Peter Mayle: tribute to a creative 'Pied Piper'
A view from Tim Delaney

Peter Mayle: tribute to a creative 'Pied Piper'

Peter Mayle had a profound and inspirational effect on many of the best creative people in London, writes Leagas Delaney's founder and chairman.

Peter Mayle was not impressed by convention. He was, in fact, something of an anarchist. Not in a political way – I never heard him discuss politics. His form of subversion was to never accept norms about the elements of life that were in his orbit and might interrupt his enjoyment.

For of all the people I have met and worked with in this industry, Peter unashamedly used the business to amuse himself. In this he was something of a Pied Piper, encouraging his creative disciples to join in his mildly anarchic attitude to the business.

I first met him at Papert, Koenig & Lois, a very influential creative agency in New York which had chosen Peter as its London creative director; I was 23. He hired me in the interview and I can still rekindle the exhilaration of being so quickly chosen by someone I admired.

Peter, with his impish smile and total certainty had re-ignited my interest in advertising.  In his short note of confirmation, he told me I would be paid "the princely sum of 4K a year". Operative word: "princely", which somehow summed up how he seduced and cajoled people. And that is how we all felt working for him; me and the other young writers and art directors; happy slaves from 8.30am to 11pm most nights and, of course, weekends.

Peter’s personality was genuinely infectious. His total belief in the primacy of creative people was as much borne out of a suspicion of the innate pragmatism of ad agency managers, as it was a belief that great creative work was fun to write and produce. When PKL took over BBDO in London, he once flew to Paris just to have dinner with a creative team working on a job he was hardly involved in. He thought it would be fun to keep us up most of the night eating and drinking in La Coupole. One of many evenings and lunchtimes to remember.

His ability to attract and marshall the best creative talent was perhaps his legacy in the business; in his era, most of the biggest creative names worked at just three agencies, and BBDO was one of them.

When he decided to join BBDO New York, it was typical of him to go against the Board of London and give the job of creative director to a wet-behind the ears 27-year-old: me.

So it was into his shoes that I slipped, continuing his policies and his mischievous attitude to the business that has kept me engaged ever since.

That he left the business never surprised me. He always felt restless, possibly because he was never really happy under the yoke of the commercial requirements of the industry. His life in Provence sounds idyllic: writing, accompanied by a little eating and drinking.

He had a profound, yet unheralded, inspirational effect on many of the best creative people in London. For that they should all be grateful.

Tim Delaney is founder and chairman of Leagas Delaney

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