CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/FRANK BUDGEN - An award-winner director in search of perfection. Frank Budgen shows little sign of stopping his award success, Jenny Watts says

Every time an awards ceremony takes place, you can bet that Frank Budgen will be walking away with a few more prizes under his already bulging belt. For one of the most celebrated directors in advertising, last week's D%26AD was no exception - among others he won a gold Pencil for best direction for Levi's "twist ad by Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

Budgen also won two silvers for the much admired "tag spot for Nike, through Wieden & Kennedy USA, and Reebok's "sofa spot through Lowe. "The great thing about Frank is that he's got natural style, says Vince Squibb, an art director at Lowe, who was so impressed by Budgen's work on "tag that he offered him "sofa on the back of it. "A lot of people work and work at it, but all his ads look effortless and not contrived at all."

Budgen is one of the elite set of directors in constant work. Now in South America shooting a script, he's a golden goose to Gorgeous in these times of recession. With clients and agencies loath to take any risks on unproven directors, even middle-weight talent isn't getting a look in, as Budgen and the established old guard continue to have the cream of the crop.

After all, Budgen's proven time and again to deliver the goods. The industry noticed when he dipped below his usual output of four ads a year in 2000 - but even then he produced the memorable "returning hero" spot for Stella Artois. His other recent credits have included the NSPCC "cartoon spot and Guinness' "bet on black". Before that he's been behind great work - think Sony PlayStation's "double life", Nike's "beautiful campaign featuring scarred athletes, and Southern Comfort.

Even before that, he did the Denis Leary Holsten Pils campaign, Virgin Atlantic, Orange, Audi and Volkswagen. The list goes on an on.

The sheer quality of his commercials is what sets Budgen apart from his peers. Speak to the industry about the man, and the accolades come pouring in. "Consistently brilliant, one says. "Fantastic, another adds. "An advertising genius, a third waxes.

However, Budgen is also described as very difficult to work with, because he's so committed. And while he's renowned for being extremely focussed, his lapses into monosyllabics can be unnerving for those around him. It's a unique style, Bartle Bogle Hegarty's executive creative director, John O'Keeffe, says: "Both the great thing and the worrying thing about Frank is that he plays his cards really close to his chest. You could be forgiven for thinking he doesn't know what he's doing because you don't know what on earth he's going to do."

Many agree that the minutiae of carefully explaining the plan of action to those involved is something Budgen finds less interesting. "He engages at script stage and then once you're on set, O'Keeffe says.

Nevertheless, Budgen has developed a winning formula that combines being advertising literate with remaining incredibly artistic. He trained as an art director at Manchester Art School, becoming a copywriter at BBDO, then progressing on to Saatchi & Saatchi and BMP DDB Needham. As a copywriter, Budgen was behind The Guardian's "points of view", Miller Lite's "brother and the Paul Hogan "cocktail spot for Foster's. After rising to become BMP's deputy creative director, he then swapped sides to being a full-time director in 1991, when he left the agency to join The Paul Weiland Film Company. He had been directing commercials since 1985, when he shot his first ad, for John Smiths.

Gorgeous, established by the fellow director Chris Palmer, is now six years old. Budgen joined as a partner from Paul Weiland four years ago.

And the 48-year-old is still on top of his game, in the position where he can put quality over quantity every time. "He doesn't do it for the money, and that can only be admired, Robert Campbell, the joint executive creative director at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, says. "He's not buying a country estate on the back of being a director."

With such a success rate, though, doesn't his producer long for more output? "Occasionally, yeah, admits Paul Rothwell, who's worked with Budgen for 16 years. "But I respect his choice and concentrate on the success he does have."

For someone who has been flavour of the month for so many years, Budgen is still seen as a down-to-earth bloke, not one of the petulant, attention-grabbing maverick directors such as those cut from the Tony Kaye cloth.

However, he is renowned for being rather an isolated individual, who lives by himself and is naturally nocturnal. "We start doing his dubs at six at night, Squibb says.

Campbell adds: "He's really elusive and secretive. He doesn't play any of the agency-friendly games."

Budgen treads the line between being very focussed and obsessively committed.

The result is a brilliance that those he works with describe as a magic that just happens.

"Frank just delivers every time, O'Keeffe says.

So why, after so long, is Budgen still so hot? "I don't know, O'Keeffe says honestly. "If I knew that I'd bottle it. He just seems to do it better than any others. Campbell reckons it's his uncompromising stance that sets him apart from his peers. "He really pushes it, he says. "He's advertising's most complete perfectionist."

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