INTERNATIONAL: THE DECISION MAKERS/BOB ISHERWOOD - The Aussie charged with maintaining Saatchi’s standards/Karen Yates meets the man who left Australia to make a mark on UK advertising and then returned

Most people have heard of Bob Isherwood. ’Ah yes. He’s the Aussie ... no, Pommie ... left Colletts to go to ... er ... now he’s the worldwide thingummybob at Saatchis.’ And there it stops.

Most people have heard of Bob Isherwood. ’Ah yes. He’s the

Aussie ... no, Pommie ... left Colletts to go to ... er ... now he’s the

worldwide thingummybob at Saatchis.’ And there it stops.

You see, although many of us remember the Hovis commercial in which a

postman befriends a runaway boy - and some of us know that Isherwood was

behind it - hardly anybody could tell you what he, and other worldwide

creative directors, actually do for a living. Except, that is, collect

frequent-flyer points.

Isherwood, with typical meticulousness, has already prepared a list.

Broadly speaking, the items on it fall into three groups. The first is

Toyota, a global account for which Isherwood obviously has a lot of


The second is a diverse bag of tricks covered by the term ’global

initiatives’, and the third is what all worldwide creative directors say

when asked about ’raising and maintaining standards’.

Isherwood talks about the need to have a ’real partnership’ with his

chief executive, Kevin Roberts (Isherwood was one of the people who

persuaded him to join Saatchi & Saatchi in the first place). There’s

also some chat about the kind of tools that networks use to encourage

creativity and promote their brand.

While he is explaining his role, there is time to step back and take

stock of the Isherwood persona. He definitely has something quite

powerful about him - one of those rare people who seem to make a vast

impact without taking up much space, or making much noise. He’s also the

only 56-year-old who could possibly get away with waxing his hair. In


In fact, he looks every inch the 90s creative director. Dressed in a

floppy-fit black and white number, and talking in calm,

Melbourne-meets-mid-Atlantic tones, you can visualise him in most of the

world’s capitals.

Which is just as well, since he spent the majority of last year on the


Now the proud owner of five acres and some horses just outside Sydney,

Isherwood was born and grew up in a tough suburb of Melbourne. School

was a painful, bully-filled grind (so much so that 30 years later he

turned down a job just because the office overlooked his old school), so

Isherwood quit education at the age of 13 and became, in his own words,

’the worst motor mechanic in the world’. Luckily for the development of

the internal combustion engine, however, after a few years he wangled

his way into art college at the suggestion of a mate who was a designer.

And thus set up in his chosen profession, the young Isherwood set sail

for the UK.

Ambitious but not really that clued-up, Isherwood arrived in London,

looked under ’A’ for advertising in the Yellow Pages, and found a job as

a graphic designer. This was followed by a stint at Young & Rubicam as

an art director, before the ambitious Isherwood came to the notice of

Tony Brignull. Brignull hired him and Isherwood was set on a path that

would see his name become synonymous with the heyday of Collett

Dickenson Pearce.

So why leave? Well, in fact, he didn’t. Not for 12 years, anyway. CDP

became what Isherwood calls his ’spiritual home’ until he got the call

from his old country. I say call. One was literal - a telephone

conversation offering him a stake in the Campaign Palace, Australia’s

hottest hotshop.

And the other was a desire to return to Australia, which, he says, had

changed out of all recognition while he’d been away.

From the Campaign Palace, Isherwood moved on to Saatchis in Sydney, and

from there went up the regional ranks until 1996 when he became the

network’s worldwide creative director, and now spends his

time ... er ... well ... he spends a lot of time on a plane.


Leaves school in Melbourne at 13 to become the ’worst motor mechanic in

the world’

Works as a graphic designer in London.

Moves to Young & Rubicam as an art director

Joins Tony Brignull at Collet Dickenson Pearce. Stays 12 years, and

produces famous work for Stella Artois and Hovis among others

Returns to Australia at the Campaign Palace in Sydney

Moves to Saatchis Sydney

Becomes chairman of Saatchis worldwide creative board

Becomes worldwide creative director of Saatchis.