An AMV BBDO advertising supplement: Private View by John Webster

I always know a piece of work is really good when I feel angry.

I always know a piece of work is really good when I feel angry.

It’s a sort of resentment that someone else has done it.

I’ve been feeling angry with David Abbott since first clapping eyes on

an ad for the Triumph Herald at Mather & Crowther in the 60s.

Since then he’s consistently been pouring out work with an intelligence

and wit that’s in a class of its own.

His talents, especially suited to the printed word, have nevertheless

produced enough memorable TV over the years to give the lie to the claim

that it was his Achilles heel.

Occasionally perhaps he will indulge himself emotionally which can be a

little cringemaking, but what impresses in press or TV is his sheer


Who can watch a Sainsbury’s ad without feverishly hunting a biro or a

Volvo ad without feeling other cars are made of matchwood, or an

Economist ad without wondering if you’ll hold your own at the next

dinner party?

He may be Britain’s most elegant writer but he never forgets he’s a


Look into any of his work and there’s a case being argued with the zest

of a prosecuting counsel.

Of course, these days there’s increasingly more to AMV than David

Abbott, but if there’s one thing Peter Souter and his young tigers

should pick up on it is this.

If Alka Seltzer’s wonderfully witty ’lifeboat’ spot had been made 30

years ago it would probably be revered alongside the likes of VW’s

’snowplough’ and ’funeral’. Delightful as it is, it seems somehow out of

its time.

Too naive perhaps for the age of BSE, CJD and BBH.

’We want to be Smiths Crisps,’ sing the cute little smurf potatoes to

the tune of Bobby’s Girl. It was catchy at the time but not a

substantial enough idea to resurrect the once ubiquitous brand now sunk

beneath the myriad of modern snacks.

After projecting Volvo as a tank for years, AMV suddenly produced a

series of much racier commercials. ’Twister’ is a cinematic

tour-de-force brilliantly photographed by Tony Kaye. Unlike AMV’s usual

appeal to the brain, it grabs you in the guts and slings them round the

room. Amazing production values that helped update the image of both

Volvo and AMV.

Remember the Caledonian girls? A group of British businessmen sing and

dance the praises of the famous tartan hostesses. Once again I remember

it being popular at the time, but today it’s rather like watching Cliff

Richard in Summer Holiday. It takes the irony of Dennis Potter to get

away with singing stiff upper-lips.

The Economist’s ’Henry Kissinger’ is a brilliant idea that must have

looked great in script form. No worry. The nuances of the voiceover and

the discreet oompah music produce a tone of voice that delivers its full

potential on screen. Seminal Abbott.

Sainsbury’s is the campaign that brought class to supermarkets, and

produced some of the most succulent food commercials ever. Abbott and

Brown transferred their successful press ads triumphantly to the screen

with the help of distinguished voiceovers, and gave us all a lesson in

how to sell food.

This one not only sold smoked salmon omelettes but also helped turn

Denis Healey into everyone’s jolly old uncle. Only one man in Britain

could have written about the champagne, ’It really puts the top hat on

it.’ Marvellous.

Next pre-breast Paula Yates plays in a two-hander with Oliver Reed

really enjoying his glass of Paul Masson until he hears it’s virtually


Another classic, simple and beautifully underplayed by the stars. The

script must have read like a 20-second ad - a good discipline for

budding writers. Most 30-second ads I have to vet read like an hour and

a half.

Paul Masson

Project: Paul Masson Light

Brief: Introduce low-alcohol wine Writer: Tom Jenkins

Art director: Grahaeme Norways

Director: Simon Delaney Production company:

Delaney Hart

Exposure: National TV

J. Sainsbury

Project: Celebrity recipes campaign

Brief: Reaffirm Sainsbury’s

as the supermarket for

quality food Writer: David Abbott

Art director: Ron Brown

Director: John S. Clark Production company: John S. Clark Films

Exposure: National TV

The Economist Group

Project: The Economist

Brief: If you don’t read

the Economist, you will get caught out

Writer: David Abbott Art director: Ron Brown

Director: Peter Levelle Production company: Beechurst

Exposure: National TV


Project: Volvo 850

Brief: Demonstrate the Volvo 850’s dynamic handling characteristics

Writer: Tom Carty

Art director: Walter Campbell

Director: Tony Kaye Production company: Tony Kaye Films

Exposure: National TV

British Caledonian

Project: Brand campaign

Brief: Focus on the quality of in-flight service Writer: John Kelley Art

director: John O’Driscoll

Director: Bob Brooks Production company: BFCS

Exposure: National TV


Project: Alka Seltzer

Brief: Position Alka Seltzer

as a fast relief for stomach problems Writer: Patricia Doherty

Art director: Greg Martin

Director: Roger Woodburn

Production company: Park Village Productions

Exposure: National TV

Smiths Foods

Project: Smiths Crisps

Brief: Create a strong brand identity Writer: John Kelley

Art director: John O’Driscoll

Director: Dennis Russo

Production company:

Sky Films

Exposure: National TV

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