CAMPAIGN CRAFT SPONSORED BY SVC: PROFILE - Renaissance man with finger on the millennium. Mark Reddy designed the logo for New Britain ... and the rest. By Richard Cook

It used to be so simple. You left art college after training as a graphic designer, you got a job at Ogilvy Benson & Mather. You even got assigned the desk next door to a young copywriter called Salman Rushdie.

It used to be so simple. You left art college after training as a

graphic designer, you got a job at Ogilvy Benson & Mather. You even got

assigned the desk next door to a young copywriter called Salman

Rushdie.



Finally, to top it all, you got given the time and space to help create

great ads.



Nowadays it isn’t quite so simple. Nowadays - if you’re Mark Reddy at

least - you get ambushed outside your house by door-stepping journalists

from the Daily Mail. You get asked a lot of impertinent questions. And

then, having skipped the questions to go to pick up your young children

from school, you get pilloried in print for the terrible tabloid

transgression of stealing ... your own work.



Mark Reddy is an art director at BMP DDB. He rejoined the agency, where

he had served with distinction as head of art in the late 80s, in

February last year. The preceding couple of years were spent working as

a freelance from a beautiful Norfolk farmhouse and building a promising

career as a sculptor.



Prior to that there were periods with Leagas Shafron Davis Chick Ayer,

Holmes Knight Ritchie and Colman & Partners. Throw in a fraught six

months at Saatchi & Saatchi and a period working as a freelance

illustrator and you have an entirely appropriate CV for a man

responsible for award-winning press work for clients such as VW, Heal’s

and Black Bush whiskey, and the art director behind BMP’s new global

campaign for Reuters. What you don’t have is any particular reason why

tabloid hacks would be sneaking around in the undergrowth in front of

your house.



But then Mark Reddy is also the official ’millennium artist’, the man

responsible for New Britannia, the logo for the Millennium Dome project,

commissioned by the designer, Martin Lambie-Nairn. And when the Daily

Mail discovered the logo bore some resemblance to a design devised by

Reddy in an ad for Posicor, a high blood pressure drug, it was open

season on the adman and artist.



’It’s all died away now, thank-fully,’ points out Reddy, ’but it is the

first time I’ve ever been accused of stealing from myself. What it does

suggest - I hope - is that I have an artistic style. You might as well

criticise Giacometti for always doing tall, thin people - so in the end,

I suppose, I’m not too distressed by it. I realise that some people have

an axe to grind against the Millennium project.’



What the incident does suggest, though, is how close the relationship is

for Reddy between his advertising and artistic lives. Officially, Reddy

works just a couple of days a week at BMP but, in fact, advertising is

already making an increasing demand on his time. And it’s not difficult

to see why. He shows a poster that has just run for American Airlines -

an iconic shot through skyscrapers to the sky above, with the outline of

the buildings forming the shape of a plane - and his excitement is

palpable. In fact, so strong is the lure that the Norfolk farmhouse is

now for sale and Reddy is presently house-hunting in the capital.



’There’s never been any separation in the ways I approach my advertising

and personal work,’ Reddy says, ’other than - of course - in advertising

you start to explore from the position the client wants, whereas, in

your own work you are exploring more personal preoccupations. I’ve

always felt like an outsider in whatever I’ve done and, whereas there is

a passion for pigeonholing people as this or that, I’ve always liked the

idea of being a polymath, and I’ve always had a fascination with all the

advertising craft skills.



’What I also love about advertising is that you can pick up the phone

and get to work with some of the finest artists in the world and watch

them work and study and learn from their working practices. I went, for

example, with the war photographer, Don McCullin, around 15 years ago to

shoot an ad for Tennent’s. We toured around getting portraits of

different people and the thing that struck me was how humble he was. He

wore a tweed coat and had one small bag with maybe two lenses in it and

just seemed incredibly humble as he approached people. You would have

though it was some keen amateur if you didn’t know that this was one of

our greatest war photographers. That sort of experience is really

important.’



Yet his relationship with the ad world has not always run so

smoothly.



In fact, Reddy left advertising completely after an unhappy six months

in 1994 working for Saatchi & Saatchi, where he felt at odds with the

working practices, the belief in specialists and in the power of the

meeting to solve all creative problems. ’I don’t care whether I’ve got

two days or six months on a job, I will just say give me half of it,’

says Reddy.



’Half can be spent on the meetings and the discussions and so forth, but

I need half the time to think and to do the job right. The trouble

nowadays is that everyone has a computer and so the whole process of

manipulating images has been demystified. Of course, what they don’t

understand is that it’s the thought that goes into producing a great

image that is the important thing. Clients are still a little mystified

by what happens in TV, so directors are allowed to impose their own

vision. Photographers all too often are not.’



It helps, too, that he now has the space and time to work in his own

way. Indeed, he has settled back in so well that his next big project -

sandblasting the spiral staircase that leads out of the lobby at BMP -

is likely to bring the slightly shop-soiled offices up to date.



’At Saatchis, the driving theory was that nothing was impossible, which

is quite a laudable concept. But it came to mean that life had to be

tough.



If you’re not suffering, if you aren’t finding it all a bit too

difficult, if you’re not coming in 15 hours a day then the idea can’t

possibly be any good. Here at BMP it’s much more gentle, more eclectic

and, best of all, we don’t have those men in suits out there building

empires. I can just get on with making ads.’



Just making ads, that is, and showing his sculptures, working on

photographs, continuing to illustrate and looking for a house for

himself and his family ... just that, and avoiding the man from the Mail

lurking in the undergrowth.



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