To be honest, the sad man running about shrieking ‘kerrching!’, the
incomprehensible ad featuring a car talking in a French accent and the
usual claim and counter-claim as to exactly who created an award-winning
ad were all getting a bit too depressing, when along came Alan Waldie’s
Lowes leaving party to warm the cockles.
I doubt if any of the former editors of this magazine in their long
years in the business ever went to an event born of such genuine
affection for the star turn. Of course, there have been more lavish
affairs, but sometimes one comes away wondering is it affection for the
person or the job title? No-one has much to gain from creeping up to
Alan Waldie these days, at least not on a business level. So you knew
that the 200-plus of the industry’s great and good chanting ‘Waldie,
Waldie’ really meant something - rather like the Chelsea fans’ chant,
‘there’s only one Matthew Harding’.
Campaign’s picture library came to life, and if they weren’t on the
Hamilton Gallery’s guest list, they were on the hilarious video. God
knows what Peter Marsh is on, but I’d like some of it. Frank Lowe said
he was pleased to see that everyone was still alive, to which John
Ritchie replied ‘only just’. You can guess who was there - it was the
Collett Dickenson Pearce/Lowe Howard-Spink axis, on the back of which
the British ad industry’s reputation grew. If this seems strange coming
from someone who frequently accuses today’s industry of being over-
nostalgic, the excuse is that you should commend that which is good. I
never thought I could be star-struck about meeting an adman, but then
Colin Millward turned up.
Waldie is not a one-hit wonder or a cynical advertising shyster. For
more than a quarter of a century he has been involved in the best work
around, from Hamlet to Vauxhall, Heineken to Olympus. Remember
Supasoft’s ‘not tonight Josephine’ and, yes, the Benson and Hedges
To us today the B&H spot can seem over-long and slow, just as the first
Levi’s ads seem archly stylised or Tango too full of the anarchic
fashion it inspired. But these are the seminal TV ads of the past three
decades. Because it’s the oldest, it is harder for many of us to be
aware of the impact B&H had, but it revolutionised advertising art
direction in this country. Waldie did great work on proper grown-up
But it’s not just the work. The man in the blue V-neck sweater with the
extraordinary habit of beginning his sentences at the end, is the most
unassuming adman you could ever meet. Perhaps the only one. The stories
are legion and legendary. Some of them are even true. It doesn’t matter,
his joie de vivre does, and the fact he loves what he does so much.
Waldie. Not the same. The industry. Without him.