CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; A fond farewell to an adland legend and revolutionary

To be honest, the sad man running about shrieking ‘kerrching!’, the incomprehensible ad featuring a car talking in a French accent and the usual claim and counter-claim as to exactly who created an award-winning ad were all getting a bit too depressing, when along came Alan Waldie’s Lowes leaving party to warm the cockles.

To be honest, the sad man running about shrieking ‘kerrching!’, the

incomprehensible ad featuring a car talking in a French accent and the

usual claim and counter-claim as to exactly who created an award-winning

ad were all getting a bit too depressing, when along came Alan Waldie’s

Lowes leaving party to warm the cockles.



I doubt if any of the former editors of this magazine in their long

years in the business ever went to an event born of such genuine

affection for the star turn. Of course, there have been more lavish

affairs, but sometimes one comes away wondering is it affection for the

person or the job title? No-one has much to gain from creeping up to

Alan Waldie these days, at least not on a business level. So you knew

that the 200-plus of the industry’s great and good chanting ‘Waldie,

Waldie’ really meant something - rather like the Chelsea fans’ chant,

‘there’s only one Matthew Harding’.



Campaign’s picture library came to life, and if they weren’t on the

Hamilton Gallery’s guest list, they were on the hilarious video. God

knows what Peter Marsh is on, but I’d like some of it. Frank Lowe said

he was pleased to see that everyone was still alive, to which John

Ritchie replied ‘only just’. You can guess who was there - it was the

Collett Dickenson Pearce/Lowe Howard-Spink axis, on the back of which

the British ad industry’s reputation grew. If this seems strange coming

from someone who frequently accuses today’s industry of being over-

nostalgic, the excuse is that you should commend that which is good. I

never thought I could be star-struck about meeting an adman, but then

Colin Millward turned up.



Waldie is not a one-hit wonder or a cynical advertising shyster. For

more than a quarter of a century he has been involved in the best work

around, from Hamlet to Vauxhall, Heineken to Olympus. Remember

Supasoft’s ‘not tonight Josephine’ and, yes, the Benson and Hedges

commercial?



To us today the B&H spot can seem over-long and slow, just as the first

Levi’s ads seem archly stylised or Tango too full of the anarchic

fashion it inspired. But these are the seminal TV ads of the past three

decades. Because it’s the oldest, it is harder for many of us to be

aware of the impact B&H had, but it revolutionised advertising art

direction in this country. Waldie did great work on proper grown-up

clients’ brands.



But it’s not just the work. The man in the blue V-neck sweater with the

extraordinary habit of beginning his sentences at the end, is the most

unassuming adman you could ever meet. Perhaps the only one. The stories

are legion and legendary. Some of them are even true. It doesn’t matter,

his joie de vivre does, and the fact he loves what he does so much.

Waldie. Not the same. The industry. Without him.



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