The A List: How adland unwinds

Would you employ someone who unwinds by sniffing pencils or talking like a pirate? Brace yourself, here's how media's elite relax. One of the Campaign A Listers' questionnaires stands out. Under "how do you unwind", it says: "Copious sex and/or cinema (not at the same time)."

If jobs in the industry were what this successful and wealthy man still needed (since you ask, it's Jonathan Durden), he would have people queuing up to hire him. Such honesty is rare in media.

Indeed, it's on a par with Sir Martin Sorrell's "Don't" answer to the same question.

In setting down on paper what we all secretly know to be the single best way of unwinding after a tough day in media Durden showed perseverance, motivation, dedication to physical fitness and a sense of fun - traits that any employer would be happy to accommodate and that have taken his agency to the very top of the tree.

Sadly, however, his was not the view of most of our A Listers. Odd methods of unwinding come way down the list after sport (at number one), family (in second place), wine/beer (third), watching sport (fourth), reading (fifth), cooking and music (equal sixth).

Perhaps our A Listers had read those surveys on which hobbies to go public on. Indeed, it's known that what you tell an employer about how you unwind is essential in determining whether or not you get an interview.

Odd hobbies - such as Samurai sword collecting, glamour photography or snail breeding - can frighten employers off. Bland hobbies are damaging too - particularly if they involve drinking. Success depends on a healthy mix of interests including voluntary work and, of course, team sports.

Fair enough, but aren't these depressingly unimaginative ways of unwinding?

Perhaps, but they are typical. Wander around any office asking people to state their hobbies and you get cinema, reading, hiking, music, golf - well, the same things would crop up again and again and suddenly your stimulating, attractive, idiosyncratic colleagues would seem like much of a muchness.

Delve deeper into the entries and The A List offers conclusive proof that there is no link between a weird person and a weird hobby. The man with the single oddest method of unwinding - Glue's Mark Cridge who relaxes by "talking like a pirate" - is the straightforward founder of one of the UK's most admired digital agencies. He does look about 12, though, so perhaps memories of the dressing-up box linger.

Leo Burnett's creative director, Jim thornton, confesses to a weird method of unwinding too - reflecting a stressful commute to the office. He pays his children to read him passages of Shakespeare while walking on the South Downs.

Some people make their methods of unwinding sound far more interesting by juxtaposition. Tess Alps of PHD likes to pod broad beans ... while listening to Bach. This reveals her to be a domestic goddess and an intellectual to boot - a masterstroke of media positioning worthy of the agency that does just that for Channel 4 and The Guardian.

The real difficulty with these lists is, of course, that, with the exception of Durden, few people state their real methods of unwinding. On a form, I'd almost certainly state theatre is an interest, but in real life my hobbies are running, inane gossip with friends, drinking too much wine, and tickling my baby's feet until he giggles - three of which I'd never list on a form.

For next year's A Listers, or anyone in the nightmare position of having to tell nosey journalists how you unwind, the advice is obvious. Be brief, honest and bold. And if you have nothing to prove, having been on the board of a FTSE 100 company, or are between jobs, do not worry if you enjoy cutting grass (Jeremy Bullmore) or sniffing pencils in Green and Stone on the Kings Road (Harry MacAuslan, soon to join Leo Burnett).

Celebrate your freedom.

Finally, all this unwinding is all very well. But remember, two of the most famous A Listers in these pages - Sir Martin Sorrell and Maurice Levy of Publicis Groupe - claim they never unwind. Aspiring A Listers, you have been warned.

Position Activity Votes

1 Sport 73

2 Family 49

3 Wine/beer 18

4 Watching sport 16

5 Reading 15

6= Cooking 14

6= Music 14

8 Gardening 11

9 Holiday 7

10 Films 5


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