CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER - TIM MELLORS. Mellors brings colourful career to a close at Grey

Mellors will be recalled for more than his ads, Graham Fink and Glen Mutel report.

A biographer examining the past five years of Tim Mellors' professional life could be easily tricked into thinking him a steady grey-beard who bided his time at respectable agencies before retiring gracefully.

However, Mellors' past five years at Grey London in no way represent a turbulent career characterised by start-ups, break downs, drink, drugs, classic commercials and massive fall-outs.

Last week, Mellors walked out of Grey's Great Portland Street offices for the last time, drawing to a close a career that has spanned more than three decades.

Grey was an unlikely agency for Mellors to have finished up at, especially when you recall his five-year spell at Saatchi & Saatchi 20 years ago. He arrived at Charlotte Street in 1982, having written his way through a handful of agencies, including FCB, Doyle Dane Bernbach, Lintas and French Gold Abbott.

During this period, Saatchis saw the worst of Mellors' appetite for excess, it also profited from some of his best work for British Airways, the Conservative Party and The Independent.

Although he has long since cleaned up his act, Mellors' rollercoaster life hampered his ambitions, preventing him from going into business for himself. In 1987, as his contemporaries were fixing their names above doors, Mellors replaced Gerry Moira, at what was then McCormick-Publicis.

It was around this time that he created the "Abbey endings" commercial featuring Lionel Bart, which, he claimed at the time, was the best thing he'd ever done.

But Mellors' stint at Publicis was also marked by frustration and in 1990 he left the agency to join Gold Greenlees Trott. If replacing Moira at Publicis was a daunting task, then replacing Dave Trott at GGT was a gargantuan one.

Mellors stayed with GGT for four years, teaming up with Graham Fink and working on business such as Red Rock, Holsten Pils and Nurofen. But by 1994, the desire to launch his own agency became too strong to stifle.

In January 1994, a proposed venture with Paul Twivy and John Lloyd fell through. Undeterred by this, Mellors and Carol Reay (with backing from Grey) launched Mellors Reay. Finally, at 49, Mellors had his name above a door.

But while Mellors Reay consistently produced good work and a healthy profit, it neither broke into the big league nor established itself as a hotshop. Four years later, it was folded into Grey and Mellors was installed as the creative chief. Now Mellors has decided to call it quits, leaving behind him some great commercials, a lengthy CV and, as Graham Fink would testify, some great friends.


Tim arrived. Wearing the biggest fedora I had ever seen. White. Matching Yohji Yamamoto mac billowing like a sail. "Hello, Tim." "Eeh, what ya oop to?" The year was 1986. I had come to see Tim for some guidance.

I had never met him but I'd heard the stories. Madman, schizophrenic, guru, genius ... I liked the sound of him. That night he gave me some profound advice.

I wondered why this man agreed to give up time to talk to me. I realised another one of his attributes: kindness. We went our separate ways but kept in touch.

Four years later, we teamed up at GGT. Tim had a reputation for getting his own way. Most people said we wouldn't last more than four weeks. We lasted four years. In that time we only had one row and that was over a piece of music.

Some books claim to change your life. Tim changed mine. He would ask me questions I'd never considered. Challenging. Provoking. Working with him went beyond the ad world.

He has the most insightful vision of anyone I have ever encountered.

I once remember coming out of a client meeting - everyone was pleased because it had gone well. Tim had a different view: "The boogers aren't gonna buy it." He reasoned that when they'd said one thing, what they actually meant was something else. He was proved right.

It used to infuriate me that he had such clear vision. How could he see it when I couldn't? It was as if he had the ability to tap into a higher power, to see the real truth.

I regarded him as a guru. "I'm not a fooking guru," he told me exasperatedly.

He used to tell me he wasn't much good at advertising either. Judging by the six D&AD Pencils he won, he was right. It took some time to get used to a new way of working. Tim didn't have much time for doing lengthy sessions together. "It's old fashioned," he'd say. He hated writing copy.

You had to wait until well past the 11th hour before he'd put his cap on back to front, grab a sheet of paper and scrawl away with a blunt pencil for about five minutes.

It wasn't only me he infected with his clarity and wisdom, but dozens of others. People would pop in to our office to get some work signed off, but leave with something far greater. To this day, I still go and see him for advice. Trouble is, now he'll probably start charging.

- Graham Fink, thefinktank.