NEWSMAKER/PAT DOHERTY: Quiet talent sees BBH job as a logical career move - Pat Doherty has long been in John Hegarty’s thoughts. Emma Hall discovers why

Patricia Doherty is a conscientious Catholic girl. But that is now.

Patricia Doherty is a conscientious Catholic girl. But that is


In the past, she was nearly a Playboy Bunny and was fired from her first

job for wearing short skirts.

Now John Hegarty has appointed her as one of only two creative directors

at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, effectively selecting her as a potential

successor at one of the best creative departments in London (Campaign,

last week).

So how did Doherty, currently a senior copywriter at Abbott Mead Vickers

BBDO, build the reputation that makes such a move seem both appropriate

and obvious? The short answer is Alka Seltzer. By winning gongs at D&AD,

the British Television Advertising Awards, Cannes and Kinsale, the

’lifeboat’ commercial (which she created with her art director, Greg

Martin) put Doherty and her work in the limelight.

The longer answer takes us back to the Playboy Club in Manchester. After

a convent education in Withington and a degree in English and French

from Manchester University, Doherty decided advertising would suit her

and set about finding a way to pay for a year’s study at Watford


She got an interview at the Playboy Club but, when her mother found out,

she forbade her daughter from going on the grounds that she would never

get a proper job with ’Playboy Bunny’ on her CV.

Of course, in adland, it could only have been a plus, but Doherty didn’t

need to rely on a saucy CV and, instead, started off at a now-defunct

outfit in London - ’the sort of place where you were expected to come up

with six radio ads in half an hour’.

Doherty says: ’Advertising sounded just right for me - it must have said

’suitable if you’re neurotic’ or something.’ But Doherty actually

appears more level-headed than the average creative. Some bend over

backwards for an interview with Campaign; while others issue impossible

demands about people, places, and photographers. Doherty, however, can’t

see me because she has got the flu and that’s that. She is not being

evasive - just bluntly honest and totally unapologetic.

Creative staff at BBH should prepare themselves for the same


Mark Denton, now a director at Godman, was Doherty’s art director for

six months at Leo Burnett. He says: ’She can be blunt and she doesn’t

pull any punches, but she is always charming and will give you lots of

praise if she likes something.’

Doherty left Burnetts for Saatchi & Saatchi, flattered at being

headhunted by what was then the sexiest agency in London. Paul Arden,

now a director with his own production company, Arden Sutherland-Dodd,

was Doherty’s boss and remembers her as a quiet and practical member of

the creative department. ’She’s always been pretty,’ he says, ’but she

was very modest and unsure of herself and had a lot more talent than she

let on. She’s not pushy: you have to discover her.’

To start with at Saatchis, Doherty was given mostly Procter & Gamble

briefs - ’I did a lot of work on foreign sanitary towels,’ she


Her big break came mid-1988 when she landed a prize British Rail brief

and responded with the award-winning ’Gary Glitter’ poster.

From then on, Doherty did a series of successful ads for clients

including British Rail and the Conservative Party, before hitting the

jackpot with the ’Stephen Hawking’ spot for BT. Like the Alka Seltzer ad

four years later, the BT commercial propelled her into her next career

move to Still Price Lintas. Not the best decision she ever made - ’it

was a time of upheaval and it was unstructured’ - and she lasted just

nine months as a group head there.

She moved swiftly on to Abbott Mead in July 1994, where she teamed up

with Kiki Kendrick. But the chemistry wasn’t right and the two women had

a traumatic split after what Doherty calls a ’clash of


Doherty settled with Greg Martin instead, and the two created the

ubiquitous ’change the script’ poster campaign for Pepsi’s relaunch last

year. Doherty was a juror at the 1996 Cannes Advertising Festival, where

she fulfilled her duties admirably but was conspicuous by her absence

along the Croisette at 4am, and was once heard muttering that she

fancied a pie for her dinner as she retired to her room at a reasonable


The convent girl still worries about sounding like a ’goody goody’.

Doherty is married to someone who works in advertising, but would prefer

not to go into details because ’we’ll sound like the Swiss Family


Peter Souter, the creative director of Abbott Mead, says: ’This

department is empty until 10am and Pat isn’t one to work weekends.’

Instead, she may be in Maida Vale brushing up on her Grade 8 piano - she

has just bought a grand and is determined to expand her repertoire which

has shrunk since her schooldays.

Can she be so relaxed at BBH? The agency is renowned for its tough


’You have got to stretch yourself. I know I am doing the right thing,’

Doherty says. ’I am a logical person and I always have an opinion. After

15 years I know a bit about advertising and I like it - it’s a fantastic

job because you never know what’s around the corner.’

Hegarty says he has had Doherty in his sights for many years, and Souter

certainly sends her off with a glowing reference: ’You go in to see Pat

with your brain sharpened. All creative people are badly wired but she

is exceptionally good at making those odd connections.’