Giving up the day job

While some in the marketing world, such as Sir Ridley Scott, use their advertising background as a launchpad for a glittering career in Hollywood, others opt for a quieter, pastoral life.

If Justin Hawkins has problems penning that difficult second album for The Darkness, he could always return to his previous job, singing jingles for ads. Likewise, if Salman Rushdie’s next novel turns out to be a turkey, he could resurrect his old career as a copywriter.

This unlikely pair are part of a growing number of people who started their careers in adland or marketing before finding their calling elsewhere. While some people become disillusioned or frustrated with the industry, others leave to pursue a new business venture, such as the team behind Innocent Drinks, or to follow a creative dream, like Hawkins and Rushdie.

There is no data concerning retention levels in either the marketing industry or agency world, although the latest figures from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising show that the number of people employed at its member agencies dropped from 14,200 in 2002 to 14,036 last year. Its Agency Census for 2003 also showed that the number of employees in the industry grew by just five per cent over the previous two years, a period that coincided with an advertising recession and the tightening of marketing budgets.

Nevertheless the turnover is such that many in the advertising and marketing industries have moved on and weaved their way into popular culture by carving out other career paths, including actor Hugh Grant and novelists Fay Weldon and Peter Mayle. It was, perhaps, the success of Weldon and Mayle that convinced former Newspaper Society marketer Charles Ross to leave his job four years ago to become a writer. His first book was published in February 2001, although he has now returned to consultancy work.

A handful of film directors, including Sir Ridley Scott and Alan Parker, started out directing television ads and in the process have become household names.

Saatchi still working

Other celebrity names such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst have been indebted to the buying power of art guru Charles Saatchi, who made millions through founding Saatchi & Saatchi with his brother Maurice. Now one of the UK’s biggest modern art collectors and advertising guru to the Conservative Party, Saatchi is almost as famous as his celebrity wife Nigella Lawson.

Breaking into the world of celebrity is not the only way to prosper outside the industry. A number of former marketers and advertising executives have gone on to roles in senior management. Miles Templeman, director- general of the Institute of Directors, started his career at Young & Rubicam but found that he had limited power as an advertising executive so he moved into marketing and then general management. Others that have followed a similar path include Ofcom chief executive Stephen Carter, who worked at J Walter Thompson before moving clientside at NTL, originally as its chief operating officer and then as its chief executive, and Adam Crozier, chief executive of Royal Mail, who was joint agency head at Saatchi & Saatchi before he left for an ill-fated stint as chief executive at the Football Association.

Richard Eyre, former chief executive of ITV and Capital Radio, admits that he was attracted by the money and power that senior management roles could give him. “I got rather attached to my job titles and dependant on them for my own self-worth. I couldn’t believe how much of my identity was wrapped up in them,” he says.

But those looking to spread their wings do not have to stay in business roles. Geoff Howard-Spink, founding partner of Lowe Howard Spink, decided to indulge his love of horseracing when he left the agency world by setting up a stud farm. Likewise, former Young & Rubicam chief executive Richard French dabbled in the restaurant business both in the UK and in Florida after leaving the agency and Robert Deighton, another former adman and one-time partner of Ken Mullen, became an English, history and games teacher at an Oxford preparatory school.

Peter Owen Jones, a former creative director, made perhaps the most radical transformation to his life by giving up advertising to become a man of the cloth. Owen Jones, who is now a vicar in Cambridgeshire, says: “I always loved advertising. It taught me an enormous amount, but it is like living in a bubble. I think that working with brands is very insular and since I became a priest I have a much broader view of life.”

Preaching to the converted

Owen Jones has not completely turned his back on the world of advertising and media as he is the founding partner of agency Omobono. He has also made one series for the BBC on society’s view of the divine through history and is working on a second. He has written two books, one on life as a priest and the second, which is published next month, is an adaptation of psalms into contemporary poetry. Perhaps surprisingly, Owen Jones is not the only adman to make the switch as Bruce McKinnon, a former account man at WCRS, also left advertising to join the Church.

A return ticket

But leaving the industry does not mean that the door is closed forever. Chris O’Shea, founding partner of HOW and Banks Hoggins O’Shea, now FCB London, and WCRS founding partner Peter Scott have both left the industry and returned.

After spending some time running his mineral water company, Ashe Park, Scott came back to help with this year’s WCRS management buy-out. O’Shea resigned from his role as copywriter at Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO after he became disillusioned with the industry and spent the next eight months driving a delivery van for Mother’s Pride bakery. He says: “I saw advertising as a normal person does and it made me realise that as an industry we spend too much time agonising over the little things that people don’t notice.”

O’Shea believes that he was refreshed by his experience and his advice to any jaded advertising executive or marketer would be to do the same. A change is supposed to be as good as a rest and in the high pressure world of advertising, media and marketing, offering career breaks could be an effective way of retaining talented and valuable staff.

Additional reporting: Amanda Wilkinson and Sonoo Singh

The Author

A former national development manager at the Newspaper Society, Charles Ross left the trade body in 2000 to put pen to paper. He wrote the novel In Your Dreams, a comedy about a video company marketing manager called Johnny Reilly, who is engaged to be married, but, according to Ross, is “a man with commitment issues”.

It was published by Transworld and translated into several languages. A review from The Times in February 2001 suggests: “The novel is at times touching, funny and even believable… well written and very readable.” The book is still available on Amazon as a hardback. Ross now works at Ocean Consulting, awaiting the descent of the literary muse once again and, more importantly, the free time in which to pen his next novel.

The Delivery Man

While some pursue a radical life change and leave the advertising industry completely, HOW founding partner Chris O’Shea chose just to escape for a breather.

Disillusioned with the industry and feeling jaded, O’Shea left his job as a copywriter at Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO and took a job as a delivery driver for Mother’s Pride bakery. For eight months he started work at 3am and finished at midday, allowing him to spend more time with his three children.

As a result, O’Shea says he would recommend that everyone takes a career break, as it helped him realise that people are not as interested in advertising as the industry thinks and that too much time is spent debating the little things. He eventually returned to AMV before moving to Lowe and later Chiat Day. He was a founding partner at Banks Hoggins O’Shea, now FCB London, and is now at HOW with Ken Hoggins and Mark Wilson.

The Smoothie Makers

Innocent Smoothies seems to be the 21st- century equivalent of the Ben & Jerry’s success story – a company with an accessible, community-minded spirit and a healthy product. Who’d have thought their founders came from the dog-eat-dog, commercial world of advertising and management consultancy?

The story is well documented – Richard Reed (ex-BMP DDB), John Wright (former marketing manager at Virgin Drinks and McKinsey Consulting) and Adam Balon – friends from Cambridge – had the idea of producing smoothies and took secondment from their jobs to hold a sample trial at a jazz music festival in 1998.

The feedback was enough to encourage them to give up their day jobs. Reed says: “We have absolutely no regrets. Five years on and we’re better friends than ever.” He advises anyone considering joining the entrepreneurial trail: “If you can’t explain the idea in one sentence to your granny, maybe it isn’t such a strong idea in the first place.”

The Brewer

Miles Templeman readily admits that he was seduced by the advertising world because it seemed as if it would be more glamorous and fun than straight business.

After graduating from Cambridge with an economics degree, Templeman joined Young & Rubicam and worked on the Procter & Gamble account. After three years, he moved to the client side and joined the marketing department at Beechams Foods because he wanted to “run the whole show”, not just a brand’s advertising.

He has held a variety of roles, including Levi’s marketing director for Northern Europe and deputy managing director at off-licence group Threshers, then owned by Whitbread. He stayed with Whitbread for ten years, eventually becoming Whitbread Beer Company group managing director.

Since leaving Whitbread, Templeman did a stint as Bulmers chief executive before the company was sold. Earlier this year, he became the director-general of the Institute of Directors. He is also chairman of Kent-based brewer and pub operator Shepherd Neame and Yo! Sushi.

The Sports Scientist

After more than two decades of financial services marketing, Peter Jordan decided in August to resign as marketing director of Scottish Widows, and instead study sports science at the University of Southampton.

Jordan had taken the industry by surprise before by accepting the role of marketing director at Scottish Widows in 2003, having resigned as head of product marketing for Skandia, the Scandinavian insurer based in Southampton, which he once described as his “spiritual home”.

Jordan was well known in the industry for his prescient criticism of with-profits policies, the once popular savings products that have now become almost extinct.

The Entrepreneur

Dubbed as the entrepreneur with the Midas touch, Chris Akers’ claim to fame was his reign as chief executive of Leeds Sporting, which owned Leeds United FC. He was credited with turning around the fortunes of the club during his two-year stint at the helm. Since stepping down in 1998, he has been investing his own money in sports and IT companies.

His first job was in the media department of Saatchi & Saatchi, but he moved to be a media analyst at CitiCorp (now Citibank) and then at the Swiss Bank Corporation. Having gained expertise in raising funds for company floats, in 1999 he founded AIM-listed bookmaker Sports Internet Group, which he sold a year later to BSkyB. The 39-year-old is currently executive chairman for sports consultancy Sports Resource Group and the Extreme Group. Akers is convinced that the world of newspapers and the travel industry is where he can make his next fortune.

The Vicar

Reverend Peter Owen Jones likes to make radical changes to his life. He left the world of farming to become an adman and after 11 years in the agency world, he turned to the Church for his next career move.

He started his career as a messenger boy at WCRS before joining, and being fired from, a variety of agencies including Waldron Allen Henry Thompson and Leo Burnett, finally becoming joint creative director of Toys in the Attic.

He decided to leave advertising in 1992 and went to a theological college in Cambridgeshire, where he now has four parishes. He has still managed to find the time to help found advertising agency Omobono, develop a television series for the BBC and write two books.

The Marketer Turned Ad Man

Kevin Morley, a larger than life character who was famously involved in a punch-up during a pitch, is believed to have largely put marketing and advertising behind him to concentrate on other business interests, including a hotel in the Caribbean.

Morley was marketing director of Rover, before leaving the company in 1992 and setting up his own advertising agency, Kevin Morley Marketing, which promptly took the entire advertising account for the car group across Europe. The agency was sold to Lintas Worldwide, which merged with Lowe.

Morley was a non-executive director of DFS until the company went private last month.

The Media Man

With his roots in advertising, Richard Eyre went on to become chief executive of Capital Radio and then ITV. The former media director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty has been linked with every high-profile media job since he stepped down from his role as chief executive of Pearson Television after it merged with RTL in 2001. But he has spent the past few years writing a book called The Club and serving on several boards as a non-executive director. The self-confessed workaholic, who claims to operate best when planning future brand strategy, is involved with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, The Eden Project and The Guardian.

His novel, The Club, is a whodunit based in the world of TV and is being published by Penguin this Christmas. Eyre is also planning his second book, a celebrity-based novel.

However, don’t be surprised if he resurfaces soon as a full-time chief executive in media land. He confesses that the comfort of a high-profile job title might prove to be too much of a temptation for him to stay away.

The Spring Water Producer

The “S” in WCRS, Peter Scott struck gold in 1995 when he set up Test Valley Water to distribute the spring water from his Hampshire country estate under the name Ashe Park.

The former media buyer has always had an entrepreneurial streak. He went on to found WCRS with Robin Wight, Ron Collins and Andrew Rutherford. The past few years have been spent managing his water company and indulging his interest in vintage cars. However, earlier this year he returned to the cut and thrust of adland to help lead a 75.1 per cent management buy-out of WCRS, with Arnold, part of Havas Advertising, holding the remainder. He is co-chairman of the agency alongside Robin Wight.

The Art Collector

From Damien Hirst’s pickled sharks to Tracey Emin’s unmade bed, Charles Saatchi has earned a reputation as the undisputed advocate of modern BritArt. Recognised as the British advertising guru, Charles, brother of Maurice Saatchi, has been behind some of Britain’s most memorable advertising campaigns, including the “Labour Isn’t Working” slogan that helped bring the Conservative Party and Margaret Thatcher to power in 1979.

The brothers founded M&C Saatchi in 1995 after they fell out with the major investors in their original Saatchi & Saatchi agency, which was then a publicly traded company. This summer the brothers gave up their controlling interest in M&C Saatchi when they floated the agency. Charles Saatchi, who is the Conservative Party vice-chairman, is married to “domestic goddess” Nigella Lawson.


Advertising frequently employs celebrities to sell brands. But a handful of those involved in the advertising process have themselves plunged into the worlds of literature, film and music, in some cases becoming celebrities in their own right.

Actor Hugh Grant, for instance, used to be a copywriter at Arc Advertising: he is said to have not only written but also ‘starred’ in a Red Stripe lager radio campaign. Before he was arrested by the Los Angeles vice squad, he was a member of a four-strong group of performers called ‘Jockey of Norfolk’, who wrote and acted in ads.

Another famous performer and former adman is Justin Hawkins, lead singer of rock group The Darkness. He reportedly began his advertising career with a radio jingle for the Church of England. The singer is also credited with producing the music for Tango’s ‘clowns’ television execution, and he is believed to have done all the singing and voices for a Yahoo! radio campaign. But Hawkins’ pièce de résistance was the ‘Schlomp’ song that provided Karmarama with the soundtrack to an Ikea campaign.

The world of advertising has also produced a string of copywriters who have managed to turn their pens to serious literature.

Reports have linked Salman Rushdie with the line ‘Naughty but Nice’ for the Milk Marketing Board’s cream cakes ads while he worked at Ogilvy & Mather – although the claim has long been disputed by the agency. Another O&M copywriter was author Fay Weldon, who credits herself with ‘Go to Work on an Egg’. Peter Mayle, whose A Year in Provence introduced to the nation the idea of cooking with olive oil and dining al fresco, was a creative director at an agency called Papert Koenig Lois (PKL), which was bought by BBDO in 1971.

At PKL, Mayle worked with Alan Parker. Parker joins the Scott brothers, Sir Ridley (Alien, Blade Runner) and Tony (Top Gun, Crimson Tide), Adrian Lyne (who started work in the post-room of J Walter Thompson and directed Fatal Attraction) and Hugh Hudson (director of Chariots of Fire and Saatchi & Saatchi’s British Airways ‘face’ ad), on a long list of directors who made their names in the UK advertising industry.

Parker, who directed Bugsy Malone and Mississippi Burning, worked at Collett Dickenson Pearce during the Sixties, alongside other talents such as Lord David Puttnam.

Having conquered the silver screen, Oscar-winning producer Lord Puttnam, who produced Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields, is returning to the world of advertising. He is joining TBWA/London in a non-executive role.


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