Red Ferraris were a big symbol of success in 1980s and 1990s adland.
AMV’s Michael Baulk led the way, with cream suits to match the interior. Fellow AMV-er Andrew Robertson caught the bug, with red braces to match. Mike Potter of Redwood first introduced himself to me by announcing that he had five.
Occasionally, Andrew would give me a lift home because we both lived in Barnes. My young sons would watch in awe from the bedroom window as he dropped me off, wondering whether their mum would ever be good enough to get a Ferrari, too.
On one occasion in 1997, their wish was granted. Andrew was managing director and I was his deputy. He had to go to a weekend do with our Volvo clients, so we swapped cars. He took my sensible Volvo estate with child seats and I had his red Ferrari.
It was all I could do to get the damn thing home from Marylebone on the Friday night. Ferrari seats are horizontal so you drive in a lying position, a bit like you’re on a sunbed or getting your legs waxed.
It was virtually impossible to drive, ridiculously noisy and everyone stared at you. It was so traumatic to get the car home I left it outside the house, unable to move it all weekend.
The Volvo did the trick for him, of course, and the clients were impressed.
In the words of the fire brigade chief, 'some prat had parked a Ferrari on the heat sensor
There were all sorts of other unintended Ferrari consequences. Michael once stopped a member of staff in Sussex Gardens in his Ferrari, to offer her a lift home. She didn’t recognise him or the car and, thinking he was a kerb crawler, told him to "piss off".
The same red Ferrari would get so overheated it frequently set off the fire alarms in the basement car park at 151 Marylebone Road. The entire agency had to be evacuated on to the street, traffic would grind to a halt as the fire brigade investigated and, on one occasion, the Flying Eye reported it as a traffic incident, only to discover that, in the words of the fire brigade chief, "some prat had parked a Ferrari on the heat sensor".
We had a cramped car park, too, and with reversing never my strong point, it always caused headaches. One traumatic day, Michael and I drove in at the same time. He hadn’t left me enough space to manoeuvre my car. Sensing danger, he leaped out of his car to mansplain me into the space. But my music was on too loud and I crunched into his precious Ferrari. He watched me do it in slo-mo. Career suicide. It took weeks to repair and cost a fortune.
Years later, deep in recession, we decided to axe our company-car policy. By then, it was pretty vulgar to be seen driving a Ferrari in the circumstances, or so I thought. Asking Michael to part with his beloved Ferrari was the most profoundly unsuccessful negotiation of my career.
Cilla Snowball was deputy managing director of Abbott Mead Vickers in the 1980s and 1990s; she is now group chief executive of AMV BBDO