'Jingle king' Rod Allen passes away

Adland pays tribute to the Allen Brady & Marsh co-founder and brains behind iconic campaigns such as 'gotta lotta bottle'.

Rod Allen, the co-founder of Allen Brady & Marsh, and the creator of some of the most famous advertising jingles of all time, including R Whites "secret lemonade drinker", has died. Allen passed away on 23 August.

Dubbed one of the "jingle kings of EC4", Allen, who always worked closely with his friend and partner Peter Marsh, was also the creative brains behind campaigns such as "gotta lotta bottle" for milk and the Jimmy Saville-fronted "this is the age of the train" for British Rail.

Unlike some of its more consciously high-brow contemporaries, Allen Brady & Marsh took an unashamedly populist approach, creating straplines such as "Harp stays sharp", and Midland's "the listening bank".

Many of its most famous campaigns, created from the late 70s to the mid-80s, were based around catchy songs that caught the nation's attention, and grabbed the brand's essence in just a few short bars. Most were created on the white grand piano that famously sat in Allen's office.

John Stubbings, a former managing director of ABM, and now a consultant, said: "Because of Allen, the place was an extremely musical one. There were at least two more pianos, beyond his own, at least two trumpets and a banjo in the creative department. He wrote 'em, Peter sung 'em."

Allen, along with Marsh, also took a notoriously quirky approach to pitching, often dressing in white suits and straw hats and singing to prospective clients. And more often than not, the client would buy it.

In 1981, ABM won the British Rail brief (at the time, it was the biggest ad account victory in UK history) after a pitch against its arch-nemesis and rival, Saatchi & Saatchi.

From modest beginnings as a start-up in 1966, ABM grew to become a top-ten UK agency by 1979 (when it was the fastest-growing ad agency in Europe); it became a top-five agency by 1982.

When the agency was sold to Lowe Howard-Spink in 1987, Allen retired to Suffolk and bought a mill.

Gerald Kreinczes, a former planner at the agency, who worked there from the early 70s to the mid-80s, said: "It was the 'Rod and Peter Show'. Rod was the unpretentious man of the people, while Peter was the pretentious man of the people, and clients loved it."

Former alumni from ABM include adland figures such as Cilla Snowball, the chairman and chief executive of AMV Group, Simon Marquis, the former chairman of Zenith-Optimedia, Trevor Beattie, the founder of Beattie McGuinness Bungay, and Dominic Proctor, the global chief executive of MindShare.

Marquis had this to say: "Whatever the brief was, Rod had the wonderful skill of being able to take it, build a creative concept, then encapsulate everything about the brand in a few bars of a jingle."

Allen's funeral will be held near his home on 31 August.


- Peter Marsh partner at ABM: "He had a great sense of humour, an unteachable musical and lyrical gift, and a mind that was based around human observation, attitudes and behaviour. He always said to me: 'I'll come to your funeral if you come to mine.'"

- Cilla Snowball chairman and chief executive of AMV Group: "Rod cracked jokes constantly. It made Peter laugh. It relaxed everyone and built up our confidence. He set the tone. He provided the showmanship and Peter the salesmanship. It was pure showbiz."