeb.com: 'Angela Rippon'
When our Tango client David Atter moved to the BBC, he was quick to award us the job of launching the Beeb's online shopping portal, beeb.com. We shot a whole lot of 10 second ads simultaneously by using ten cameras and rewrote the lyrics to Bizet's Carmen.
Beeb.com: 'Ladybird Book'
We really wanted to use the classic 1960s and 70s Ladybird book style to tell the story of beeb.com in print but when we approached the BBC, they asked us to write an actual book. The result was a 50,000 seller that you can still pick up on eBay .
The book used illustrations of the first ever web pages created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, for which we had to ask permission. Back then it was easy to email him at CERN. In 2017 I realised that I didn't have a signed copy and he didn't have a copy at all. I sent him two at MIT plus a $10 note to cover the cost to send my one back (he created the web for free so why pay postage?) Anyway, he sent the signed book back and the $10!
The book is now a collector's item and kick-started the Ladybird revival. Ladybird in 2000 saw themselves as catering to the under fives and seemed oblivious to the vast heritage they owned and the huge love that the public had for Ladybird books. I encouraged them to merchandise their iconic illustrations and they have never looked back.
Sony Playstation: 'the Future of Gaming'
This was a collaboration with Sony and RSA. The animation was the work of Jonny Hardstaff and all they needed was some kind of disconnected voice to keep it all together. This was the last piece of work that I was involved in that made it into the D&AD annual.
Sean was back in 2000 with three more commercials in which we embarrass him in front of a pretty girl, continue Stephen's obsession with mum and show Sean as a typical older brother.
It's pouring with rain and someone has to get the washing in. All Sean knows is that it isn't going to be him.
There's a terrible signal but Sean has the perfect gadget to fix it - a younger brother.
London Eye: 'Pets'
The client who commissioned the Go airline was now working on the London Eye and commissioned a launch poster. What could be more launch than sending animals up there first to declare it safe? I'm not sure if this ever ran but we made it anyway.
Amazon: '3 Things'
Charlie Chaplin only needed a park, a policeman and a pretty girl to make comedy, so Amazon should only need three things to tell people about their services.
Classic Ford Magazine
That Anglia was still making headlines - this time it had not only its own feature in Classic Ford mag but its own postcard too. Underneath the polish and snazzy chrome, the car was a dog and broke down on almost every journey.
In August 2000, I helped launch the online idea bank Idea a Day. The site was revolutionary compared to the 'get rich quick' land grab that was going on with the world wide web. We had some great fans - Suggs from Madness, Yahoo's Seth Godin, Malcolm McLaren, Wayne Hemingway and Justin Hawkins.
In 2004, the publisher Wiley brought out the Big Idea Book containing 500 of the site's best ideas to date. The book was even translated into Korean. The site survived for 14 years without selling out but sadly ran out of steam when I had too many other projects (and life) going on to keep it running.
AA Roadwatch: Radio campaign
These ads didn't need any music but it meant keeping Justin going so we made sure they had music on them.
The Alpha Course: OOH
We were asked to pull together some posters for the Alpha Course and chose to use posters in the background to tell the message more subliminally. Photos by Tomas Schelp who also shot our Martini 'flirtation' ads.
For some reason we decided to go to Cannes despite not having any work entered. I drove my 1968 Reliant Regal, the Pig all the way there with Trevor Webb and Andy Taylor and met Jim Bolton there. Also there was Justin Hawkins who was hoping to sell some of his jingles to advertising people. A high point was having the concierge at the Hotel du Cap in Antibes valet park the Pig.
Meeting the Archbishop
George Carey realised that the C of E needed to embrace communications and asked my then boss Rupert Howell (front row second left) to pull together some people who might be able to help. Back row far left is Francis Goodwin, founder of the Churches' Advertising Network (and now godfather to my daughter)
Church ad: 'Happier Christmas'
For Christmas 2000 we created a new image of Jesus showing him laughing.
Shape: 'Like a bloke'
The thinking here was that Shape is so low in fat that you needn't feel guilty about indulging. And who, as a rule, don't feel guilty about indulging? Blokes! Created for HHCL+Partners with Jim Bolton and Axel Chaldecott.
Me, Leo Sayer, David Owen from Idea a Day, all at the Groucho Club. This was the world I left in 2000 to embark on a new adventure, my own agency. First though, I had a journey that I needed to go on.
Pig in America
In December 2000, I embarked on a 6000 mile journey across the USA. Joining me were my church advertising cohort, Trevor Webb, fledgeling rocker Justin Hawkins and Becky Clarke, co founder of Idea-a-day.com. We had a lot of fun.
On my return, lots of people seemed keen to hear about the adventure. Here I am talking to the Big Breakfast and ITV London
Jim Bolton and I launched Arkwright Ltd in February 2001. The name was a reaction against the ultra modern naming of other companies such as Egg, Cake and Naked. Sir Richard Arkwright set off the industrial revolution and we wanted to set one off in advertising.
Sage: 'Making sense of ebusiness'
Back in 2001, conducting business online was still a very new thing for many companies. This book made it simple but writing it was a labour of love.
One of our first acquisitions was a van, half of which we gave to Justin Hawkins in exchange for him designing our website and masthead. 60 Minutes in the US had recently interviewed Razorfish who declared 'we create solutions which enable our clients to do business more effectively'. 'So does a trucking company' was the terse response from the interviewer. So we bought the truck which the concierge at the Hotel du Cap enjoyed parking almost as much as he did the Pig.
Rockingham Motor Speedway
Working with Media strategists M&B, we launched Rockingham in time for the UK's first ever Champ Car event in September 2001. Part of the launch was the Book of the Free and the Brave which had a US ring to it. Designed by Dave Jenner.
When we set up Arkwright we assumed we'd be working on big budget TV campaigns. Unfortunately we forgot to hire any account directors and so we soon became a creative resource for agencies who had no creatives and who seemed to want brochures. The only joy in this one was that we got to work with Jonny Voss again.
Steve Chalke was keen to jump on the dotcom bandwagon and launched the website church.co.uk in 2001. Working with developers Fortune Cookie who were also behind Idea a Day, we created 'God's house'. The original designs have gone but they survive on the front cover of the church.co.uk Bible, illustrated again by Jonny Voss. Created with Martin Casson and Trevor Webb.
Despite not being up for anything or even having created anything other than brochures for six months, Jim and I dragged our sorry selves to Cannes. It's only when we came back that we realised that we had actually won something for church.co.uk!
Tango: 'Man pop'
Tango weren't convinced that the answer to their advertising needs was Justin Hawkins freestyling as a Tango delivery man. After seeing these spec ads that also feature the Arkwright van, they were sadly even less convinced.
2001 was filled with one-off projects for start-ups with absolutely no budget. Worthing was one of these. They didn't even have the cashto mock up a real paper for the guy to hold. Dispiriting times.
This was awful. Everyone was on holiday and the client rang up Arkwright with a project. Their budget? £250. The day rate for a good freelance creative in 2001 was £500. I told no one gave them a headline and some copy and left them to their art direction. It looks like someone spilled coffee over our only copy of the finished ad which is what it deserved.
The FT article
Without realising it we were part of a movement where small agencies were taking business away from bigger ones. All we were actually doing at Arkwright was robbing brochure design companies of a few quid. Our entire raison d'être in 2001 seemed to be to support the rock band the Darkness in any way we possibly could.
Church Radio: 'Allo baby'
For some reason we felt the way to promote church over Christmas 2001 was to play these ads. The RACC who vetted all ads prior to transmission asked us if a client had actually commissioned these. A compliment. Created for the Churches' Advertising Network.
2002 was without doubt the bleakest year I've ever had in advertising. My salary was 10% off what I was on at HHCL, we ate bread and tomato soup (24p) every day from Safeway and I promised myself I would never get misty eyed about it. It sucked. Valdivieso was one of the few clients that gave us any work. Sharing an office with Karmarama was a godsend as we picked up bits from them but most of our time was spent cold-calling and following leads that led nowhere. And we had a massive tax bill from 2001 that completely cleared us out.
High and Mighty: 'Stretch and Chunky'
By 2002, Tango/Beeb.com client David Atter had set up his own agency, Cartwright. Cartwright regularly used Arkwright to create ads for them, but this is the only one that actually happened. Created with Jim Bolton and Dave Jenner.
Pretty much the only thing keeping Arkwright going in 2002 was a bag of pre-prepared ingredients that you could pick up from a kiosk at Waterloo station. Rocket was owned by Unilever so it was a foot in the door to something big. A lone beacon of light in a sea of darkness.
The creative idea was to show images of the meal packs surrounded by little critters who commented on them. the critters were created by Jonny Voss and we took over the entire tunnel that leads to the Waterloo and City Line at Bank tube station.
We also created a mural going up the escalators from Waterloo tube to the main station.
To complete the Waterloo campaign, every carriage of the Waterloo and City line trains was decked out with 100% rocket advertising. Sadly this was before social media but we're pretty sure people would have talked about this.
Music Choice: Small Space
2002 ended with another commission rom M&B whose client was the music TV station, Music Choice. They wanted us to advertises their Christmas channel by taking over lots of small spaces in the Daily Mirror. Cheap and fun.
Church ad: 'Price tag'
2002's Christmas ad for the church used a bit of humour and won ourselves a quarter page article in the Times. Arkwright may have been failing but at least the press were still interested in God.
2003 was a slightly better year. We moved from a shared office with Karmarama in Chalk Farm to a serviced office in Brune St, E1. We also won the advertising business for Domino's Pizza which was huge. Spirits were up and we felt like we were truly going places.
RAB: DM campaign
The Radio Advertising Bureau was another loyal client during the dark days of Arkwright. They commissioned us to create some interesting DM around the message that sales go up by 9% when you advertise on the radio. This one involved sending potential advertisers a free radio.
This DM was a banknote that was worth almost nothing. Knowing the value of money is important to advertisers.
Leaving your advertising budget to chance is a risk, brought to life by sending advertisers genuine lottery scratch cards.
Keeping ahead of the competition is almost as important which is why we sent advertisers edible DM.
Increased sales equals increased happiness which is why the RAB sent out DM of a giant wearable smile.
Big Al's Creative Emporium asked us if they could use our viral script of a person accidentally creating a rude graph on a flip chart. Sadly they did it more knowingly using a sexy model rather than an awkward trainee.
Rocket was back for more in 2003 with new concessions in Cannon St and Wimbledon stations as well as inside the HQ of British American Tobacco.
Scottish Bible Society: 'Book of God'
We pitched for the Bible Society and sadly didn't get it. To make amends we put our energies into the Bible Society north of the border and rebranded several books of the Bible as airport bestsellers. Created with Martin Casson and Trevor Webb.
Victoria Crosses on the Victoria Line
In 2003, the Queen unveiled a plaque in Westminster Abbey to everyone who has won a Victoria and George Cross. Because my dad's great uncle won a VC, we were invited. I found it a shame that the plaque was buried in a church that few Londoners ever visit and felt that the incredible stories of the medal winners should reach a wider audience. I contacted the mayor's office, TFL and Viacom and the end result was free ad space on the tube and two campaigns: Victoria Crosses on the Victoria Line and George Crosses at Kings Cross. Sadly the only copy I have is the one that features my great uncle, which also formed part of an exhibition in the Imperial War museum where the medal is now kept.
This piece of TV joy graced British screens during 2004 and helped launch the careers of Justin Lee Collins, Allan Carr and Iain Lee. The concept, created by Chas, was three pundits watching TV live on air and suggesting to us at home what we should be watching. In the end, everyone got drunk and after a brief but heady two weeks on Channel 4, the show came crashing to a halt. You had to be there...
Domino's: 'Psychic Duck'
Not wanting our Domino's family to have a boring pet in our TV ads, we had chosen a duck. Our client now wanted to use out-takes from the shoot to create an ad based wholly around the duck. The end result was the marvel that is Psychic Duck.
Thanks to some amazing data collection, Domino's pretty much know who lives where and decided to tailor their DM accordingly. Many British residents received some DM from Psychic Duck claiming to know them and their exact pizza needs.
Church ad: 'Baby Santa'
This year's Christmas ad shone a light on who the most important character is at Christmas. Rather than preach, it just showed a juxtaposition of Jesus and Father Christmas and let the public work out how they should respond.
Premier Travel Inn: 'Clarence & Archie'
In late 2003 it was time for Arkwright to throw in the towel. Rocket was no longer advertising and Domino's had no campaigns planned until the new year. No work equals no money and so it was time for new adventures. I got married and started a rock band, almost in the same week. For money, I worked three days a week at HHCL offshoot, Heresy where I created this campaign for the hotel chain that is now Premier Inn.
Scottish Bible Society: 'Postcard Gospels'
It's fair to say my focus in 2005 was not advertising, being in a band was much more fun. Working three days a week meant that I had four days off to pursue other projects. The few bits I did do for Heresy no longer exist - a fabulously space themed website for the agency (illustrated of course by Jonny Voss) and a TV commercial for Madame Tussauds. The Scottish Bible Society remained a trusted personal client and commissioned these mini Gospels. As you can see, the front and back covers look like postcards from the Holy Land. Mark's Gospel has sold over 250,000 copies. Created with Trevor Webb and designed by Dave Jenner
This is about as basic as TV advertising can get. Animated talking shapes. This shows a jealous square and triangle moaning at the success of circle. Thespy.
Church ad: 'Birth of a hero'
For Christmas 2005, the Churches Advertising Network resurrected the Che iconography and produced this image of a heroic baby. The poster made it into the 2006 Che exhibition in the V&A. Created with Trevor Webb and Martin Casson (whose baby Noah was the model)
Channel 5: idents
By 2006, Heresy had been sold and all freelancers were shown the door. Thankfully I began picking up freelance work. These idents were created at Devilfish for Channel 5. And yes, that is the Channel 5 logo made out of meat being fed to a great white shark.
Ski Republic: 'Cadogan Guide'
Happily, the Wolff-Olins offshoot Dave needed an advertising person for three days a week and so I moved to Great Portland Street. Most of my time was spent on nonsense luxury brands such as Vertu phones and a luxury holiday brand owned by the S of ad agency WCRS who shared our building as part of the Engine Group. Ski Republic offered some light relief, especially as they let me illustrate it too.
Ski Republic: 'Manifesto'
Today every brand has a manifesto, back in 2006 this was a little more unusual. Still, Ski republic were creating a revolution in ski hire, taking business away from local family cartels who had never had any proper competition.
Hot Leg: 'I've Met Jesus'
With the Darkness in hiatus, Justin Hawkins' solo project Hot Leg was in full flow. While not writing ads for luxury phones, watches and mountain lodges, I wrote this one, as well as Gay in the Eighties and Cocktails. This got me membership of the PRS, the MCPS even a couple of royalty cheques.
This fabulous sushi cafe in Gracechurch St couldn't afford Dave so I took them on myself. The owner, Rueben Guerra was trained by Gordon Ramsay and used to be head sushi chef at Nobu.
BAA: 'Car Parks'
One of Dave's clients was BAA carparks (carparks at airports) and so I created a campaign based entirely around place name puns.
BBC Radio 4: Lent talk
in 2007 I was asked to deliver one of Radio 4's Lent talks, thanks to the work I'd done for the Churches' Advertising Network. The subject was Jesus and the money changers.
This should have been a lot of fun. Instead, the male model we were meant to be shooting in Dubai got caught with 0.01 grams of hash on him and was escorted straight to jail. The fallout was so spectacular that I'm writing a book about it. As for the campaign, the idea was that whatever you require for your stay, Jumeirah can provide it. The work won gold at the 2008 luxury awards and was created with Russell Holmes and James Denman.
Ladybird 'Boys and Girls'
By 2007, Ladybird finally realised that they were sitting on a goldmine or nostalgia. They brought out this book and asked me to write some chapters because I had already written a Ladybird book. Better still, they bought my entire collection of Ladybirds which was last seen in the V&A.
Blackcurrant Tango: Film Four
In 2007, Film Four voted St George the best long form commercial that appeared on British TV between 1950 and 2000. The trophy itself broke shortly afterwards but the memory is still there.
This is one of the few bits of work of mine that got made by Big Al's. I wasn't involved in the shoot but the script is mine.
Church ad: Second Life
2007 was the year of Second Life and anyone who was anyone had an avatar. We were one of the first church organisations to colonise Second Life and created a 1st century AD island complete with amphitheater. The amphitheater had a giant screen one which this film was playing. Happily it proved popular in the real world too.
Mr & Mrs Smith: '52'
Only working three days a week left me with lots of time to freelance elsewhere. One client was Mr & Mrs Smith who needed copywriting for their their global travel guide, 52
This company makes lots of food for big name brands. They wanted the world (and their staff) to know that acting like responsible global citizens was good for both life on earth and for business.
Cable & Wireless: 'Convergence'
The C word was huge in 2008 and we created a spoof news story to tell the world how exciting C&W's tech was. We also did a print campaign of which sadly this is the only survivor.
Church ads: 'Commentary'
These two ads are some of my favorite work done for the Churches Advertising Network. They simply use sports commentary to tell the Christmas story.
Church ad: 'Bus stop nativity'
Two significant things happened in October 2008. I became a father for the first time and lost my job at Dave (all in the same week). While I looked frantically for work, the church needed a poster for Christmas. We asked figurative painter Andrew Gadd to help us and he pretty much came up with the idea. We loved the idea of the church commissioning art and it looked fab in St Martins in the Fields on the launch day. Even Archbishop Rowan Williams showed up for a photo call.
Network Rail: 'Proud'
In March 2008 I began working for iris, again for three days a week. My first job in the bunker was this TV ad for Network Rail's snazzy new upgrade of the west coast mainline. Network Rail wanted the nation to appreciate the effort they had put in during the past 10 years to make the West Coast Main Line world class. This ad is dedicated to the original railway workers who laid down the infrastructure that Network Rail had made shine again. It is voiced by Bernard Hill, Yosser from 'Boys From the Black Stuff'. Created with Toby Burnett.
By 2009, Hot Leg were touring and I popped along to several locations around the country - Norwich and Southampton were just two - to hear my songs being sung to ecstatic crowds.