It’s July 4th, that makes it 25 years (or A QUARTER OF A CENTURY!) since I started an agency with four other blokes.
Being quite creative from the outset we had the idea of calling it Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow and Johnson.
In the past people have asked me “was it a hard decision to start up on your own?”
Actually it was very easy given I had no say in it. It was all decided by fate.
The seeds were sown on my first day in a new job at BBH back in 1984.
To give you an idea about how long ago it was, I remember that there was only 30 people on the internal phone list.
BBH was small, but that didn’t stop them being the hottest hotshop in town, with a fearsomely great Art Director in command in the form of (pre Sir) John Hegarty.
And there was I joining from the extremely unfashionable Leo Burnett (I know they’re good now) with a portfolio full of rejected scamps and one TV commercial.
I was cakking myself.
My new copywriter was someone that I’d only met a couple of times previously….Chris Palmer.
He’d been at BBH for six months and although it was his first job in advertising (from being a despatch rider) he’d fallen on his feet and found himself as John Hegarty’s writer.
That bit of good fortune (and a bit of talent) had resulted in Chris winning six D&AD pencils in his first six months in the business.
No pressure on me then.
So there was only one thing for it. I did what I normally did when I felt a bit nervous about my immediate future.
I booked a session with my Clairvoyant…..Madame Claire of Catford.
Chris overheard me making the appointment and was somewhat intrigued.
I explained that it was an extremely good night out; you nip down to Brownhill Road Catford and put yourself in Claire’s hands.
With her supernatural ability she then predicts forthcoming events in your life with uncanny accuracy.
And then you go out for a curry and a pint or two of lager.
How could he resist? So the pair of us ended up heading down to the Deep South the following Friday night.
Of course I went in first because it was my idea.
I was led into Claire’s dimly lit room by her brother who looked like an aging ‘Lurch’ from the Addams Family only with greasy dyed black hair.
Claire was there behind a small table topped with a black velvet cloth covered in dusty chalk marks.
She resembled a short heavy-set version of Diana Dors when she was well past her pin-up days…..but I wasn’t there because of her looks.
She offered me the seat opposite and handed me a deck of tatty playing cards which she asked me to shuffle and cut.
Then she picked up one half of the deck and dealt them into the different chalk marked sections around the table.
The reading began.
I was told that I’d just met someone, it was a good thing.
She saw a great partnership.
She could see me in front of the camera and behind the camera.
…. Yes, it was going to be an extremely good partnership, we were going to have our names over the door and she bunged in fame and fortune too for good measure.
Well, when it came to the curry afterwards the pair of us were struggling to get a word in, we were that fluffed up. You see she’d given Chris the same reading.
….fame, fortune, in front of the camera, behind the camera, NAME OVER THE BLEEDIN’ DOOR!
So when we were at Lowes a couple of years later and a stranger named Paul Simons called me to ask if we were interested in starting up an agency, I just cupped the receiver and said to Chris ‘it’s that phone call we’ve been waiting for’.
What a roller coaster ride that turned out to be.
We did pretty well (creatively at least). I’m pretty sure most of the creative department won or got nominated for a pencil (or several in some cases).
There’s one small detail that Claire forgot to tell us.
Just over six years after we set up shop we got fired.
….But that’s another story, and apparently I still have to have a solicitor present when I tell it.
NIKE ‘kick it’ from Coy Communications on Vimeo.
wrangler DJ from Coy Communications on Vimeo.
TNT hopping pecker from Coy Communications on Vimeo.
samson batteries from Coy Communications on Vimeo.
Greenpeace from Coy Communications on Vimeo.
Thanks to everyone who helped make me look good for that six and a bit years.
Paul White, Trevor D’Silva, Andy McKay, Tim Riley, Keith Bickel, Adam Denton, Sean Doyle, Paul Diver, Keith Courtney, Warren Brown, Chris Bardsley, Gary Martin, Mark Goodwin, Tony Barry, Paul Silburn, Tiger Savage, Guy Moore, Tony Malcolm, John Tisdall, Barry Brand, and Dave Dye….not forgetting Ben Priest, who got his first ad into D&AD while on placement….and of course Chris Palmer (whatever happened to him?)