When I got back from art school in New York, I was 23 and a junior copywriter with a book full of roughs.
I didn’t know anything about UK advertising, and I wasn’t really interested in hearing a lot of other people’s opinions about my work.
I didn’t want to trudge round getting book crits, being told no on a daily basis.
I just needed to know who liked my work and would employ me, in the fastest time possible.
I was living in east London with my mum and dad – I needed a job.
One of my mates worked as a clerk in a bank at St Paul’s – he helped me get a job as a messenger.
The other messengers helped me hijack the bank’s Xerox machine and mail system, and I sent out 50 copies of my portfolio to the first 50 names in the Yellow Pages.
Thirty people didn’t even bother replying.
Eighteen replied that they didn’t like my work but come in and they’d tell me what was wrong.
Two people offered me jobs: John Webster and Peter Mayle.
That meant I found out within a week who wanted me, without spending a penny on Tube fares.
Normally that process would have taken me at least a couple of months and cost a fortune.
I knew most UK agencies wouldn’t like my work.
I had trained and worked in New York, which is much more hard-sell than the UK.
So, all I had to do was find who wanted something different to the mainstream.
What I found was 48 people wanted the usual stuff – two people wanted something unusual. QED.
I had met Len Weinreich, so I asked him which job he thought I should take.
Len said: "They’re both good agencies, but BBDO – where Peter works – is a print agency and BMP – where John works – is a TV agency."
I said: "Well, my book is totally print roughs, so I guess I should go to BBDO and do print ads."
Len said: "I wouldn’t be so quick – think about it. You’re just a junior. If you go to the print agency, all the heavyweights will get all the good press briefs before you do – all you’ll get is the crumbs.
"But if you go to the TV agency, all the heavyweights will want to do TV. No-one will want to do print – you’ll get all the press briefs you want."
It was the opposite of what conventional wisdom would have said, but it made sense.
So, I took Len’s advice and went as a junior copywriter to BMP under John – sure enough, I got all the press briefs I could handle.
Then, in the evenings, I’d go and pinch the TV briefs off the heavyweights’ desks after they had gone to the pub.
Then I’d sell the scripts to the account men before the heavyweights got in, in the morning.
It didn’t make me any friends, but I wasn’t there to make friends – I was there to get as much work as possible out as fast as possible.
I wasn’t any good at TV, so most of what I wrote was bad – I had to learn.
But I was good at press, so I would usually get a couple of ads into D&AD, which helped.
I wasn’t there to make friends – I was there to get as much work as possible out as fast as possible
I got as much press as I could handle, plus I got 10 years’ training on TV by John, the best TV advertising writer this country’s ever had.
I never meant to stay there so long, but every time I tried to leave I realised John was in a different league to me and there was still so much to learn from him.
So, I carried on learning and learning.
I never got anywhere near as good as John, of course – that wasn’t possible.
But I did get light years better than I would have without John’s training.
And, most importantly, I learned the benefits of not doing what conventional wisdom says you should do.
The benefits of going against the herd.
None of which would have happened if Len hadn’t given me that advice.
Dave Trott was a junior copywriter at Boase Massimi Pollitt