Copy that.


Within a few months of landing a job as an advertising account man, I was being trundled off to helpful lectures by advertising luminaries.

Dave Trott held up five pieces of paper in a row – four with simple crosses and one with a circle.  Ron Collins delivered an hour’s worth with a Sooty glove puppet on his hand. David Horry waxed lyrical about the joys of Shepperton before, I think, donning a nun’s habit .

The lectures were held in the basement of JWT’s Berkeley Square office.  The series was kicked off by Jeremy Bullmore in what was unquestionably the best talk of all.  Funny, engaging and profound, he both connected with and conquered his audience of upstart graduates with effortless ease. Not for nothing is he still everybody’s favourite adman.

I remember him pushing hard on a point about inspiration. “If you’re going to pastiche opera,” he intoned like Humphrey Lyttelton, “then for god’s sake go and see an opera.  Never assume you know.”  The assembled account people listened hard, although his point was perhaps more resonant for copywriters and art directors.

The insatiably curious do better in advertising.  In other fields too. Anyone who soaks up any idiom or art form and has the ability to re-purpose or re-imagine it to the subject at hand has better tools.  Much was made of David Bowie’s hungry eclecticism in the obituaries – the fuel of his diverse output. He never contented himself with just one genre.

There have been legions of ads that take opera or classical theatre as a start point. Yorick, poor old thing, has been served up time and again.   One reworking of a classical theme to brilliant effect came from Adrian Holmes.  Pygmalion meets My Fair Lady, inverted and packed into a minute, the finished work builds the brand with quotable power. It also skewers British class lines with compressed magic.


Hilaire Belloc wrote a poem in 1929 that practically screams to be read aloud.


Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark verandah)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn’t got a penny,
And who weren’t paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the Din?
And the Hip! Hop! Hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the twirl and the swirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of a clapper to the spin
Out and in —
And the Ting, Tong, Tang, of the Guitar.
Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?

Never more;
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar:
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the Halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far Waterfall like Doom.


I scribbled the following when my life was dominated by horribly dull marketing workshops. They were held in horribly characterless rooms, all over the world.   I found myself thinking of Jeremy Bullmore’s advice.  I couldn’t avoid the workshops – but I did spend some time with Belloc.


Marketing Offsite

Do you remember a thing, Amanda?
Do you remember a thing?
And the queues and the booze and the unpleasant loos
And the leers and tears of the young marketeers
At the tediously dull seminar?
And the strict lack of tact as we yakked of the sacked
(Or the tales from Sales of a big philanderer)
Do you remember a thing, Amanda?
Do you remember a thing?
And the syndicate work with the berk from Selkirk
Or the rep – so inept – who you wept with, prepped with,
And Dawn from HR slept with
With the nasty shiny tie and that skin?
Or the bish bash bosh
And the tosh
Of the MD’s
Speech as he screeched that we reach
Daft targets that he preached
Were do-able, he knew-it-all,
The twat, he claimed that, through it all,
Our interests were best observed by him?
Do you remember a thing, Amanda,
Do you remember a thing?
And the boring little jawings
Of that dreadful man from Goring
(As you fled from the bar, going green, Amanda)
His one-liners bombed like Stukkas
As you sicked up your sambucca
And the heave-age of your cleavage in the car?
Do you remember a thing, Amanda?
Do you remember a thing?

Never more;
Never more.
Only the delegates snored
As I dragged you through the door
And wallop
On the bed of man-made threads
You shed
Your office inhibitions like a trollop
Please forget
That we met
Next week, as we sit, at our desks.

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