A BIG awards promotion: BIGging up ... The Arden Award

James Lowther writes: As a friend, fan and fellow creative of Paul's, I was delighted that Campaign agreed to include a special Arden Award in the Big Awards. Paul's unique qualities need to be celebrated ... and encouraged to continue into the future.

But what on earth will be the criteria for an award named after a man who was himself a completely criteria-free zone?

A man whose joy in slaughtering sacred cows was almost pathological. A man who wrote "Right is wrong" and didn't just relish contradictions but was a brilliant amalgam of contradictions himself. Childlike. Wise. Eccentric. Perceptive. Arty. Commercial. A funny man who didn't understand jokes.

Damn. The criteria are as hard to bottle as Paul himself. But here we go. Any piece of work that is going to bear his name will have to be:

Mould-breaking. A recent brief contained the injunction "to break the boundaries slightly", a sad but rather commonplace oxymoron in these times. Paul affected not to notice boundaries. If he did see them, he wouldn't push the boundaries slightly. He'd torch them. No-one who worked with Paul will forget the expression of mischievous elation that spread over his face when rules were being shattered.

Brave. Courage is probably not the commonest description in the creative lexicon but probably the most vital. For voyages into virgin creative territory are usually undertaken through stormy waters, alone, with a chorus of disapproval behind you. Paul, who was once memorably described as having "a whim of iron", displayed bravery not only in the concepts he espoused, but in fighting them through against all odds - even if the odd piece of furniture got broken in the process.

Crafted. Paul was possibly the world's best art director. He lived and breathed typography, photographs and films. My abiding image of Paul is him wearing a strange magnifying contraption rather like a welder's mask on his head, poring over a piece of artwork like the sorcerer's apprentice. Anything that won the Arden Award would have to exhibit that total care, skill and love for execution.

Unique. Trying to define Paul's qualities is like trying to nail quicksilver to a wall. For there was an impish quality to Paul and an appetite for the strange that was ingrained deep in his genes. To inspire a director, Paul sent him some pictures from his considerable library. One was a naked woman ironing her dress with a chicken. Before Campaign is overwhelmed with naked women ads, I would point out that he was most probably turned on by the iron and the chicken.

Honest. At dinner once with me, Paul eyed the striking wife of one of my friends and blurted out: "Oh God ... God ... You look exactly like a famous star ... um ... um." The wife awaited the identification with bated breath. "I know ... Laurence Olivier in Henry V." Stunned silence. The laser beam of Paul's almost Tourette's-like honesty was not always a social asset, but when brought to bear on work, his own or others, sorted out the really creative from the pseudo-creative. If your work can withstand that witheringly honest appraisal, it's probably OK.

Commercial. Paul may have been a "madman in a suit" but above the suit loitered a shrewd commercial mind.

There. I've tried to categorise the un-categorisable. To find Paul's many other Arden-winning qualities, just check out his ads and his brilliant books. But if you know of any pieces of work that ran between 1 June 2008 and 31 May 2009 and show the qualities I've described above - large or small, expensive or cheap, in any media whatsoever - please send them in. Free. (Mould-breaking in itself.) They will be judged by the Big jury chairs, Campaign journalists and me. And the winner will receive a splendidly Paul-ine award, a £1,000 book token, from Paul's wonderful wife, Toni, at Grosvenor House.

Thanks to Campaign for letting us show those who say "It's all changed now" that there is still room for the sheer, exuberant, bloody-minded brilliance of a Paul Arden.

- James Lowther is one of the founding partners at M&C Saatchi.

ARDENISMS ...

I know it's clever. I know it might win lots of awards. I know it might sell lots of product. But ... but ... but ... it's wrong!

When it can't be done, do it.

It's better to regret what you have done than what you haven't done.

The world is what you think of it. So think of it differently and your life will change.

Do not try to win awards.

Astonish me.

Topics