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Charlie Robertson. An inspiration.

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(I wrote this a while ago.  The week of Charlie’s death in fact, but I’ve just realised it lay in my drafts folder.  I never published it here, although I did elsewhere.  So, for completeness sake, I share it here now.  Apologies if you have stumbled upon it elsewhere.)

I’ve been plucking up courage for several days now trying to put metaphorical pen to paper about the life of my old chum Charlie Robertson.

I’m not a lifer (as a friend/colleague) so perhaps others are better placed to wax lyrical about him, but he had a profound effect on my life at a particularly impressionable time.

I was a ‘suit’ at The Leith Agency when Charlie appeared.  A returning migrant from London, not just London – BB bloody H – where he’d inspired Vorsprung Durch Technik.

This wasn’t a planner, this was a rock star.  Cue Mick Hucknell gags (OK, that’s it out of the way.  No more. Ed.)

We weren’t worthy, except, actually, we were.

Because Charlie wasn’t the London wanker we feared.

Charlie was just Charlie.

A gifted 5-a-side footballer, cut from the same jib as Jimmy ‘Jinxy’ Johnstone (albeit ‘Jinxy’ was from the wrong side of Charlie’s tracks).

Charlie was a storyteller, a provocateur, a walking brainstorm.  My job was to get the best out of him and we seemed to work really well.  The trick with Charlie was to spot the ball.

The Golden Ball.

Because Charlie would fire out ideas by the shedload, you just had to be in the room at the right time to say “STOP, that’s it Charlie.” And I felt I had a knack for that.

Our finest hour was pitching for Irn Bru, an account The Leith Agency holds to this day.  It must have netted them millions by now. Charlie was the planner, I was the suit, Gerry was the creative director.  It was awesome.

We came second to BB bloody H.  John Hegarty dazzled the Irn Bruers with his charm and sophistication and then went on to produce a pure minger of a commercial, but then Coke knocked on their door.  Irn Bru got booted from BB bloody H and they came back to Leith.  We were ‘a close second’ they had said and it was true.

History began.

I left soon after but that wasn’t the end of my relationship with Charlie.  He worked, through Red Spider, with 1576 from time to time.  We met for beer and red wine from time to time.

Charlie was the real deal.  A proper advertising genius.  A colossal brain and a charm to go with it.

Client, no people, loved Charlie.  Me one of them.

We will miss his elegant charm and his clever wit.  But most of all we will miss his humanity.

Bye Charlie.  It was great.

And finally a new order (or is it an old one in disguise) is taking shape. The death of J Walter Thomson.

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At no point in my 33 year long career could I have expected to be writing a post about JWT being no more.  (In fact in the early days I didn’t know what a post was.)

In fact in the early days there was no internet to even write a post on.

But today Wire and Plastic Products announced that after a tumultuous year, including the merger of Y&R and VML, with Y&R taking second fiddle in the naming stakes (VMLY&R), JWT is to merge with Wunderman and be called…just Wunderman.  What’s more, this article in today’s Drum also talks of the rise of creative and media agencies joining forces.

What we are actually talking about here is the re-emergence of the ‘Full Service Agency” that typified the landscape upon my entry in 1985.

The fracturing of our industry following the rise of the ‘media independents’ caused major financial ramifications and a loss of credibility for either camp, certainly a loss of income.

But now data (media ) and ‘media independents’ are once again forming a properly integrated alliance.

I’m not one of those Ad Contarians that bemoans the death of the idea, although I still cherish it, but good targeting and good creativity was what worked back in the day and will necessarily work again.

I suppose it’s progress.

The New Elton John Lewis Christmas ad. (Meh.)

The problem with tracing the Elton John lifetime in reverse is that we know it’s all fake and the vicious whip pans are used so you don’t spend enough time on younger Elton’s face to spot that it’s a series of lookalikes.

Consequently the viewer experience is like watching Elton perform from the seat of a rollercoaster.

It’s a mess.

The central idea has some merit, although I have to say the Christmas element is pretty minimal.

Now, if you wanna see an ad that tells someone’s life story in reverse in a believable and very moving way check out this far superior (and much cheaper) execution from Barnardos.

Why I’ve joined the Nods team as Vice Chair.

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I was a guest at the inaugural Nods Awards last year and was impressed by its enthusiastic rejection of the usual awards puffery.

  • No suits ( I wore my daughter’s purple hat, inexplicably)
  • No drawn out sit-down dinner with expensive wine. (In fact it was a selection of market stalls selling street food in a really cool venue in the Barras called BAAD)
  • No two hour ceremony with so many awards you couldn’t even begin to work out who had won what.  (It was by contrast a little rushed and in need of sharing the work visually more – but it was all done and dusted in half an hour – the criticism was noted and a balance will be struck this year).
  • No overblown entry fees or ticket prices
  • And, most importantly for me, no profit motive – the proceeds went to the STV Children’s Appeal. But this year, and hopefully for the long term, proceeds will go to NABS (Scotland) well that’s an obvious choice is it not given that NABS is the creative (Communications) industry’s representative charity

This all made the event refreshing, more so when the judges are revealed as global giants, the Chair is a Global Giant herself (MT Rainey) and the organisers are Lux Events and CRAK Marketing, two small businesses wanting to put something back.

Many in our industry have bemoaned media owners using Awards as money-spinning bun fights and whilst I don’t wholly subscribe to that point of view there is no doubt this represents a refreshing change.

So year two now approaches, this time the awards ceremony will swap to Edinburgh and the ethos will be identical, although all of the people and organisations categories have been opened up for FREE entry.  This makes sense as people feel awkward paying to enter themselves for an award.  Instead it will be a Nod of recognition to those that deserve it.

Also we have introduced a craft category – a chance for photographers, illustrators, animators, musicians, film makers to enter for themselves – or for makers in agencies to have a bit of a spotlight shone on them.

I hope the industry will support the awards like they did last year.  It’s a shop window for the winners both to clients and to prospective staff and the awards themselves are keenly priced.

You can find out more here.

But, please note, the deadline for entries is 23rd November.  So get your skates on.