CAMPAIGN CRAFT: Profile - Modest trio’s press ads quietly scoop accolades. Belinda Archer meets the team behind the admired nursing recruitment work

Aside from the flurry of excitement surrounding Nike’s emotive ’parklife’ film and BMP DDB’s mould-breaking Volkswagen work, a far less showy campaign has been quietly gaining significant industry approval.

Aside from the flurry of excitement surrounding Nike’s emotive

’parklife’ film and BMP DDB’s mould-breaking Volkswagen work, a far less

showy campaign has been quietly gaining significant industry


It is the nurses recruitment work for the Department of Health, created

by Saatchi & Saatchi. The campaign, comprising six press executions

which ran in national newspapers and women’s magazines from January to

March 1997, captured three silvers at D&AD in the public services and

charities categories, plus the categories for art direction and copy.

That is the same number of silvers won by both ’parklife’ and the VW

campaigns and, notably, it is the first piece of advertising to win a

coveted pencil for copy in two years (there were no copy awards last

year and no copy made it into the 1997 D&AD Annual).

The work was the single most prized campaign at the Campaign Press

Awards in March, netting gold awards for Best Campaign and Best

Individual Advertisement, on top of silvers and bronzes for Best Direct

Response and Best Use of Typography.

John Messum, Colin Jones and Mike McKenna are the modest trio of

creatives behind the campaign, the first two being the art directors and

McKenna the writer. Together they have created a collection of worthy

but successful COI/charity campaigns, although they no longer work as


Messum, 33, now at HHCL & Partners, explains the triple credit for the

nurses campaign. ’I art directed it and did the whole shoot then

resigned and went away for three weeks and Colin stepped in to put it

together, which is not the easiest thing to do, picking up someone

else’s job,’ he says.

Messum left to join HHCL in February after nine years at Saatchis, his

first advertising home after leaving the Liverpool College of Art.

Having spent his formative years at Charlotte Street, he cites several

Saatchis staffers as inspirational to his work.

’Alex Taylor (head of art) has been my mentor. She has really pushed me

- she won’t do anything for you, she makes you do the work. You have to

do it all 20 times,’ he says. Dave Dye (head of art at BMP DDB) and

Steve Dunn (former head of art at Lowe Howard-Spink) are singled out as

two other art directors who continually ’inspire him to do better’.

While a strong advocate of the print medium, Messum believes the nurses

recruitment campaign failed to gain the profile and banner headlines of

the other D&AD award-winning work simply because it was press.

’Press is not perceived to be as glamorous as TV. It is more that than

the subject matter or the client in this case. But it’s also always

difficult with government money - it would have been great if there’d

been more cash so we could have gone on posters and got more exposure

that way,’ he says.

Despite its drawbacks, Messum claims press is his favourite medium. Most

of his other awards have been for press work - he won a silver at D&AD

last year for the Territorial Army (’I’m quite good at this COI stuff,

it seems’), as well as two silvers at the Campaign Press Awards in 1994

for a handful of British Airways ads.

Messum is also looking forward to doing more TV. He is making a

Robinsons spot later this month and is particularly pleased with the

opportunity because it is to be directed by Paul Arden, the man who

hired him at Saatchis.

’He is a major inspiration for me. I’ve always wanted to work with him

as a director,’ he says.

McKenna, Messum’s copywriting partner for his final 18 months at

Saatchis, claims he hasn’t won any awards recently apart from the

’golden guinea-pig at Leipzig’. ’The first thing I won was a Creative

Circle gold at FCB for London Transport but that was years ago,’ he

says. Although D&AD recognised its merits, McKenna claims writing the

nurses campaign was not easy. ’I find it very difficult to write. I

procrastinate. I say I’m going to watch the football from Chile because

it’s really important, then I watch a movie and, before I know it, I

have to ask for more time.

This campaign was hard but I enjoyed it in the end. It was a great

opportunity,’ he says.

McKenna worked alongside Cathy Heng at DMB&B directly before joining

Saatchis more than two years ago, but learned his trade from Andrew

Cracknell, chairman of Ammirati Puris Lintas, who plucked him from the

production department at FCB, where he was a messenger.

’He always made me write copy seven or eight times. He’d send me away

again and again but it was invigorating rather than dispiriting. That’s

what makes a good creative director,’ he says, remarking that he always

remembers Cracknell’s mantra that if you want people to read your copy,

you should have the courtesy to write something well. ’I work on the

premise that people don’t want to read it at all,’ he says, claiming the

advent of the MTV generation has made writing long copy tougher and more

challenging but more disciplined.

McKenna also honed his craft by devouring anything that David Abbott,

Tim Delaney or Tony Brignull did or said, as well as Richard Foster, the

only ’non-Soho House’ man in the D&AD copy book ’who actually talks

about how he writes’.

The seemingly publicity-shy Jones, who has been at Saatchis for the past

nine years and who landed a Campaign Poster Awards silver for the NSPCC

’same father’ execution last October, credits Messum with the total

styling and art direction of the nurses campaign. However, he says he

created three of the executions with McKenna and saw all the work

through with the typographer, Roger Kennedy.

’I was very pleased with it and thought it was very strong - the ideas

and the art direction were excellent - but I never thought it would

necessarily win anything. You can’t really tell,’ he says, with an

admirable dash of modesty.