As an excitable Stuart Kendall, then creative director of Lintas i,
presents his script for the Rover 200 launch, Les Knight, Rover’s
marketing communications manager, starts grinning nervously. As Stuart
unveils his ‘stunning’ script (that’s its title, not my description) -
bungee-jumper plunging through the open sun-roof to admire the 200’s
dashboard and trim - the grin gets broader. Was he sweating? He was
moments later, when Kendall invited him to picture the new Rover through
the eyes of an animated family of moles.
Reader, beware letting TV cameras into your place of work. When Rover
met BMW is a fascinating BBC documentary series about the recent
takeover. Episode two next Tuesday is about advertising. It is quite
simply the most revealing fly-on-the-wall programme about the business
ever. A voiceover tells us what we already knew: ‘Rover is worried about
‘stunning’. Without telling Stuart, it has been briefing another
creative team at the same agency to come up with an alternative.’ Cut to
Nick Welch and Billy Mawhinney prodding and poking a Rover, before Welch
presents Rod Ramsey, Rover’s marketing director, with the script that
became ‘an Englishman in New York’. We all like the idea largely because
we have just heard a very clear brief to ‘demonstrate Rover’s
Englishness’. What was Kendall’s brief? ‘Perhaps, be a bit different’.
Small wonder he’s bitter, having then lost his job in the Lintas
takeover. He shows us his ‘good luck’ leaving cards from senior Rover
personnel with startling sarcasm, and then goes on to criticise his
‘strategists’. We’d feel sorry for him if we hadn’t all just seen shots
of his huge pile in the Northamptonshire countryside.
Could you ever feel sorry for ‘millionaire’ Robin Wight? First seen in
his lovely mews home putting on his bow tie and lime-green corduroy
suit, Robin, Rover’s new ad consultant, jumps into a fat BMW to go off
and tell the then Rover chief executive, John Towers, about Rover’s
‘brand schizophrenia’. Rover ads, Robin says, should be more consistent,
like...well, like BMW ads (of course). And, by the way, the Rover name
should be changed. Towers looks shell-shocked. There is delicious
interplay between shots of Robin in full, magnificent flow and an
engineer in overalls on Rover’s board. No comment required.
The episode ends with the shoot in New York. This is where behind-the-
scenes crucifies the ad world. Why, the viewer asks, are there 500
people on the shoot? Why do they use those plastic actors? And why do
they need 40 shirts and 60 ties for one man? Why indeed.
Nick and Billy emerge as well as can be expected. Viewers will think
Robin’s a rich wally - but he talks some good sense - but we will all
remember a bitter Stuart Kendall. The lesson is simple: where’s the