The British Television Advertising Awards 1999: The Chairman’s Award - Sponsored by Channel 4/Jeff Stark

At the end of a decade that has witnessed more changes in the world of advertising production than the previous three put together, one of the defining characteristics of the revolution is the career path of a top director. The 1999 Chairman’s Award goes to such a man; a former copywriter who started his working life as a door-to-door salesman.

At the end of a decade that has witnessed more changes in the world

of advertising production than the previous three put together, one of

the defining characteristics of the revolution is the career path of a

top director. The 1999 Chairman’s Award goes to such a man; a former

copywriter who started his working life as a door-to-door salesman.



Failing the London Transport bus conductor test was a unique rebuff to

Jeff Stark, coming at the outset of a career that then embraced the role

of assistant advertising manager of Curry’s, writing mail-order copy at

below-the-line ATA Advertising, as well as writing Bull Worker and Ann

Summers ads at Robinson Scotland Partners (not forgetting the freelance

48-page book on plastic piping and numerous pages of dirty jokes for the

soft porn magazine, Knave).



At 32, he made the decisive move to Saatchi & Saatchi as a junior

writer.



Seven years later, he resigned as deputy creative director to set up

Hedger Mitchell Stark with creative responsibility for Foster’s and

British Rail.



The venture was a success and the Paul Hogan Foster’s campaign was

born.



Events gathered pace and two years later - to general astonishment and

an apocryphal, ’We missed him so much we bought the company to get him

back’ - the brothers made the fledgling agency an offer they couldn’t

refuse. So Jeff found himself back in Charlotte Street.



But this time it was different. Creative directorship can be a two-edged

sword unless, as he had discovered, you happen to own a slice of the

agency.



And although his partnership with Paul Arden produced some outstanding

work (the British Rail ’Relax’ commercial that effectively launched Tony

Kaye, for example), the job began to feel like a life sentence. The

four-year commitment couldn’t end soon enough and, after a final two

years in New York (let off, presumably, for ’good behaviour’), he was

free and wealthy enough to realise his declared ambition to quit

advertising at 45 and literally sail into retirement.



Eighteen months later, somewhere around Tonga, he realised his

mistake.



Age and experience will always beat youth and enthusiasm, and London was

smart enough to welcome Jeff back with open arms. The restless drive

that had propelled him thus far wouldn’t permit a return to an agency so

he initially decided to write and direct.



The first efforts were remarkable. Campaign, with customary sensitivity,

reported in August 1991 that ’of all the artists in the film production

business, few have made as big an impression as the oldest recruit to

the industry, Jeff Stark, who is rapidly approaching 50’. His BA

’Lapland’ ad won a Silver at the British Television Advertising Awards

while his InterCity ’Relax More’ picked up a Silver Lion at Cannes.



A deceptively effortless transformation that added stunning visual

innovation to the Alan Parker/Paul Weiland model had taken only a few

months and, in 1991, he teamed up with Martha Greene to form Stark

Films. The rest is history; happily recorded in the BTAA record

book.



The briefest conversation with Jeff confirms undiminished

enthusiasm.



The writer in him loves good ideas, spurning the obvious and the

borrowed; the director loves the challenge of turning good work into

compelling advertising. If that sounds like a cliche, it’s not one

agencies would recognise as they drink profitably at the well of his

experience. And if his thoughts turn towards a screenplay in the wake of

successful Berlin and Sundance screenings of ’Desserts’ (his recent

two-minute film starring Ewan McGregor), we shouldn’t be too

surprised.



Nor should we be too concerned.



Ask a Tongan.



He’ll be back.



JEFF STARK: BTAA AWARDS



1991 Silver for British Airways and InterCity



1993 Bronze for ICI Dulux, Gold and Silver for Walls sausages



1994 Bronze for Imperial Leather, Silvers for Imperial Leather and

Boddingtons



1995 Bronzes for Virgin Atlantic and UPS Parcels, Silver for

Boddingtons



1998 Gold for Impulse



1999 Bronze for Impulse.



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