NEWSMAKERS/MALCOLM GASKIN AND JOHN KELLEY: Top creatives preparing for O&M’s Ford challenge. Malcolm Gaskin and John Kelley are optimistic about the job. By Michele Martin

January was not the best of months for the Ford team at Ogilvy & Mather. As rumours of a pitch for the launch of the Focus flew over Canary Wharf, Leon Jaume and Billy Mawhinney resigned.

January was not the best of months for the Ford team at Ogilvy &

Mather. As rumours of a pitch for the launch of the Focus flew over

Canary Wharf, Leon Jaume and Billy Mawhinney resigned.

On hearing his two Ford creative heads were leaving, the executive

creative director, Patrick Collister, did the only thing open to him and

’ricocheted off the walls’.

But advertising is nothing if not cyclical and, four months later,

things have stabilised on one of O&M’s biggest accounts. The Focus pitch

may still be in the balance but the agency is feeling bullish enough to

replace Jaume and Mawhinney with two of the most experienced creatives

in the business. Enter John Kelley as creative director of Ford of

Europe and Malcolm Gaskin as executive creative director of Ford of

Britain. Between them they have eight D&AD silvers (Gaskin has three,

Kelley five) and have been responsible for some of the best-known ads in

British advertising (Campaign, last week).

Running such a huge slab of business as Ford might once have been seen

as creative death for a writer or art director. But the story of Ford’s

creative improvement in the past three years has bolstered reputations

rather than made them stagnate. After two years overseeing the pounds 76

million account, Jaume and Mawhinney saw such a renaissance in the

perception of their careers that they were poached for the creative

directorships of WCRS and Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper respectively.

Now it is Gaskin’s and Kelley’s turn to hope Ford will work a similar

spell for them after what has been a mixed period for both. For Gaskin,

the demise in 1995 of what he describes as a ’knackered’ Woollams Moira

Gaskin O’Malley - the agency he helped launch in 1987 - left him bemused

and, desperate to opt out of office politics altogether, he freelanced

for three years. For Kelley, a more-or-less forced resignation from the

top job at Publicis in 1995 was followed by a joint creative

directorship of TBWA, which he left by mutual agreement after the merger

with Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson. Since then he has

freelanced and has been at Leo Burnett for three months.

Neither is naive about what they are stepping in to. Both Gaskin and

Kelley agree Ford is not an easy account to work on - with the sister

roster agency, Young & Rubicam, breathing down O&M’s neck and a

catalogue of work that could still be better - despite great

improvements. But they are taking over the reins on a piece of business

that has become more user-friendly in recent years, largely thanks to

Ford’s increasing commitment to buying good work and the quiet support

of Collister in one of adland’s less bitchy creative departments.

Perhaps with this in mind, both seem optimistic about their tasks. ’It’s

a challenge but all challenges are opportunities and what’s the point of

going somewhere to oil a well-oiled machine?’ Gaskin says. ’Since

Patrick’s taken over, the quality of Ford’s ideas has been much stronger

and I want to push that lateral way of looking at things,’ Kelley


Both men have briefs to work alongside each other under Collister, with

Gaskin running the UK and Kelley overseeing international campaigns and

helping to develop work for less well-resourced markets such as Eastern

Europe. Their arrival coincides with other changes on the account, with

five extra creatives assigned to Ford Europe’s eight-strong London

creative team and the arrival of the client services director and Ford

account head, Daryl Fielding. Even though Gaskin has been freelancing at

the agency for three months, it may take some time for everything to

settle into place. Kelley, in particular, is taking on a job that has

been only loosely defined, having been part of Collister’s job

description for the past year.

Although neither will be working in each other’s pockets, there seems to

be a superficial similarity of approach which should make them a

successful team where their roles overlap. Both are described as ’nice

blokes’ and are credited with an ability to foster new talent. They seem

to be well liked by their contemporaries and junior staff alike. While

at TBWA, one of Kelley’s young creatives made him a ’John Kelley

survival kit’ containing a biro and a plastic cup in homage to the two

items his boss was never without. Gaskin, meanwhile, is known for

bar-room stunts such as swallowing whole eggs and full ashtrays.

’I’d have got John in to steady the ship at Ford. He’s a big fella,’

GGT’s creative director, Trevor Beattie, who hired Kelley originally at

TBWA, comments. ’Gas is a great team motivator and he inspires enormous

loyalty from people who work with him. That’s possibly why they’ve

picked him for the job,’ Neil Patterson, now the creative partner of

Mitchell Patterson Grime Mitchell and Gaskin’s former partner, says.

Both men have a wealth of experience with CVs that read like wish-lists

to younger creatives. Gaskin, a ’boyish 47’, started life as an art

director at Leo Burnett between 1973 and 1977, where he created

Perrier’s ’eau’ campaign before moving to TBWA. While there - between

1977 and 1987 - he created famous campaigns for Land Rover featuring a

vehicle reversing uphill and an early Aids awareness campaign featuring

a tombstone and the legend: ’Don’t die of ignorance.’ He picked up D&AD

silvers for Lego and a nursing campaign as well as numerous gold Clios,

Creative Circle and Campaign Press awards for Land Rover.

On the back of his run of success he started WMGO - a marriage of

disparate characters that worked better on paper than in reality.

Friends say the agency’s demise came as a shock to him and made him wary

of becoming entangled with another shop too quickly. Gaskin says: ’I had

other offers but the whole thing with WMGO was very constricting in

terms of meeting lawyers, bankers and shareholders. I just wanted to get

back to doing ads.’

Kelley, 51, began his career at a truly boyish 16 years of age as a

junior copywriter at Brunnings in 1963. From there, he moved up the

ranks to land at Collett Dickenson Pearce between 1976 and 1981, winning

D&AD silvers for Heineken’s ’tennis’ spot and a Benson & Hedges ad

showing the gold pack being fished out of the Thames. He then left to

become one of the four founding partners of Lowe Howard-Spink in 1981,

before moving to Abbott Mead Vickers in 1985. There he made 17 ads for

the Leeds Building Society starring George Cole and eventually became

the agency’s executive creative director. He left in 1993 to become

creative director of Publicis before joining TBWA in 1995. His car

experience includes creating Fiat’s ’train’ spot for CDP and being

creative director on Nissan’s ’hurricane alert’ commercial while at


If the past few years have seen Kelley churn out fewer famous campaigns

than his track record suggests he was capable of, it may be because of

the jobs he’s done. He describes the creative department he inherited at

Publicis as being ’like Yugoslavia’ because of its many factions and

suggests the TBWA/Simons Palmer merger created a cultural environment

alien to him.

No wonder that he, like Gaskin, may see O&M as a small oasis. ’I think

it is probably going to be a bit more civilised. I’m looking forward to

a calmer working environment,’ he confirms.

For Collister, too, the arrival of two such experienced deck hands must

come as a relief after a period of uncertainty and he makes no secret of

the need for the pairing to work. ’These appointments are very

important. When we present to Ford’s advertising committee, these guys

meet the five chief executives of Ford’s major European companies,’ he


If they fit the bill - and few voices whisper anything to the contrary -

it could soon be poaching season again at O&M. Does Collister mind that

running the Ford account is fast becoming a springboard into broader

creative directorships? ’I suppose it’s a risk you run,’ he concludes