Trevor Beattie walks into his favourite Soho hangout, Signor Zilli,
sporting a black leather jacket, bouncing black locks and a red-raw
heart on his sleeve.
The choice of venue is deliberate - Beattie wants adland to know he is
not in hiding, despite the rumours circulating last week after he
travelled to Nottingham for a football match. He doesn’t want to get
away from it all because he is already too far from where he wants to
be, which is right at the centre of a creative department, writing
Until he finds a new home, Beattie is likely to stay in town, with his
mobile phone strapped firmly to his waistband, so that he can keep in
touch with his world. Despite non-stop calls from friends, colleagues
and general well-wishers, Beattie admits that, away from TBWA ’it’s
For so long he has been the figurehead of TBWA, unapologetically
trumpeting the agency’s achievements and working up a high profile for
himself. However, Beattie insists: ’I’m not the main asset of TBWA. An
agency is a bunch of people. One of the points I’m trying to make in all
of this is how we all glibly say that advertising is a people business -
not a person business but a people business - and here’s a chance to
prove it, but it just isn’t happening that way.’
Although he predicts that the merger between TBWA and Simons Palmer
Clemmow Johnson will ’fly’ without him, the impression is that TBWA, and
particularly the creative department, feels empty at the moment.
John Kelley, a vice-chairman and senior writer at TBWA, comments: ’On
Monday when he resigned and went to the pub, Trevor was followed not
just by creatives, but by account managers, finance staff, traffic and
But all those people are still in work, waiting for news of what the
merger with Simons Palmer will mean to them, while Beattie is the one
without a job, trying to get his head and his life together. ’I’m like a
snail without a shell,’ he says sadly.
Beattie is famous for making his job his life, never taking holidays and
working through most weekends. Without personal commitments, he is happy
to put all his energy into advertising, with any incidental surplus
distributed between boxing and women. Even the events of the past few
weeks have not persuaded him to seek out a more balanced lifestyle.
Advertising is his identity - ’I am a bloke who writes ads,’ is the
He is more than that, though. He has done plenty of good work, although
his is not the best reel in town, and the simple gems have been
counterbalanced by a few convoluted turkeys, even for his favourite
clients, such as the ’it’s a driver’s car, so drive it’ spot for
Beattie’s most valued contributions to the industry are as a creative
director and a champion of his craft. Kiki Kendrick, an art director at
Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, who has known Beattie for 12 years, says: ’He has
always been the students’ best friend.
He is generous of spirit and keen to bring fresh blood into the
He expects clients to share his passion for clear, strongly branded
advertising, and works well with those who do. It was a TBWA client who
took Beattie to the football match in Nottingham, a trip that was
organised after last week’s dramatic resignation. He speaks with
particular admiration for the Wonderbra and Thermos clients - both women
who made it to the top of their companies and demanded advertising that
would make their brands famous.
It has hurt him that after seven years of sweating blood for TBWA,
decisions about the merger were made over his head, with, as he sees it,
little thought either for the ’bit-part players’ or for his own
contribution to the agency. It seems unlikely that he could have been
happy working as just one of five creative directors and, certainly,
when news of the merger first got out, Beattie was pronouncing his role
as ’the creative leadership of the new agency’.
When it was made clear to him that he was expected to be part of the
team rather than its leader, Beattie knew he could not be happy with the
new set-up. ’I love being a creative director,’ he says. ’I have 16
years’ experience to share, and I prefer to keep writing ads and lead by
example, which means a lot of busy Sundays.’
So, at the moment, instead of going out for drinks with all the people
who are ringing him on his mobile and at home, Beattie is keeping
himself available for the right call, although it is hard to imagine him
fitting smoothly into any existing London line-up.
’It’s not easy for me either,’ he wails, ’but there have to be a few
places in town where people share my vision of this business, or even
some who don’t, but who passionately want to be passionate about
Once I find the right people, I’ll have their arms off in the rush to
get straight in there with them.’
His predicament may make good headlines and fuel gossip, but as Beattie,
in a moment of self-pity, says: ’There is a fucked-up bloke in the
middle of all this.’
Jonathan Hoare, the chairman of TBWA, points out: ’Trevor is a mixture
of the superstar and the little boy.’ The superstar is doing great work
and attracting lots of publicity, bringing talent and enthusiasm into
the industry while still playing agency politics where necessary.
The little boy is railing against authority, shouting ’it’s not fair’,
and despising the doubletalk of industry windbags as much as the double
standards of the ’luvvies’, who just want to be seen with the right
people in the right places.
Beattie has principles and a hot head, the combination of which led him
to quit TBWA last week by pinning his resignation letter to the
noticeboard, before he had stopped to look at all the implications of
the merger. But he is not looking back, and claims: ’If they turn round
and tell me I was wrong, that all the staff are being kept on, I’ll be
happy. I just want to be honourable.’
He is mocked by some of his peers for living in Hackney, getting the bus
to work and being a professional chirpy Brummie in a world full of
suave, suited southerners and grumpy northern creatives, but Beattie is
just following his own instincts and he’s no inverted snob - he gets on
very well with Alasdair Ritchie, one of the poshest people at TBWA.
Julian Hough, the account man at TBWA on the Nissan Micra launch, who is
now at WCRS, says: ’Trevor can come across as a bit of a prat, but it’s
only because be has not got an ounce of cynicism in his body. He is very
driven, fantastically enthusiastic and totally focused on his work.’
Beattie is more lost than most without a job to go to. His office at
TBWA was an extension of his home, so he never bothered to equip his
flat with a computer or a fax, with the result that after our lunch he
will be wandering around Soho trying to find a fax to send his overdue
copy to the Guardian.
At home, he has four TV sets and turns them all on as soon as he gets
in. Beattie is unlikely to sit indoors catching up on videos, though,
because he is too anxious that he might miss something in the ’real
time’ world of television.
He likes to watch football but, surprisingly, there is no one team that
he supports with the kind of enthusiasm and loyalty he displayed towards
TBWA - he prefers the more individualistic sport of boxing.
Beattie says: ’Boxing is always seen as just an excuse for violently
smashing someone’s head in, but imagine the courage it takes to step
into the ring for a fight, knowing that your opponent could kill
By taking his own one-man stand, Beattie has cut himself off from a job
that was his life, although he is still full of the self-belief that
brought him back from redundancy in 1989, and pushed him through the
ranks at TBWA. Beattie is a prize fighter, and providing he finds the
right team to work with, he is still a contender.