My campaign: How a phone call defined Helen Calcraft's career
A view from Helen Calcraft

My campaign: How a phone call defined Helen Calcraft's career

What started out as a potential prank call turned into career-defining work for Hovis and a second agency start-up for Helen Calcraft.

I’ve had plenty of turning points in my career, some good, some bad. 

But the one that really stands out is the day I met Hovis’ new marketing director, Jon Goldstone. It was 10 years ago and was the day my partnership with Danny Brooke-Taylor and Andy Nairn was forged.

It was a regular Tuesday at MCBD and Danny, who had just joined the agency, was hosting bacon butties for the creative department. Andy was slaving over the government’s anti-smoking brief. My mobile rang. "Hello, is this Helen Calcraft? You don’t know me but I am wondering if you are free this afternoon to come to Windsor and talk about Hovis?"

Honestly, I thought it was some kind of joke. Yes, we were on the Premier Foods roster, but the account had literally just been awarded to a rival agency. 

Danny, Andy and I jumped on a train but we didn’t take the meeting very seriously. I confess that, between us, we didn’t even take a pad or a pen. We sat in a tiny room littered with the remains of someone else’s lunch, with a clearly very exercised Mr Goldstone. He very quietly (but with great determination) painted a picture of a burning bridge. "This is one of Britain’s best-loved brands. It has been part of the fabric of Britain for 122 years. But we have ignored it, milked it, traded it, diminished it. And now its very existence is under threat. It is going to be delisted from Tesco and possibly Sainsbury’s. This will not do. I want you to save this brand. I want it to be important. I want the ad of the year."

We didn't just give him the ad of the year. We gave him the ad of the decade

We were stunned. Danny gingerly asked to borrow a pen and wrote those last three declarations down on a used napkin. (He still has that napkin.) 

With the help of a brilliant young creative team (Danny and Gav), we went back and presented the story of a little boy who is sent out by his "mam" to buy a loaf of bread and runs home through 122 years of British history. It was a belter. 

We didn’t just give Jon the ad of the year. We gave him the ad of the decade, as voted by the British public. And from that day forward, we knew that we three were much better together than we had ever been – or would ever be – apart. It’s why we started Lucky Generals.

Helen Calcraft was managing director of Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy and is a founding partner of Lucky Generals