The A List: Adland's most mentioned friend

Would you name your three best friends in the industry? Thanks to the A Listers who took the risk, we can reveal adland's favourites. It's not easy to stay popular in business. It is even harder if your business happens to be advertising. Bitterness is always brewing because this is one industry that offers you countless opportunities to piss off your peers.

At some stage you will no doubt have been instrumental in snatching a big account from the impoverished hands of a luckless rival. You will probably have poached a hot young account handler from under the nose of a lunch companion. You may even have savaged a close friend's work in Campaign's Private View.

No matter how nice you think you are, someone, somewhere will seethe at the mention of your name. Even Jim Kelly has his enemies. Even Helen Calcraft has her critics. And in a dark bedroom in a forgotten corner of the country, a failed copywriter has just stuck another pin into his voodoo doll of Jeremy Bullmore.

Yet, against this poisonous backdrop, genuine friendships still manage to blossom. This year, we gave advertising's elite the chance to prove it by naming their three best buddies in the industry.

Of course, not everybody accepted this opportunity. Some were nervous of offending their fourth, fifth or sixth best friends and lamely resorted to claiming they had "too many friends to mention".

Some A Listers used humour to wriggle out of the question - if Leon Jaume is to be believed, his three best friends "pleaded for anonymity". Others were just plain evasive, claiming their best chums "know who they are".

Spoil sports.

Then there were those who just refused to play the game. David Droga could not narrow his friends down the three, so he settled for six instead. Gosh, he's popular.

In the midst of all this tomfoolery, we found the odd moment of brutal honesty. Tim Delaney, who, over the course of his career, has inspired admiration and horror in equal measure, admitted: "I don't have three close friends in the business." And Martin Sambrook from Media Audits was frank when he wrote: "I'm an auditor, everyone hates me."

Sir Martin Sorrell, however, gets no prize for honesty: he named his three greatest rivals - Maurice Levy, Alain de Pouzilhac and Vincent Bollore.

On a more positive note, some A Listers emerged from the exercise looking very good indeed. Take the Leo Burnett group chief executive, Bruce Haines.

The man who could account handle his way out of a Turkish prison was named the best friend of five of his contemporaries. Needless to say, Nick Bell was not one of them. Neither was Tim Delaney.

Haines is joined in pole position by M&C Saatchi's genial founder David Kershaw, and his bespectacled colleague Maurice Saatchi - although the latter's tally may have been bolstered by the occasional comedy reply.

For example, when challenged to name his three best friends, a cheeky Matt Shephard-Smith replied: "Frank Lowe, Maurice Saatchi, John Hegarty - we have such a laugh."

Other popular guys include the Terry Thomas of advertising, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy's Jeremy Miles, whose impeccable bedside manner has endeared him to many.

Director Paul Weiland is also popular, getting three mentions - no doubt from creatives who gratefully remember the occasions when he has turned their stilted scripts into glossy commercials.

Meanwhile, the AAR's Martin Jones decided against putting us out of our misery by revealing his favourites. "You mean they're not all my friends?" was his well-judged reply. David Whethey, the chairman of Agency Assessments International, had similar cold feet. "They're all agency heads - and it's more than my life's worth to name them," he said.

The award for the sweetest answer goes to Bartle Bogle Hegarty's Gwyn Jones, who was recently sent to New York to take charge of his agency's US office. Jones said: "I am lucky enough to know some lovely people in the business, but I've sat opposite Jim Carroll for over ten years and just putting up with me for that long puts him tops."

Having spent so long separated by only a desk, the pair are now separated by the Atlantic Ocean. It's enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Position Friend Agency Votes

1= Bruce Haines Leo Burnett 5

1= Maurice Saatchi M&C Saatchi 5

1= David Kershaw M&C Saatchi 5

4 Jeremy Miles MCBD 4

5 Paul Weiland Paul Weiland Film Co 3

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