Adam Lury’s decision to retire from the ad industry marks the end
of an era.
At the time of HHCL’s ten-year anniversary in 1997, I said that the
agency appeared to have gone through three distinct eras marked by the
apparent ascendancy of one or other of the partners. The early days -
when First Direct, Fuji, Pepe, Mazda, Molson and even early Tango
polarised the ad industry - were the Lury years. At its best, HHCL’s
work was iconoclastic and refreshingly untrammelled by the clutter of
what ads ’were supposed to be like’. At its worst, HHCL’s advertising
was gimmicky and strategy-heavy. You could see Lury’s workings out. This
applied particularly when the ads were not honeyed by comedy. The UK ad
industry had never seen anything like it.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, HHCL came to be accepted. Campaigns such
as Tango, Maxell, R. White’s, Danepak, Pot Noodle and Mercury’s ’Harry
Enfield’ marked out the Steve Henry (and oft-overlooked Axel Chaldecott)
era. Humour was the honey. My favourite is the under-rated and unfunny
AA ’fourth emergency service’ work - as brilliant a piece of corporate
repositioning as there has been in the 90s.
HHCL was never liked. This is partly down to the endless PR offensive
conducted by the indomitable Rupert Howell, and partly because of a
competitive envy that evoked more malicious gossip about the agency than
any other over the past decade.
It’s an over-simplification, I know, but with the 1994 deal to absorb
key members of IMP, and the launch of Michaelides & Bednash, In Real
Life and the HHCL Brasserie, the agency became Rupert Howell’s. It’s
part of the establishment now, for worse - and better. Howell is the
public face; his appointment as the Institute of Practitioners in
Advertising’s president only serving to underline the turnaround
epitomised by the deal with Tim Bell’s Chime Communications.
During this period, Henry went walkabout and Lury stepped back, working
exclusively through HHCL’s Lury Price Associates consultancy operation.
St Luke’s emerged to steal the young radicals positioning. But in the
last year, post-Blackcurrant Tango ’St George’, Henry has returned with
a bang. The agency’s strategic insights for the likes of Egg and Pearl
Assurance have been as powerful as much of the early work. Notably,
these campaigns have polarised opinion again.
To me, Lury was always the key partner. Politically correct, his
influence pervaded the agency itself. Until the IMP deal, there were
precious few men in grey suits or babes in mini-skirts adorning the
agency reception. It was the agency that was unafraid to come up with
Fuji and Pepe, whatever we thought of them.
Lury himself is one of the more decent and intelligent men in the
business, and genuinely believed advertising could be used as a force
The UK ad industry never totally embraced him, nor did he wish to be so
embraced. But without him, it is a duller place.