Dicky Beesley, Viz’s upstart adman, was just so 80s. The red
glasses, Filofax, braces and ponytail, were an amalgam of forex dealer
and TV producer from the adrenaline-rush days of the Lawson boom. No-one
in adland actually dressed like that but, as far the media and the
public were concerned, Dicky was the face of the industry.
There was something very 80s about his personality. Brash,
unembarrassable and terminally perky, this was someone who hadn’t been
run over by a recession.
Beesley is unimaginable at the end of the 90s. If you ask people what an
adman looks like today, no clear image is forthcoming. Equally, if you
ask people about an adman’s personality, you are met with more blank
There are several reasons why no vivid picture remains. First, no-one’s
interested any more. In the 80s, the overstated role of the Saatchis in
the Thatcher project made Adman newsworthy. He was characterised as a
subtle, manipulative demon, not content with selling us Corn Flakes, but
wanting to sell us political ideology as well. Now, political
advertising is merely part of the furniture - is as intrinsic to the
electioneering process as kissing babies and pensioner-stroking.
Somebody’s got to do it.
Second, the ad industry has made itself look more tedious. They all want
to be McKinsey. Spooks in horn-rims grinding on about added value don’t
make the features pages of national newspapers.
Third, adland has grown up as it has slimmed down. The client-inspired
drive for commercial accountability and cost control has turned agencies
into leaner, harder-working places. The industry lost one in four
employees during and after the last recession and, although times are
good again for many, it seems judicious to keep one’s head down.
What this all means is that Adman has begun to merge with the
Everybody’s in marketing of some form or other nowadays and, for the
most part, they look the same as they head home through the jams of West
London; another 3-Series, another set of French cuffs, another mobile
phone. But, look again, and you may find an adman trying a little harder
than most to assert individuality. ’I’m cutting edge, I’m 90s, I’m
creative, for God’s sake.’
Finally, Adman is moving with the times. On the back seat of that 3
Series is a Jeep Cherokee brochure and, perhaps more tellingly, a baby
Babies are the perfect adman’s status symbol. A big, pink, noisy baby is
proof to the world that you have actually managed to create something in
your life. Alan Causey, the executive vice-president, managing director,
social analysis and forecast, at Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, points
out that in a recent survey in the US, people were asked about the ways
in which they expressed their creativity; ’bringing up children’ came
fourth. What kind of generation will emerge as a result of 2,000 ad
people taking out their creative frustrations on their kids?
The other consequence of the vogue for sprogging is that your colleagues
suffer. Meetings are moved to ridiculously early times because New Dad
can’t get back to sleep after the 3am change. He’s also going home
earlier nowadays, increasing the workload of his underlings.
This sort of behaviour is, inevitably, causing conflict with the current
wave of hedonism growing in the agency world’s lower ranks, and there is
also an unseemly resentment about maternity leave. In the still white,
male-dominated macho world of advertising, any excuse to start flinging
a bit of sexism around is to be welcomed.
As in every major financial centre, admen are priced out of the most
desirable areas. Square Mile ultra-money keeps Zone One out of bounds,
just as in New York you’re more likely to find adfolk in New Jersey and
Brooklyn than the Upper East Side. In London, the advertising property
ladder works something like this:
Years 1-3 Shared flat in Fulham: washing-up rotas, big sister’s cast-off
sofas, Matisse and Oasis posters, stale milk, stolen taramasalata.
Years 3-5 Buy small flat in Battersea with childhood sweetheart: Ikea is
breaking out all over - kilims, anglepoises, flexible shelving units, an
pounds 85 armchair called ’Fanni’.
Years 5-7 Start relationship with account manager, move back into shared
accommodation in Baron’s Court. Lose interest in interior
Eat out and get pissed four times a week. Second childhood comes
Years 7-10 Marry said account manager and move into farcically
overpriced two-bed cottage in Putney. Ikea a total no-no; lust after
Conran Shop but settle for Habitat with a bit of Heal’s where it
Years 11-15 Little Harriet and even littler Marcus force you out of
cottage into three-bed Victorian terrace in Clapham. Two hundred and
fifty grand well spent. Pampers absorb a variety of substances,
particularly the money earmarked for soft furnishings.
Years 16-20 Move into five-bedroom family home in ’Barnes’ (commonly
known to the rest of humanity as the arse end of East Sheen). The other
half has her own small business: patisserie, kids’ clothes shop, that
sort of thing. Aren’t private schools expensive?
After that, choices; if divorced, cosy lovenest in Swiss Cottage: if you
last the marriage out, maybe move to stockbroker belt and get into golf.
Retire to rural Hampshire and grow asparagus.
All over South-east London, thirtysomething adpeople are choking the
roads with Discoveries, Explorers and Cherokees. Why wrap yourself in
two tons of bull-bar, foglamp and roof-rack? It might be to do with
There’s something reassuring about driving around in an armoured
personnel carrier. With all the frayed nerves knocking around agencies,
it’s nice to travel home in a vehicle more secure than a Popemobile.
Causey also thinks it’s something to do with the spirit of the age:
’This is the era of being yourself - you’re alone out there and these
cars are survival equipment, reminding you that you are ’of the Earth’
and offering you protection.’
The other automotive trend is in the opposite direction: MGFs. Adpeople
have always shared their taste in cars with hairdressers, and the vogue
for Rover’s little drophead is further evidence. The ultimate motivation
is similar to the one that makes people want 4x4s: dreams of escape.
Another ad blown out in Staines/Hemel/Croydon? Put on the Lighthouse
Family and forget it until you’re back in W1.
Mobile phones The only area of life where grown men sit around bragging
about having the smallest. What’s your network? Isn’t it touching the
extent to which adfolk swallow their own work?
Psion 5 The new personal organisers have word processor and spreadsheet
software that is compatible with desktops. This makes them somewhat
over-engineered for the needs of your average adperson, as he’s not
quite sure how to turn his desktop on. He started plugging his address
book into his new Psion, but stopped after BBH and before Belgo. It’s
back to the A4 exercise book and barking at the secretary (sorry,
Voicemail Of course, the new communication tools are about protecting
yourself from being communicated with as much as anything: put your
voicemail on, divert your mobile to your secretary, tell everyone to
send you e-mails rather than bugging you with face-to-face meetings and,
hey presto!, no communication. Time to work on your Minesweeper
Causey has an unsettling vision of what may happen in the future; brain
implants that allow clients to communicate with their account handlers.
Just think, an account team in the pube, all chanting ’make the logo
bigger’ as the latest missive zaps into their brains. Plus ca
There are several approaches but most admen are still marooned between
M&S and Blazer. Otherwise:
Modern Mainstream Anonymity is the watchword: navy, single breasted
suits, cornflower shirts and red-toned ties for the men, soft-lined
knits for the women.
Little Bit Different Just on the Board: off with Nicole Farhi, on with
I’m Creative, Me Young guns still mired in combat keks, Adidas crewnecks
and Airwalks. Shirts buttoned up with no tie starting to oust Rolling
Stones lookalikes in the older age breaks.
Planners Ted Baker and Armani Jeans for the young lads, dandruff around
the collar and Clark’s Cornish pasties for the old stagers. Cardigans
still massive for females, as well as unusually coloured tights - lime
green, burnt umber, etc.
The worst thing happening in the US in this area is dress-down days.
Influenced by the Micronerd Belt on the West Coast it is now thought hip
(and profitable) to look sloppy on Fridays, or any other day when you
haven’t got a client meeting. There are even consultants who tour
offices telling businesses how to make dressing down work for them. If
they were to come over here, they would find that when admen in London
dress down, they are still in uniform: chinos, deckshoes and blue
Marriage and kids being totally in has the fortunate side-effect that
you don’t have to lie about what you did at the weekend. Everybody knows
you were up to your neck in Teletubbies videos and baby sick.
Nuclear families make holidays a no-brainer: it’s Mark Warner every
For young and single, the vogue for India and the Far East hasn’t waned,
but America is making a comeback. Adpeople love America because it is an
entire nation built on advertising propositions: biggest, weirdest,
Thirtysomethings drink ’wait wane’ or abstain. Champagne glugging is a
myth unless the agency has a champagne client or a major retailer.
For the youngsters, it appears vodka and premium strength lager are
making a huge comeback. There is something 90s about vodka and cranberry
juice: it’s the alcopop for twentysomethings. Dinner parties are out,
bar cruising in West Soho in. Go to: Alphabet, Two Floors. Don’t go to:
Lupo, the Zebra Bar.
Football is in, Chelsea in particular, as are many forms of ’proling
down’. There is much entertainment to be had attending a game at the
Bridge with your well-spoken, home counties account director. Two yards
into the ground he will turn himself into a lout from a Streatham
estate, cramming gristleburgers and chips into his mouth and saying
’fack’ a lot.
Adfolk aspire to poshness, but make their living out of turning on the
grubby masses. Hence the cultural schizophrenia.
As for other forms of entertainment, adpeople are resolutely
The brain is too stress-frazzled and the attention span too short to
cope with anything else. The literary gods are obviously Nick Hornby and
Helen Fielding. In fact, these writers have cracked the nut every adman
dreams of; huge commercial success plus peer group approbation.
Similarly, movies. The Full Monty has an attractive integrity/cash ring
to it. Romantic comedies always go down well with the big softies of
Creatives are more Coen Brothers through Troma to Russ Meyer. Irony is
Music? Everyone has the Beck album, but when admen are hidden away in
their Audis and Jeeps, it’s Heart 106.2 or Radio 2 for the
Processed cheese factories in Belgium, HQs in Dusseldorf, sales
conferences in Rotterdam, it’s not quite the high-roller’s itinerary
dreamed of when you filled in your application form. In fact, your
average account handler drone will tend to be depressingly England-based
for the first few years.
But, if you stick around long enough, you will get the sagging eyes,
claret belly and Air Miles you desire, either as a Euro Schmoozer or as
a ’member of senior management’.
Creatives can still get long-haul freebies, as long as they work on the
right clients; cars, airlines, mobile phones, oil companies and the
Putting in for a transfer abroad is also wildly fashionable. But bear in
mind the most heartening thought offered by Causey. He’s been here for a
few days now, and it seems to him that ’advertising’s a lot more fun in
London than it is in New York.’ Heartening thought, or terrifying
Feng shui Tai Chi
Phony Tony Just William
The Verve Oasis
Husbands and wives Office affairs
Gin Sea Breezes
Stayin in Going out
MBAs Busking it
Coke (Diet) Coke (sniff)
Big fat ad Integration
Clients to the footie Clients to the opera
’The soundtrack Ideas
will really make it’
Heart 106.2 FM Capital FM
Technology/ Fmcg clients
Sniping about New Man-ism
Larry Sanders Friends
Landmine appeal Famine
Stoke Newington Islington
Voyage Betty Jackson
Veronica Lake hair The Rachel
Madame Bovary Bridget Jones
Carole King Alanis Morrisette
What it all costs
Maintaining in full the lifestyle of the 90s adperson is not cheap. In fact,
it’s not a cheap business at all. Here is a monthly breakdown of
expenditure. Only the absolute essentials are included, obviously.
Shared nanny pounds 840.00
(inc. NI, VAT and kitty money)
Nappies pounds 25.00
Clothes pounds 72.00
Food pounds 500.00
pounds 200,000 mortgage pounds 2,220.00
(inc. insurance, bills etc)
Exc pension pounds 0.00
pounds 28,000 Cherokee pounds 800.00
(pounds 9,600 car allowance from salary)
Tab picked up by agency for mobile. Monthly expenditure includes one-off
gifts to self such as:
Psion 5 pounds 599.00
For self pounds 15.00
For spouse pounds 650.00
Put aside pounds 250.00
ENTERTAINMENT/FOOD AND DRINK
Food, DPs, booze, eating
out, etc pounds 920.00
Books/CDs/movies pounds 7.99
Everyday haemorrhaging pounds 320.00
GRAND TOTAL PER MONTH pounds 7218.99
Total per year pounds 86,627.88
Plus pension pounds 8,492.00
GRAND GRAND TOTAL pounds 102,338.87
(excluding tax and NI)
This article was first published on Campaign