BRITISH TELEVISION ADVERTISING AWARDS 1998: The Chairman’s Award - Frank Lowe/From JWT’s post-room, to golden-age CDP and the founding of his own agency, Frank Lowe’s pursuit of creative excellence has marked him out

A pre-production meeting in Lowe Howard-Spink’s television department, sometime in the mid-80s.

A pre-production meeting in Lowe Howard-Spink’s television

department, sometime in the mid-80s.

’Is this a good idea?’ ’Yes, it’s a good idea Frank.’ ’But is it a very

good idea?’ ’Yes it’s a very good idea Frank.’ ’But is it a great idea?’

’Well maybe not a great idea Frank.’ ’So why on earth are we making


Apocryphal or not, this story serves to illustrate the relentless

pursuit of creative excellence for which Frank Lowe has become so


From his first job in the mailroom of J. Walter Thompson in 1960 (where

surely a blue plaque must now reside), Frank’s advertising career has

propelled him seamlessly from the status of promising young man, by way

of brilliant account director, to global business figure.

Aged only 31, Frank became the managing director of Collett Dickenson

Pearce, and presided over what was to prove that agency’s (and arguably

British advertising’s) golden era. According to Alan Parker, who worked

at CDP in the early days, Frank ’single-handedly cajoled a whole

generation of writers, art directors and film directors into

revolutionising British and world advertising’.

In 1981, he went on to found - along with Geoff Howard-Spink - the

London office of what has since become the fastest-growing advertising

agency network in the world. It is also one of the world’s most

creatively successful.

There is little doubt what Lowe Howard-Spink itself stands for. And yet

ask those who know him ’what’s Frank really like?’ and a profusion of

contradictory adjectives comes tumbling forth: charming, manic,

tyrannical, eccentric, wise, driven, mercurial, flamboyant, impetuous,

cunning, instinctive, passionate and brave.

On one point, however, all are agreed. There has never been, and perhaps

never will be, an account man quite like Frank Lowe.

His obsession with the quality of the creative work knows no bounds.

His ability to fine-tune a script, restructure an edit, or suggest a

totally unexpected piece of music has often nudged what is already

verging on silver territory firmly into gold.

For the participants, it is not always the most comfortable of


At CDP, a deputation of six writers and art directors once went into his

office to argue a point of creative principle with him. They emerged

defeated, one of them gloomily observing: ’It was no good. Frank ganged

up on us.’

On the other hand, when it comes to his client handling skills, Frank’s

extraordinary powers of persuasion have always made him the darling of

his creative staff.

What legendary pieces of work might now still be mouldering in a script

file were it not for his Svengali-like ability to win over the most

sceptical of marketing directors?

Benson & Hedges ’Swimming Pool’? Fiat Strada’s ’Robots’? Parker Pens’

’Finishing School’? More than 100 Heineken commercials? Not to mention

campaigns for Tesco, Stella Artois, Smirnoff and Reebok.

Indeed since the BTAA Awards began in 1976, Frank Lowe has either

supervised, sold or in some way been involved in commercials that have

won 32 gold arrows, 43 silvers and 65 bronzes. (No doubt the last two

categories would be dismissed with an impatient wave of a cigar, ’Yes,

yes, silver and bronzes, quite so, quite so.’)

All things considered, this year’s Chairman’s Award is the very least he