An AMV BBDO advertising supplement: Opinion - How Abbott’s abilities were evident from the first days. David Abbott demonstrated that he knew how to spot a great ad some 20 years ago. He went on to become a respected industry figurehead. By Jeremy

Let me begin, as the company’s name does, with Abbott. Twenty years ago, Barry Day edited a book called 100 Great Advertisements.* Ten contributors each chose and commented on ten print advertisements they particularly admired.

Let me begin, as the company’s name does, with Abbott. Twenty years

ago, Barry Day edited a book called 100 Great Advertisements.* Ten

contributors each chose and commented on ten print advertisements they

particularly admired.



David Abbott, already a distinguished creative director, was one of

them.



He was introduced with these words: ’At the end of 1977, David Abbott

left French Gold Abbott Kenyon and Eckhardt ... to join the small and

relatively unknown Mead Davies and Vickers Limited. His reason for

moving was the fear of becoming a mere figurehead at his own agency and

losing all practical involvement in the creation of ads.’



The ads he chose included El Al, Avis, Hertz, the British Travel

Association and Volkswagen - and these are some of comments he made

about them: ’It shows how facts can be used to improve an image and

defeat a competitor’; ’The copy is witty and so terse the sentences

click together like Lego’; ’Notice how the argument develops logically

and how easily the ad flows.



Never once do you have to double back to re-read a sentence’; ’It obeys

the rules of civilised debate’; ’The campaign appealed to head and

heart. There was information but the ads were also prose poems ...



often moving, always emotional’; ’The ability to recognise a good story

is one of the great tricks of our trade’.



Over the past 20 years, David Abbott has achieved the remarkable double

of continuing to write elegant, persuasive advertisements while also

becoming a respected and influential figurehead (though never mere). His

own style and the agency’s style are indivisible.



The words of praise he used about the advertisements he selected in 1977

tell you a lot about his own. In any assessment of AMV BBDO, Abbott - or

God as he is respectfully known - will come first. And so he should.



But any good agency has both visible and invisible bits - and,

naturally, the visible bits get most attention. The visible bits are

broadcast on national television. The visible bits have awards evenings

devoted to them and stand a chance of picking up a pencil or two.



It’s the visible bits that potential clients base their opinions on.



Meanwhile, the invisible bits remain invisible. There are no regular

Campaign features devoted to the recognition of agency openness or

honesty.



You can’t reproduce an Economist poster or a Sainsbury’s press ad as

evidence of thoughtfulness to staff or commitment to client

business.



Nobody asks Peter Mead or Adrian Vickers or Michael Baulk to step up to

a podium to collect a heavy gold object in recognition of their

outstanding contribution to the creation and maintenance of a corporate

culture in which David Abbott, among a great many others, can do their

best work.



But if AMV’s invisible bits were as visible as their visible bits, I

believe they would be at least as well respected. It seems to the

outsider to be an extremely well-mannered agency, reserving its

competitive energies for its clients rather than directing them

fruitlessly inwards. Without the invisible, the visible could never have

been as good as it is, for as long as it has.



The public celebration of high achievement is always a risk. The

Almighty may see it as a challenge (and He’s probably a bit miffed

already about the God thing). So it’s just possible that He will take

this opportunity to chasten Abbott Mead Vickers by inflicting upon them

a devastating series of hostile acts.



But I’m afraid that’s just wishful thinking on my part.



*Times Newspapers, Mirror Group Newspapers, Campaign, 1978.



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