David Abbott Podcast Episode 6
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This is the sixth episode of my series of podcasts about the great David Abbott.
This one is called ‘David’s Department’ and explores what it was like to be a creative working under David.
I’ll link to the episode here, but you can also find the whole series on Soundcloud.
Great stuff, Ben. Though for some reason I’m not seeing some of the middle Abbott episodes. Just the first couple and the very moving last episode. I first met David Abbott, quite by chance, in a grubby second hand bookshop in Coventry. About as far away from adland as you could imagine. By some incredible fluke, I’d picked up a slim red hardback volume called ‘What Advertising Is’ edited by Maurice Smelt. I was unemployed and possessed nothing more than a Desmond in Communication Studies from Sunderland Poly. I had vague notions about wanting to get ‘into’ advertising but no real clue how to go about it. And in that pre-internet age, and having no contacts south of Rugby, didn’t really know where to start. The book was dated 1972 and was a series of lectures or essays on various aspects of the ad industry. Media. TV. Art Direction. And one that drew me in: What Copy Is. The chapter was written by David Abbott. I’d never heard of him but by the end I knew I wanted to BE him. It started, just as you observed in the podcast, with a nice bit of self-deprecation. What followed was, as he described it ‘…the Gospel according to Bill Bernbach’, establishing a relationship with the reader, entertaining them, and above all, persuading them. He certainly persuaded me as I bought the book and changed my life. I’ve still got it and I’ve scanned it and photocopied that essay dozens of time for young teams. I hope some of his philosophy has gone in. I never got to physically meet the man. Fast forward twenty four years and I’m working at Proximity in the old rusty-bucket building on the corner of Marylebone Road; David Abbott’s old home. Indeed, I was sat in the very office where the famous shot of David with his feet on the desk was taken. Out of the window I can see the Swedish Church. I’m writing on The Economist account. But not his campaign. This is a new approach: a series of programmatic banners aimed at getting progressive ‘millennials’ to try the newspaper for themselves. We’re still liaising with AMV, so now and then I pop up the road to show them what we’re doing. One morning I strolled into their reception and stopped in my tracks. There was an easel standing there with a large black and white photo of a handsome grey haired man. Underneath it said David Abbott, 1938-2014.
And that’s my David Abbott story. Incidentally, our Economist campaign was very successful, won the DMA Grand Prix, and a Gold Lion at Cannes for Creative Effectiveness. I’m certain David would’ve approved.