INTERNATIONAL: Creative chief plans to use New York base to revitalise Bates - THE DECISION MAKERS/JOHN FAWCETT/Karen Yates looks at why Michael Bungey was so keen to persuade John Fawcett to work in America

It took Michael Bungey, the chairman of Bates Worldwide, two years to persuade John Fawcett to become the network’s global creative director.

It took Michael Bungey, the chairman of Bates Worldwide, two years

to persuade John Fawcett to become the network’s global creative


But then Fawcett was enjoying one of the best lifestyles on the


If Ted Bates himself had been running Australia’s biggest agency, living

on a perfect beach surrounded by emerald-draped cliffs, there may not

have been a Bates network at all.

But Fawcett has been won over by the dubious charms of New York in


He succumbed to a triple lure, he says, the first two job-related and

the third, personal. Like many Australians, Fawcett must move to play on

the world stage and, in his case, he will also get the bonus of

following in the footsteps of Bill Backer, one of advertising’s

legendary figures and the last person to have global responsibility for

creative at Bates.

The third reason for Fawcett’s move, ironically, was to see more of his

wife. Anna is producer to one of Australia’s leading commercials

directors, David Denneen, and spends a good proportion of her time in

the US. So, with Fawcett away a lot himself, neither Fawcett A. nor

Fawcett J. got to see much of their home on Sydney’s fairytale northern


Now the time is right, Fawcett says, to hit the nerve centre of


There is, he enthuses in a low-key Aussie way, much more energy about

the network now it has sloughed off its big sister, Saatchi &


And his job will be to take that energy and mould it into something

bigger and better. Unsaid is quite what he will be doing all this

moulding for.

The right merger? The right bidder? Or just to make Bates better? In any

event, Fawcett has been hatching plans during a grand tour of world


’I’ve got to work out how to raise standards, especially in those areas

that fall behind. Our creative may be good, but our ability to adapt it

to brands is not so good,’ he explains, showing unexpected candour.

’One of my priorities is to find out where the real talent is and then

form the best teams to use it as a resource for new global business

pitches and global campaigns.’

As well as offering a good arena for such fighting global talk,

Fawcett’s new job gives him the chance to ditch his city garb and move

back to being a full-time creative. Older photos show Fawcett looking

every inch the agency chairman, from cropped hair cut to sober suit. Now

the clothes are relaxed and the hair long enough for a discreet pony

tail, should one be desired.

Fawcett began working in advertising in the late 60s, after an education

at Brisbane’s best school which, he says, was a ’perfect preparation for

life in the 12th century’. His unparalleled knowledge of French, Latin

and ancient Greek, he adds, tongue-in-cheek, was a good background for

becoming a typographer, so that’s what he did. First in Brisbane, then

in Australia’s advertising Mecca, Sydney. Here he switched to

copywriting before setting off on a globetrotting trip. Hong Kong and,

more particularly, Leo Burnett, fostered the Fawcett skills for a year

or two, followed by Singapore and then the UK.

Here, a life of writing science fiction novels nearly claimed him but,

fortunately perhaps for the advertising community, he failed to sell


He returned to his homeland, first to J. Walter Thompson and then


There, he rose through the ranks to become its Australian chairman. In

addition, Fawcett took more and more responsibility on Bates’ worldwide

creative board, putting another chairman’s role under his belt. It was

around this point that Bungey found the 48-year-old ad veteran and began

his - now successful - courtship to lure him to New York.



Joined Australia’s largest advertising agency, George Patterson Bates,

in Brisbane as a typographer


Moved to the network’s flagship office in Sydney as a copywriter


Leo Burnett, Hong Kong


Joins J. Walter Thompson, Sydney

Late 1970s

Rejoined George Patterson Bates


Climbs up creative ranks, takes on a regional role in the Bates network,

especially on its worldwide creative board


Chairman of George Patterson Bates Australia


Bates Worldwide creative director


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