This week’s letters illustrate both the power of the wonderful spirit
forged at what’s become the near-mythical Still Price Court Twivy
D’Souza in the 80s, and the ad industry’s knee-jerk negative response to
anyone who dares raise questions.
There is no doubt Paul Twivy himself has won business (what does
‘singlehanded’ mean?). No-one doubts that he can be an inspirational
leader - the letters all these years later prove it.
As I said two weeks ago in what I thought was a largely supportive
piece, there is also no doubt Twivy is one of the outstanding talents of
his day. He has achieved more than most in the business.
But, surely it is legitimate to raise questions about someone who has
had controversial exits from three major agencies, particularly when
we’re party to the fanfares that accompany his arrivals? Yes, the people
who hire him have many questions to answer. But isn’t this all about
trying to force a round peg into a square hole?
Those letters were not from senior managers at J. Walter Thompson, Bates
or the Lintas side of the Still Price merger. They were from a group of
people who prospered in those far-off, heady days in a classic small,
sexy start-up. They became famous first for a silly name; then some
excellent work: Red Mountain, Ragu, Mates; and finally, when their star
began to waver, for an ambitious merger about whose prospects many
expressed grave misgivings. They cashed in at the right time, Chris
Still winning them a very favourable deal from a desperate Lintas.
Mike Court, the creative director, saw the writing on the wall - unlike
his (many) successors (Andrew Cracknell excepted), he did not bang a
drum about ‘sorting out’ Unilever’s creative work. Perhaps Unilever, and
other multinationals around town don’t want ‘sorting out’. Perhaps they
are with the McCanns, Lintas’s and JWTs of this world for different,
equally valid, reasons.
When they do have a desperate problem on a given brand in a local
market, perhaps it’s not these agencies they try, but a local hotshop
like Bartle Bogle Hegarty, now picking up business from the merged Still
Price in the same way the old Still Price doo-dah won it off Lintas.
It’s not that big agencies aren’t capable of great work - every major
agency in London is. It’s just that often the client wants the
‘ambassador’s party’, and often, the ambassador’s party works.
Of course ‘it works’ is the oldest cop-out in the book, and people are
right to try to make ‘it’ better. But whose agenda are they really
working to? Their clients’? Or an understandable personal need to be
happy taking the filthy multinational lucre? If you want to be a sexy
start-up, step one is, um, to start up. And good luck to you.