The A List: What adland spends its money on

The media elite still embrace conspicuous consumption - cars, yachts, Tuscan villas - but spend most of their money on their families. Magnums of Champagne, Breitling watches and driveways full of Aston Martins. These are the sybaritic fruits of success you would expect to hear about when asking members of the media elite what they consider to be their greatest personal extravagances.

Yet away from the enduring image of foie gras and Ferraris, all indications suggest today's advertising high society is slightly less self-indulgent than yesterday's. When adland's finest are asked what they spend their hard-earned cash on, it seems art or rural follies are not bleeding their wallets dry. Children are the A Listers' real extravagance - twins, school fees and ponies make repeated appearances in this year's entries.

Or did we speak too soon? Hot on the heels of family values are trips abroad. Gary Duckworth from Paths with Heart cites his "regular round-the-world holidays, especially (to) Australia, business class". And MediaCom's Steve Goodman spent three months travelling the world with his wife this year.

Skiing is also a favourite, although exactly where remains a well-kept secret. However, a reasonable assumption might be that the advertising elite heads for Chamonix rather than the Cairngorms.

In third place, it's men and motors. Like a scene from The Fast and the Furious, we find a range of outrageously expensive and absurdly fast wheels on the driveways of this media circle. This includes the odd Ducati 900 Monster, Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes 500 CL, Chevy Nomad and Porsche. Jim Kelly of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/ Y&R admits "owning more than one Porsche" is his particular extravagance.

When the A Listers get the chance to drive these beasts with all the boozing they do is a mystery. Our Gallic cousins across the Channel will be peering gloomily into their vin de pays when they get wind of the drinking habits of this year's A List. Their national pride will no doubt be dented by the horrible prospect of Britain, once considered the gastronomic dunce of Europe, marching ahead. The media luminaries are veritable vin connoisseurs and clearly know their stuff. Bottles of Pichon Longueville, Chateauneuf du Pape or Leoville Barton claret are the thing, all carefully selected from their own wine cellars, of course, and enjoyed with a Cuban cigar.

And what of those cellars? The A Listers' property portfolios include houses in Chelsea, cottages in Cornwall, villas in the South of France and Tuscany, ranches in Arizona, apartments in New York's Dakota Building, beach houses on Long Island ... Can they remember where they are living at any one time?

Sailing is another favourite pastime and exponents include Phil Andrews of Partners Andrews Aldridge, Paul Bainsfair of TBWA , Andy Cheetham of Cheetham Bell JWT and Hall & Partners' Marilyn Baxter, who is the proud owner of a Sparkman & Stephens Swan 44.

With their fast cars, yachts and multiples residences, A Listers are the personification of consumption and excess. But to get ahead in media, you have to look good, particularly if you are a woman. Footwear is particularly important.

Shoe fetishists crop up everywhere from Sally Cartwright of Hello!, to Grey's Nicola Mendelsohn, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's Farah Ramzan - who houses her collection in cherry wood and etched glass cupboards - and even, er, Lowe's Adrian Holmes. He admits: "English-made brogue shoes. I lost control over my purchasing habit years ago and the collection could now be described as positively Marcosian in its sheer scale and ambition." Several men even mention their wives' expensive shoe habits.

And it's not just shoes on their shopping lists, a fascination with gadgets exists among this crowd of early adopters. "Gadgets. I can't stop buying them," The Ingram Partnership's Ivan Pollard says. There are mentions of home cinema systems, a multifunction mountaineering watch and a Leica M7 camera with F2 28MM aspheric lens.

But it is at the bottom of the table, in the small print, that we unearth some home truths. Narrowly missing a position in the A Listers' top ten extravagances are multiple marriages and divorce settlements. Expensive indeed.

Position Extravagance Votes

1 Family 29

2 Holidays 25

3 Cars 22

4 Wine 21

5 Property 18

6 Taxis/travel 10

7= Boats 6

7= Food 6

9 Shoes 5

10 Gadgets 4


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