Special Report: The US - Brits in New York

Four British advertising industry emigres give their impressions of life in the world's commercial capital.

DAVID LAMB - J. Walter Thompson

I often think of that John Lennon quote when I think about why I moved here. Lennon said: "If I were living in Roman times, I would live in Rome, where else? And today, America is the Roman Empire. And New York is Rome itself."

But it was also because I wanted to get out of the comfort zone of life in London. There was the ad scene, and many of my uni mates, which was great, but it was a rewarding but closed continuum. I left for New York deliberately at the age of 40.

I arrived ten days before 9/11. My earliest memories of New York were of the whole place falling apart. It was a rollercoaster experience, but the way I was looked after was extraordinary. I remember being given cups of water by a little old lady on my street. There is a great sense of survival in New York, which is obvious in the people you meet.

That aside, two things surprised me. One was the phenomenon of passive aggression. The language is the same, but you have to read people differently.

The second is the way religion underpins things here. It's a profoundly religious society, as well as being intensely politically correct.

New York is not the vicious place it's thought to be, that's a myth.

The most aggressive I've seen New Yorkers is when someone hasn't toed the line. The image of brash, savage New York is in fact totally the other way.

- David Lamb is the worldwide director of planning at J. Walter Thompson.


In my office, I have one of those early New Yorker cartoon covers which shows the view of Manhatton from 9th Avenue. It's called "View of the World", by Saul Steinberg. I have it as a constant reminder not to think like that. There's a very real sense that this place is the centre of the universe. The sheer power, scale and importance of Wall Street, the whole New York vibe - it can feel like the capital of the world.

The US is often accused of having a very limited view of the world. Its media is accused of only being interested in what's going on in its own cities. This isn't always true. One of the great pleasures of being here has been the New York Times. It's beautifully written and insightful, and has extraordinarily canny coverage of international affairs .

As for advertising, I disagree with the notion that it's particularly bad here. There is just so much more of it and it's misunderstood. You see more bad advertising, and you see more good advertising. The best creative is easily as good as work from any of the other creative centres.

And in terms of the craft itself, there's an extraordinary depth of acting talent. You want to create a new TV show? They can find six, eight, ten faces who can play nine or ten parts - and you've never seen these people before.

- Andrew Robertson is the president and chief executive of BBDO Worldwide Worldwide

CINDY GALLOP - Bartle Bogle Hegarty

I moved here in September 1998 to open Bartle Bogle Hegarty's New York office. I had put in my bid to set up here a long time before, and a few years later it happened.

Even before I arrived, I felt spiritually like a New Yorker. People who know me would corroborate this. The dynamism, the energy and pace of the place; I'm a high-energy, fast-moving person and this city is perfect for me. I'm pretty confident, ballsy and strong, so I fit right in. New Yorkers are all of those things.

Before New York, I worked in London. I'd done a lot of business with Americans and I like the way they work. They're direct, upfront and straightforward.

That's the way I operate. And for a woman in business, the US is way ahead of the rest of the world. In the UK, there's still a glass ceiling. When I was a board account director at BBH in London, American clients never had a problem with me, but with some UK clients it could feel like I wasn't a necessity.

A truism is that Americans are far more eager to applaud and celebrate other people's successes: the "can-do culture". Success breeds success.

That's applauded on all sides without thinking. Understatement does not play in this market. You just don't help yourself by being modest.

- Cindy Gallop is the chairman and chief marketing officer of Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York

ROBIN KENT - Universal McCann

I came here three-and-a-half years ago to take the job of running Universal McCann Worldwide.

My first impressions were coloured very much by the fact that I was a foreigner. If you don't have credit history, it's like you don't count as a human being. Opening a bank account was literally as if I'd just started my life. I couldn't lease a car, I had to buy one. Renting an apartment was a nightmare. They make your life very difficult. In London, the bank manager would come and see me. In New York, you don't exist.

Plus, you get IDed everywhere. I've been IDed going into clubs. It's not funny. It's beyond insulting. They have this, "Look, we have to ask you" thing. But I don't carry ID.

All of those things are quite daunting and can make you feel inadequate.

It's such a big place and there's so much money, and the sheer size of the buildings magnifies these realities. The counter side is that people come to your house to pick up your dry-cleaning. People walk your dogs for you. There's a gym on every corner. The whole convenience thing, once you're in the system.

But it's not the same as coming here on a long weekend. It's incredibly difficult for outsiders at first, and hard on families. For myself and for Andrew (Robertson) it's easier because we're running a company. If you're further down the totem pole it's a tough ride.

- Robin Kent is the chairman and chief executive of Universal McCann Worldwide.


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