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.