The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Only Thing We Can Control Are Our Standards …
March 5, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Agency Culture, AMV

I am very lucky that I have worked at some amazing agencies over the years.

But despite that, there’s still a few I wish I had had an opportunity to experience.

There were a bunch of reasons it didn’t always happen.

With BBH for example, it was always down to timing. On four separate bloody occasions.

With Cliff Freeman, it was down to them basically thinking I was shit.

And while there are a bunch of other agencies that intrigue and excite me – including a bunch, like CDP and Simons Palmer that have sadly disappeared from our industry landscape – there’s one that I have always held in the highest regard.

Abbott Mead Vickers.

My god they are good.

Hell, they’ve been good since they started in 1979.

The quality of the people and the work is, in all probability, unparalleled in UK advertising.

Not only that, but if you look at the people this industry holds up today as beacons of awesome, many of them got their break at AMV.

They taught you how to do things properly.

They taught you how the value of great thinking, ideas and craft.

They basically taught UK adland what is possible when approached with excellence.

Of course other agencies also had an incredible impact on the industry – both in the UK and the World – the aforementioned CDP, my beloved HHCL and the original Saatchi&Saatchi to name but a few … but AMV had the distinction of being both brilliant and utterly gentlemanly which gave them an air of ‘properness’ that other places never quite managed to pull off.

But ‘properness’ should not be mistaken for passiveness which leads to the point of this post.

Recently I was sent a letter that David Abbott – the A in AMV – sent to his agency about ‘doing the right thing’.

In some ways it was a reminder – or a reset – about process.

I don’t mean process in the way WPP would mean it, I mean it in terms of principles, standards and expectations.

Or said another way, the stubbornness needed to maintain your principles, standards and expectations.

What I love about what he wrote is that he acknowledged that everyone plays a part in the journey to great work. It’s not just about the creative department, it’s about the actions and decisions of every person and discipline connected to the process and so unless everyone shares the same principles, standards and ambitions … it will all fall apart.

Collective praise. Collective blame.

Despite the fact he wrote it 21 years ago, I think his memo is as meaningful and as important as it has ever been.

So if you work in adland or know someone who does, send them this post and point them to pages below.

Tell them to hold it close. Treasure it. Think about what’s being said and then act upon it.

It’s that good.

Which is why AMV are that good.

39 Comments so far
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Comment by Pete

This should be on every agency wall. It is brilliant because it is full of sense and self awareness. AMV (and Colenso in NZ) are BBDO’s jewels in the crown.
Nice find Robert.

Comment by George

Yes they are George. I wonder if they both wish they hadn’t sold to networks … though in Colenso’s case, being in NZ, selling opened up doors they may otherwise never would have been able to walk through internationally.

Comment by Rob

Meekly ad Paul Josy’s outfit in India to that..

Comment by northern

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll stand for anything.

Comment by John

Cliff Freeman is smarter than Dan Wieden.

Comment by Billy Whizz

and people thought they were a bunch of fucking mentals.

Comment by andy@cynic

Make me feel worse why don’t you.

Comment by Rob

is that a fucking challenge?

Comment by andy@cynic

No. The last thing I want to do is encourage you.

Comment by Rob

you always ruin my fucking fun.

Comment by andy@cynic

is this a fucking job application campbell? i know amv are now bbdos bitch but they still have their fucking standards. thats a proper fucking memo. on paper. memos were much fucking better when they were on paper.

Comment by andy@cynic

and i like how nice guy abbott is throwing the fucking planning department under the bus. what a fucking guy.

Comment by andy@cynic

simons palmer. the fuckers behind the best nike ads wieden never made. you’re making me nostalgic campbell. prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

If you make “Park Life” and “66” but still can’t keep the business, you accept the Nike/Wieden relationship is more than just about being strong, they are co-dependents.

Comment by George

They are epic spots … but it’s not like W+K London haven’t equalled them thankyouverymuch.

Comment by Rob

People like AMV don’t take people like you Rob. Wasted compliments.

Comment by DH

Unless you were just genuinely praising them. But isn’t everything you do calculated to the millimeter?

Comment by DH

just call the fucker casio.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by John

I am not trying to get a job at AMV and I know perfectly well that if I was, they still wouldn’t have me … both for talent and background reasons … so maybe I’m not as calculated as you thought. Maybe.

Comment by Rob

I apologise to you Mr Casio.

Comment by DH

Oh dear.

Comment by Rob

Don’t forget Goodby+Silverstein’s 35 year track record. For the other side of the coin, read the interview with Kev “I always wear black” Roberts in The Guardian. What a fucking wanker… He talks shit and Lovemarks from his 950 quid a night hotel suite as he spends an hour a week at Saatchi London, so he can go to all the rugby matches. He’s not fit to wipe David Abbott’s arse. Fuck, I feel better now.
Cheers/George “AdScam” Parker

Comment by George Parker

Goodby are brilliant of course, but they’re not AMV.
By their high standards, I think it would be fair to say Goodby have suffered a few desolate years even if their version of desolate is other agencies prime.

Comment by George

The Kevin Roberts interview is humiliating.

Comment by George

Do you feel better George [Parker].

And I read that Roberts interview. Apart from saying stuff some agencies were saying 30 years ago, he comes across so badly, that it makes British politicians feel they are not doing as badly as the media likes to tell them they are.

Comment by Rob

An excellent call to arms written by someone acutely aware their work is also their marketing.

Comment by Lee Hill

Well he was a copywriter.

Comment by Rob

Yes, Rob, David was a copywriter, one of the best. But more importantly, and like some (not all) of the others you mention,
he was a very decent human being and always acted from that.
As I’ve said before, I’m afraid I’m going to end up in a room just listening to John Prine sing “Some Humans Aint Human” for the rest of my life.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

The true greats in adland all seem to be good people first, talented buggers second. That’s probably because this is still an industry where success is built on understanding and connecting to people’s emotions rather than just their media consumption habits. By being ‘a decent human’, they can empathise and engage in ways the ‘advertising man’ just doesn’t understand.

Comment by Rob

I worked with them on Pepsi a while back. struck by polite confidence by being really good, rather than shouty wankerness and pettiness by folks trying too hard, or even worse, the downright arrogance and rudeness of the likes of Mother. The really great places always seem to be really nice and firm, rather than confrontational. Same with clients come to think of it.

Comment by northern

you would have fucking hated us then. good job you fucking turned me down you piece of smiths loving shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

I would have hated him. I fucking hate limey tea.

Comment by Billy Whizz

not biting on the tea thing
And don’t pretend you’re not all OK
Well apart from Rob, I’m led to understand he was King Petty.

Comment by northern

And refuse to bite on the job thing
You’re a Dad now, you must understand

Comment by northern

i dont understand anyfuckingthing a planner does.

Comment by andy@cynic

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