A YOUNG MAN’S GAME: Except, that is, for those industry survivors who have quietly defied the cult of youth by being very good at what they do. Francesca Newland reports

With the likes of Peter Souter being made creative director of the country’s biggest agency, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, at the tender age of 35, you could be forgiven for assuming that advertising is a young man’s game.

With the likes of Peter Souter being made creative director of the

country’s biggest agency, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, at the tender age of

35, you could be forgiven for assuming that advertising is a young man’s


However, you don’t have to scratch too hard beneath the surface to see

that this is not always the case. Most agencies, particularly the bigger

ones, employ people over 45, even in their creative departments. In

fact, a 1997 IPA census revealed 540 men and 187 women over the age of

50 working in member agencies.

One of the reasons the industry is largely unaware of these characters

is that they are universally modest. They have rarely, if ever, hit the

Campaign headlines. In fact, the Bates Dorland art director, Derrick

Hass, profiled here, refused to be interviewed.

Their humility is important: it’s the key to the longevity of their


Patrick Collister, executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, says

of Hass: ’He is staggeringly talented, but he has never tried to be a

creative director, or tried to earn a pounds 250,000 salary. Lots of

people allow themselves to get promoted and then they require huge

salaries.’ It’s cheaper to get a young tyke with five years’ experience,

than it is to promote a creative director for 20 years.’

Though cost is one of the factors in keeping the average age down, there

are others. Clients don’t like to be taken out for a night on the town

by agency staff who are much older than them.

Another reason is that as more agencies merge into business giants,

corporate rules are imposed, among them a strict retirement age. It has

been rumoured that the search for a group chairman for Ogilvy & Mather

has been hampered by the network’s 55-year-old retirement rule.

But this isn’t the case in America - or ’grey beard central’ as one

adman calls it. Paul Hammersley, managing director of Lowe Howard-Spink,

who worked at Lowe & Partners/SMS in New York for four years, latterly

as general manager, says: ’It’s ageist the other way round. They don’t

trust able young people. There are people interpreting Nielsen reports

in America who would be account directors here.’

The US logic is that long-term relationships are built with each client

by having the same team on the job for as long as possible. In the UK,

the 29-year relationship between the Daily Mail and FCB is a good

example of this theory. Brian Watson, profiled here, has worked on the

account for 19 years.

But the biggest benefit of clinging on to agency staff, even after they

have turned grey, is experience. There are no short cuts; it simply

takes years to have seen it all before, to know that there is life after

a merger, that agencies can survive even after they lose huge accounts,

to know how to avert crises, or deal with them when they arise.

Molly Godet, an art director at Publicis with at least 20 years’

experience under her belt, says: ’Young people can only talk in the

language they have learnt so far.’ But she questions their ability to

communicate to older people, the ones with the cash.

Lee Clow, US-based chairman and chief creative officer of TBWA

Chiat/Day, says in an ad for The Wall Street Journal: ’There are those

who say advertising is only for the young. But that’s true only if you

let people strip you of your personal integrity until you’re tired and

worn out. If that happens, it’s not a matter of being old and burnt out,

but having sold out. Focus on the work. Don’t be distracted by stuff

that’s not about making advertising.’

These sentiments are echoed by the four individuals profiled here. They

all have an enthusiasm for the business that has not waned. They have

not become jaded by the industry’s negative features which put others

off. They simply seem not to have got involved.


Molly Godet is coy about her age and how long she has worked in the

business, but most of her working life has been with Publicis as an art

director. She was behind the agency’s Boots No 7 advertising and now

works on Renault and United Biscuits.

Molly Godet says she is not aware of advertising being an ageist


’Perhaps I am myopic. I suspect it can be but I haven’t noticed,’ she

says. But then this could be because she has had to deal with

advertising’s other great prejudice: sexism.

She admits she has witnessed other women being the victims of

chauvinism, but has been untouched by it herself. ’Sometimes people are

natural victims,’ she says.

Her sentiments show not only that she is tough, but that she has not let

the industry’s prejudices get to her - no doubt a key contributor to the

longevity of her career. She is almost proud of the fact that she can’t

draw - that she has not let that shortfall get in the way of a long


Godet claims she does not know how long she has worked at Publicis.

She also can’t remember exactly when her career began. However, she does

recall that it started ’thousands of years ago’ at J. Walter Thompson,

where she was taken on as a trainee art director.

She cites computers as the most important change to influence the

industry during her career. She also notes that there are fewer women

working on the creative side of the business than before, but more

working on the client side and in account management.

She comments: ’The industry has become much more laddish. Not that it

bothers me because I can hold my own in most company.’ No doubt she can

- she’s thick-skinned, talented and glamorous.


Derrick Hass started his art directing career at Vernons, working for

Tony Brignull, before continuing his education at many of London’s top

20 agencies including DDB, CDP, Euro RSCG, BMP, Saatchi & Saatchi and

now Bates Dorland. Famous campaigns he has worked on include ’nuke’ for

Victory V, ’stamp’ for Volkswagen and ’rambler’s guide’ for Shell.

’Body of a 19-year-old luv,’ is one of the catchphrases attributed to

Derrick Hass, the inspiration for this piece. He is famous for not

seeking publicity, he is famous for not telling anyone how old he is,

and he is famous for being one of the best art directors in London.

In keeping with his reputation, Hass declined to be interviewed for this

feature - hence the old photograph. He said: ’I don’t really want to go

on about me. I’m just a professional and not an exceptional person.’ The

only comment he wanted to make was: ’I have met some fantastic people.

It’s been worth it for the people.’

Hass has been in the business for at least 35 years and in that time he

has worked at most of the major agencies, with several of the industry’s

most famous creative faces. The reason?

He likes to move around. In a rare interview he gave D&AD when he was

made a life member last year, he said it keeps him fresh and ensures

that he is in touch with what’s going on.

What Hass has is endless ideas. He is famed for his versatile approach -

you can’t tell he’s worked on a particular piece of advertising because

he doesn’t impose his own style on it.

He now works two days a week at Bates Dorland with the creative

director, Jay Pond-Jones. The rest of the time he teaches, draws and



Most of Brian Watson’s 34-year career in advertising has been with FCB,

where he has worked for almost 26 years, latterly as deputy creative


He was behind London Transport’s ’Fly the Tube’ campaign to support the

launch of the Heathrow extension in 1997, and has worked on virtually

every FCB account, including Cadbury, Dulux and Heinz. He is 48.

Starting out in the post room of an advertising agency is a beginning

Brian Watson, deputy creative director at FCB before the Banks Hoggins

O’Shea merger, shares with many advertising greats. He joined Doyle Dane

Bernbach’s post room in 1965 straight from school, when he was only


He stayed for seven years, then joined McCann-Erickson for one year,

before leaving for FCB ’26 years ago this June’. He is in the Guinness

Book of Records for making more commercials for one client - the Daily

Mail - than anyone else in the world. He has worked on the newspaper’s

account for 19 years and has produced more than 500 commercials for


Some would call it a boring career, but speaking to Watson, you

understand exactly why he has stayed in the business for nearly 40

years. He is totally fired up with enthusiasm: ’It’s the most fun you

can have with your clothes on,’ he says, paraphrasing one of the most

quotable admen in the world, Jerry della Femina. He adds: ’No two days

are the same. We all complain about being too busy to go home at the

weekend, saying it’s a pain in the arse, but really we all love it.’


Tony Dell is 78 and has worked in the business for 45 years. He is an

art buyer at Delaney Fletcher Bozell and has been with the agency long

enough to see it change name and/or merge eight times.

’In advertising, everyone’s an individual,’ Tony Dell says to explain

why he likes working in the business. And he is as individual as they

come. When Swan Lake was last showing in London, Dell went to watch it

three times a week for six months. He became so friendly with the cast

that its members went back to his flat after the last night to


Dell must be one of advertising’s longest-serving devotees: he started

at Willings Press Service in 1954. ’It was a scissors job,’ he says.

’The company then tried to evolve into an ad agency, which eventually it

did, to become Overmark.’ He then joined a few agencies which went bust

until, in about 1960, he landed at Butler & Gardner, which became Butler

Dennis & Garland, then Slaymaker Cowley & White, then Delaney Fletcher

Slaymaker Delaney ... until eventually it reached its present form -

Delaney Fletcher Bozell.

’It’s an amoeba,’ comments Dell.

He loved the 60s when swinging London was at its height: ’People

destroyed themselves with pleasure. That’s more fun than the gloom and

grimness we have now. It was a time of great excess and great


There was a great deal of money floating about.

’Nowadays, though, it is so sophisticated. I come in and turn on my

SyncMaster and my voicemail light is blinking. Life is much faster


He adds: ’Everything is always changing. Although experience is

valuable, experience only started yesterday.’


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