Tuesday, 3 April 2012


The Watford Creative Ad Course.
 I wish I could fly tour 2012.
18 agencies in 18 weeks.

20/2/12. WEEK ONE : AMV.
On arrival at AMV we were ushered to the board room whereupon Paul Brazier chatted about the importance of ' creative simplicity'. To be given a pep talk by the E.C.D. of the biggest agency in the country was a great curtain opener to our tour.

Jez and Prabs, the AMV creatives looking after us  set a tough challenge - to create a new book in a week.

We worked off site in the coffee shops of Marylebone and returned on Friday afternoon to present the work.

The students presented some memorable campaigns, particularly on Pepsi and Foot Locker.

Jez and Prabs were tough in their appraisals and genuinely pleased with the teams' efforts.
It was a great week. 

Jez and Prabs review ideas.

Live brief week. Paul Silburn wanted us to work on current projects and we soon found ourselves grappling with T Mobile, Trident and Toyota.

We didn't get anything through to the client but it was a great experience to work with the agency planners and creatives on some gritty projects.

All our teams managed to get their folios seen by the agency creatives. The overall verdict?
Must try harder.

On Friday Paul Silburn told me he had just hired an ex Watford team. (Gemma Philips and Mark Slack start in April.)

Watford working in the board room.


Watford at WCRS.
There is always a good vibe at WCRS. 

Billy and Ross, Creative Directors, are fun guys and their exuberance resonates throughout the agency. The boys had big plans for us and organised a  workshop which was filmed and streamed live across the globe.
One of my students, Mike, said his mum watched the workshop in Georgia USA. Awesome.

Simon Robinson, a Creative Director,  briefed us to write campaigns for Wayne Hemingway's Sheds. No one really cracked the brief. There were too many shed campaigns and not enough Hemmingway.

On Tuesday we were given a great opportunity: to have a crack at the BMW's  April Fool's ad. The students wrote 50 ads.  6  were short listed as potential runners. One was presented to the client.

Tom Hall presents to the world.

  Some nice words from our hosts......


On Thursday I nipped over to Dare to congratulate ex grads' Christian and Fernanda  A.K.A The Brothers Depp. They had just been hired by Flo Heiss.

Fernanda, Flo and Christian.

12/3/12. WEEK FOUR : BBH.
Sadly our week at BBH  was cancelled due  to a huge flood in BBH's basement.
They'll stop at nothing to win the Speedo account. 

Mark Lewis,BBH creative,writing a Speedo ad.
19/3/12. WEEK FIVE : FALLON.

Thanks to Dan Watts, Fallon is always on our radar. The agency have hired four Watford teams in the past 12 months. Thom /Eoin, Avril /Milo, Becca/Sam and Sam/Shish.

Thom and Eoin are always quick off the mark to help us.They set us the task to produce a folio in one week. One brief challenged the students to find internet fame in 4 days.

Tom and Tess created Wong Direction, a Japanese parody of One Direction.

James and Mark created The Urban Animalist. (Marks on pavements in the shape of animals.)

Anya and Rixt created a naughty web site about Engelbert Humperdink which involved humping.

While the students beavered away on their briefs I gave my famous wordless lecture, 'The Unbearable Being Of Lightbulbs'.

Wednesday.  A good day for Watford. One of our teams, Tash and Dan took a call from WCRS  and were told their BMW April Fool's ad had been bought by the client! The first ad to be bought on our 2012 tour.

Avril and Milo give away a vuvuzela to the best ad on Wispa.
On Thursday we were told that all the tasks  had to be handed  earlier than expected.

The students worked throughout Thursday night. One team worked at the agency until 1.00am. One team didn't get to sleep at all.I slept like a log and woke up with Dutch elm disease.

On Friday morning, with bleary eyes and shaky hands, we handed in all the completed tasks.
At 3.00pm we gathered in the conference room for the debrief.

The CDs Dan and Chris along with Eoin and Thom went through the ideas. 
They awarded a placement to one of our solo creatives, Alice Burton. Well done Alice.

Fallon award a placement.

On Monday Ed Robinson, Creative Director, gave us a hearty welcome and set us to work on a brief for Ballantine's whisky. We also worked on Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Depauls (Homeless Charity).

The RBS brief was interesting. The  task: to get gay, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders to consider working for RBS.

Last year's ad, Mum...Dad...I've got something to tell you.     I'm a banker, was a tough act to follow.

Tuesday saw us writing a bunch of tactical ads for Publicis brands to tie in with the forthcoming Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Wednesday was the hottest day of the year and, rather stupidly, we trooped up to Regents Park to play a six-a-side football match against the agency.

Watford 4 Publicis 6. If I hadn't missed 3 easy chances...

On Friday Ed went through all our work. There were some strong ideas for RBS and the Homeless Charity. Hopefully some of these ideas will make it to client presentation.
Thanks for a great week Ed.

Ed Robinson Creative Director.

Watford v Publicis.

The final presentation of our ideas to Ed.

Wonderful people,great apples and amazng double glazing We were in a room with the 
6 lane Westway on one side and the Kensington railway on the other and we couldn't hear a thing. The impressive Trevor Webb, senior art director, greeted us and gave us our first brief, Homebase.

On Tuesday Rick and Jon, Creative Directors on Macdonalds, briefed the teams on their brand.

Executive Creative Directors  are incredibly busy folk. So it was nice to see Justin Tindall who popped by to do a critique on a Freeview brief. He really liked our energy and creativity. Some of our ideas made the short list for the client review.
The teams present to Tevor Webb, Cathy Hutton and Justin Tindall
Thursday was our last day of term and we said goodbye to Gustavo and Barnaby. Over the past few months the boys developed a portfolio good enough to merit a 3 month work trial at Rainey/Kelley.
Bye bye Gustavo and Barnaby..

The Watford Tour recommences after Easter.
Now for a commercial break.


Mother is quite unlike any other agency I have been to. There's a continuous feel of creative energy. It's almost palpable.The energy comes from the openness of the space which inspires the people in it to constantly engage with each other. Wherever you stand,or sit,you can see the agency constantly humming. Koyaanisquatsi..

The wonderful receptionists,Holly,Claudia and Rocky.
Monday.Caroline Pay, former student and creative genius, led us away to a huge beautiful white painted room.I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. (This room is destined to be Mother's design studio and we were fortunate enough to get the space before it was officially assigned.)

An excited Caroline told us about our projects for the week.PG,Goodfellas Pizzas,Boots,Arms Around.The World Aids Charity and Acer computers.

Caroline hugging an old man.

We started by pitching ideas for The Tweet Seat.Rixt Singelsma and Anya Driscoll won this particular task with a neat idea which revolved around whether eavesdropped comments were lies or truth.'Mother or Other' they called it.
Throughout the week the teams worked on their briefs while Mike Comley and I found a small corner of 'heaven' where we marked the students' folios and waited for John Lennon to appear.

Mike marking books.

On Wednesday I rounded up all my ex students who work at Mother for a photo opportunity.This was one of my proudest moments of the year. A dozen Mother creatives all good and true and all doing what they set out to do.

Throughout the week there were presentations of our work to the Mother creatives and planners. On Friday afternoon prizes were awarded to the winning teams on all the projects.

Rixt and Anya, were singled out for doing particularly well throughout the week. They had received strong praise from the various planners and creative teams who monitored our projects.Caroline kindly awarded the girls a placement. 

The mass Mother book critique.

23/4/2012.WEEK NINE: DDB.

There is a wooden staircase by which you enter DDB. It takes you up from the street level to the reception on the first floor.

I always get a sense of trepidation and failure walking up these steps. I imagine all the great creatives over the years whose shoes gradually wore down the DDB/BMP treads.

John Webster in his desert boots. Dave Trott in a pair of Army and Navy combat boots.  Gordon Smith in his loafers. Rooney Carruthers in his Adidas Sambas. And dear old Derek Hass in his flip flops.

This was the place I wanted to work when I left college in 1979. Sadly, I was never to alight my Dunlop Greenflash on the stairway to creative nirvana.

 My shoes were snazzy. My folio was never quite good enough.

Our week was planned by the indefatiguable DDB writer Nikki Lindman who rounded up the agency troops to fire briefs at us. The 'soldiers' in question were my ex students,Oli,Sigrid,Toby,Nikki, Pete and Matt.

Top left to right:The DDB Ex Watfordians.Pete,Howard,Toby or not Toby,Laura,Oli,Siggy,Nikki,TC ,Matt and Sophie.
The objective of the week: to tool up the students with some hot ideas for their books. Monday, the brief was Mecca Bingo with the specific aim of selling it to a younger market. Tuesday, we had to devise a digital concept for Tourism Australia.
Wednesday's task was to regenerate Blacks Outdoor Clothing.This brief was set by two of my ex students, Pete 'Purple' Heyes and Matt Lee, who are now Creative Directors.
Thursday saw us working up campaigns from a list of BMB brands which included Late Rooms.Com and Corona Beer.
On Friday we created new product idea to save ailing brands.

I pitched in with an idea for Addis Welcome Mats.

Door mats that shout obscenities at visitors if they don't wipe their feet.It's a real problem in my house.

Matt and Pete  reviewing the work.
All in all, the students did well on the briefs and the folios benefited from some fresh thinking and DDB love. 

30/4/2012.WEEK TEN:VCCP.

I have an image of VCCP. It is  Jean Claude Van Damme on a mountain, karate kicking big floaty bubbles filled with Meerkats eating Jammy Dodgers. At least I have an image so they must be doing something right.

We were treated to a presentation of their lively show reel by one of the creative directors before we got down to the task of selling Wagon Wheels. The bg chocolate marsh mellow biscuits that taste like pillows from a brothel

We didn't get to work on many projects at the agency which was just as well as we could get on
with the folios.Only two months to go before the end of the course and there's much to do.

VCCP roof top joy.

The teams also worked on a project for O2. The project was so secret I have promised to eat my lap top after typing this sentence. 

O2 or Odear?

7/5/2012. WEEK ELEVEN:BMB.

During the early 1980's  I spent many a wistful hour in Neal's Yard, Covent Garden drinking  organic Yak's milk strained through Indian cheese cloth and nibbling on banjam roots.  I would often dream of working in the fenestrated offices above lentil heaven.

When we arrived at BMB we were ushered over to Neal's Yard where the agency have an overspill office right above where I used to muse.  

My inner hippy lit copious joss sticks and put Country Joe and The Fish on the soul turntable.My dream had come true. At 55 I was to work in Neal's Yard.

Dan Watts, Creative Director at Fallon and former student joined us for the week as a guest tutor. It was great for the students to have someone on board who knew what they were talking about.

Dan Watts and Mike Comley.
Joe Koprowski and Laura Starbuck gave us a week to remember at BMB. 'Let's get the students tooled up for the industry' was Joe and Laura's rallying cry. Loads of talks, presentations and workshops ensued which made for an intensive week.

7 former students.Sheridan Pat ,Rich (photo)Joe, Gavin (photo),Laura Miles all pointing to the future student.
There were some very insightful  presentations from planners,account executives and creatives. Work wise, the students pulled their briefs out of a big fat hat and worked  harder than marble quarrymen in the Renaissance.

Thursday.We were called over to the main board room at BMB. The mercurial Trevor Beattie appeared and regaled us with a wonderfully inspiring talk about  creative ideas and the noble art of never giving up.Stirring stuff.

Trev and the students.
The week ended with a book critique in the agency canteen over cream cakes and beer.
It was good to see so many BMB creatives pull up a chair and get stuck in.

Laura and Joe did Watford proud  And a big thanks go to all the BMB staff who pitched in and made our week a memorable one. It was emotional. 


Rainey Kelley is based in a gorgeous are deco building opposite Mornington Crescent. It used to be a cigarette factory which produced Black Cat cigarettes. Guarding the entrance are two giant cats as black as the lungs of a chain smoking coal miner who puts tar on his toast. 
It was strangely appropriate to see a a small gathering of puffers under the satanic gaze of the felines. 


We were looked after by Nic Hawes-Wood and Andy Forrest, two award winning creatives. Nic recently returned to the agency after maternity leave. Her son Ollie is already being hot housed to be the next Dave Droga and I look forward to seeing his Creative Test in 3 years time. The college have already ordered the high chair and crayons.

Ollie Wood gets some home tuition in creative advertising.

The new Executive Creative Director, Toby Talbot, made us feel at home.  He was genuinely excited at having us around and found time to present the agency show reel and talk about his passion for great ideas. A top bloke in my humble opinion.

Toby Talbot chats to the students.

Some of the Old Watfordians at Y&R.
The teams were asked to create campaigns for a shampoo of their choice . On Tuesday Nik and Andy gave all  the students a pound coin. They were asked to do something creative with the coin that would generate huge amounts of money.

Mike and James sold their pound on Ebay as the 'luckiest pound coin in the world' . They received a bid of 99p.

 I took the bid to £1.04. Soon after taking possession of the coin my racing pigeon died.

Hannah used her pound to buy ten match boxes and preceded to fill each one with an insect from her garden. Matchbox Pets were on sale for a pound in the agency canteen all week. She managed to sell five, thus turning one pound into five.  Alan Sugar would have been proud.

The week gave us a chance to catch up with Barnaby and Gustavo who left the course 6 weeks ago to take up a work trial. The boys were competing with two other teams for a permanent position. They had been working so hard (90 hour weeks) I barely recognised them.
Barnaby and Gustavo hard at work.


 Monday 21st May. While the students gathered at Dare, Mike and I interviewed 23 applicants for next year's course at WCRS.  (7 places were awarded for 2012/13).

Nat,Tess and Tash in the crow's nest at Dare.

As always, we had a lovely week at Dare.The task this week for each team was to work up a mini folio with 4 new campaigns.  Former students Christian and Fernanda, A.K.A. The Brothers Depp looked after us and reviewed the folios on Friday.  It was a great week and the teams produced some good ideas for their folios.. All in all another brick in the wall.

Right,Ferrnanda and Christian chat to Rixt and Anya.


The week started with an introduction by Dede, the E.C.D. During the week the students worked on their folios.  With the end of the course in sight this was a welcome break from the helter skelter of live briefs. Mike and I ran tutorials in the canteen and helped the students to make decisions on the content of their final folios.


Half term week. I wasat home polishing my Polish and  trying to buy a new racing pigeon on Ebay.

The students were working for Albion.

The lovely Jack and Laura, Watford Team Of The Year 2010, set seven briefs to be completed in one week.  Tropicana, Get Internet Fame and NASA  were three of the tasks that whetted my appetite. 

Ummmm...get NASA to send a giant orange in space which is full of juice and is named as a new planet..Tropicana.That's two briefs cracked in one.

Students Nat and Luke emailed good news. One of the ads they had produced at Dare for the Queen's Jubilee was in the national press ! Well done.

The rough.

The ad.

Ex Watfords.Top left .Sarah Clift,Graham Ensor,Chloe Grindle,Kate Smallwood,Darran Solan.
Couch Rob Dobal E.C.D, T.C. Mike Oughton.Rob Brown.

I've never understood why ad folk give McCann bad press.Ben and Jonny did some lovely work on Mastercard, Rob Brown won awards on Heinz, Mark Reddy  flew into D&AD with American Airlines.  The skin cancer awareness campaign  last year was a consummate piece of strategic thinking.There are a lot of talented teams over there at the moment.including ex Wieden and Mother creatives Lol and Rob who have just taken  over the reins.

The agency have the coolest reception of any agency.The interior walls are adorned with gorgeous Shrigley type illustrations and witty words of advice.

 I wanted to take the walls home with me and read them to my kids as a bedtime story but the agency wouldn't let me.

Chloe and Mike were looking after us.  Their first challenge: write and produce  short films over two days to one word briefs.  My only input on the task was to utter three words to the students, 'make it funny'. 

The group suddenly  disappeared for two days to write scripts, cast actors, make props, source music and to watch Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin for  directorial inspiration.

I drank coffee in the agency basement and watched Youtube videos on how to lay a patio.
Chloe and Mike brief the students.
On Friday a large and expectant audience of McCann staff were summoned to the boardroom to watch the student films. And here are the films and link.:


Besides shooting films, the Watford teams were asked to produce their own self promotion ideas, write 50 strategies for Volvo cars and  50 more forThe Independent newspaper. It was a busy week which culminated in a rooftop barbeque and lots of hugs.
Are you happy?

On November 2nd 1982 at 8.00am I made myself a peanut butter sandwich, poured a ginger beer and sat down to watch the launch of a new TV channel called 4. The channel opened with a soap opera called Brookside, a scouse version of Coronation Street..
From that moment on I was hooked on 4.

In recent years the Channel has developed its own in- house creative department staffed by advertising creatives who understand what an idea is. Alice Tongue, Tom Tagholm, Emily Grover and an army of amazing creative freelancers marshalled by General Ed Webster have consistently produced award winning ads over the years.

Ed Webster  set us to work in the canteen and gave us two new programmes to write posters for. One was a  new reality show in the mould of Big Brother and the other, an edgy, enigmatic series not unlike West Wing. ( Due to confidentiality I am unable to be specific about the tasks.) Channel 4 pride themselves on their independence and being edgy which certainly shows in the creative work.

We had a wonderful week at one of the UK's most creative brands and we wait to see if any of our ideas will be put forward for presentation. We'll know soon.

We better be quick, I've just heard the starting gun for the 100 metres..

And now for a commercial break.


This agency was really prepared for us. Within 30 minutes of arriving, Ronnie the office manager, took us on a tour of the agency. Natalie went through the office protocols and Big Stu appeared with a timetable that was so dynamic the head of OFSTED would have been proud. By 11.00am we were working on our first brief.

Big Stu  organised workshops, book critiques and live briefs. 

Will Hooke, digital supremo, twisted the students heads 360 degrees with an awesome task, Darren Wright and Al Merry all chipped in with some live briefs and Kim Papworth spent time with us talking about 'taste'.Guy Featherstone, Head of Graphics, gave an illuminating talk on the importance of brand design and showed us some amazing work. In fact, there were so many people involved with us we quickly became part of the extended Wieden family.

Dave Trott once said to my group, "You are not students you are unemployed professionals"
Wiedens treated us as such. 

If there's an agency out there with a more positive collegiate style culture  that makes you feel all 'warm mashmellowy' inside, I'd be surprised.

Nat and Luke win with Will.
4 girls, 4 laptops and a table.

Tony C and Tony D.

Let's go and buy a rabbit Stu.


Our last week. 14 Creative Directors . 14 community problems.


Make Willesden High Street tidy, The School of Life, Save Christine's shop in New Cavendish Street, get the over 60's to Shoreditch, campaign for more allotments in Wandsworth, make Adam and Eve employees fall in love with  Paddington........the range of tasks was diverse o say the least.

Once briefed the teams  huddled in the corner for The Creative Hakka and kicked off for one last collective push. The energy in the room could have heated all Tony Blair's houses for a year.

Dave from Mother presents a cake to Tom and Tess.

 On Friday July 13th at 1.00pm  the  entire agency world crashed through the doors of The IAB .

The entire agency world minus those people who were too busy to come, those who forgot about the event and those who I forgot to invite.

BMB, BBH, St Lukes, McCann, TMW, Tribal DDB, Euros,DLKW Lowe, Mother, Leanmeanfightingmachine,  Albion, Work Club, CHI, Dare, Albion, Saatchis, Hypernaked, We Are What We Do and WCRS all came.

They mingled. They ate sushi. They said nice things.

Nick and Dave, two delightfully aware creatives from Mother bought a cake.

What a day. What a week.

More pictures on the link below.

Neil and Jay(CHI) with Mike and James.

The event gets underway.

And what a year.

My heartfelt thanks to:

Stuart at The IAB who worked so hard for us despite us crashing his sane life and turning his week on its head,

the ever growing 'Friends Of Watford',

the agency PA's who kept the Tour on the tracks and supplied free coffee,

and the Creative Directors who chose to get involved directly with us, Dede, Trev, Flo, Billy and Ross, Braze, Dave Dye, Tony and Kim, Caroline, Toby,Justin and Al Young.

Special mention to Dan Watts at Fallon who gave the course a week of his holiday time.

Big love to Mike Comley my sidekick and muse.

Lastly, a big hug to the class of 2011/12.

Thanks for your energy and the support you gave your classmates. You'll soon be in the business. Keep up your energy.

As the great Curtis Mayfield once said,

'you got to keep on keeping on'.

See you next year. TCx


It's a girl !!!!