Who would have guessed the reaction that we got for my article in Campaign last Thursday. We’ve had responses from all over the globe – from Bangkok to San Francisco. It was just a little reflection about the state of the industry. The bottom line is, it seems we’re all in it together, up to our necks in it to be precise. Anyway, here’s the article for anyone who hasn’t read it yet…

Hello, Mark Denton speaking. How can I help? Yes, you mentioned that there’s not a lot of money on this one in the pre-pre-pre-pre-prod. No, don’t worry about it. It’s not that unusual nowadays.

So there’s a script change? The tiger is now appearing on a snow-covered mountain top? No. That’s fine. But, obviously, when we were talking locations in the pre-pre-pre-prod, we didn’t know that.

Sorry? And there’s no budget to go abroad? I see. You do know it’s July now, don’t you? In England?

Of course I’d be happy to attend a client get-together before the research results are in. Oh! So you need a new treatment seeing as the script has changed? Right, great. When do you need it by? Tomorrow! That could be a bit tricky. Milton Keynes by 8am? It’s doable. In a leather-bound treatment folder? I’m sure we can find one of those somewhere.
Just out of interest, why do you need that? Another director produced one? Well, that’s understandable. And should I write my own treatment or get a bloke with A-level English and a book on Film-Making For Dummies to write it for me?

Oh. You’re not judging the director’s vision, you’re still trying to make your mind up who the treatments are for exactly. Well, what are the choices? The team, the creative directors, the account group or the client? That must be tough. And how many directors did you say are pitching now? Six? No, I don’t mind repitching. It’s good to know that you’ve whittled it down a bit.

Reference? Well, I thought I’d, er… sorry? I’m in a contest for who can find the best reference pictures on Google? I’m not sure that will necessarily tell you who the best director is – more like who’s got the best researcher. I see. You want something original? I’d be happy to. But you want me to show photographic evidence of it? That might be a bit awkward, since it hasn’t been done yet. OK, I’ll see what I can do.

What about the storyboard? You know that I draw my own? Not make it too cartoony. Any special reason? The client might think it’s animation. Does that mean you don’t think that the client can tell the difference between a storyboard and the finished article? Well, yes, I suppose it is best to cover all bases.

By the way, your colleague mentioned that you didn’t want to pay the first 50 per cent of the production budget on time? Yes, I completely understand.

So we’ll bankroll your multi-squillion-pound company and wait three months for our money, after the event, because the client won’t have paid you yet? Great!

Oh, just one last thing. On our last job, when we went to visit your client in Edinburgh, there wasn’t so much as a sandwich laid on. Nothing. Not even a biscuit! Which was just as well, really, cos there wasn’t even a cup of tea to dip it in.

What? You have to create a purchase order in order to get tea? Right. No problem. See you tomorrow morning at eight. Bye.

Sara! Wash out the thermos, we’re going to Milton Keynes.

This article was first published on


Series 2 Episode 9

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.

Snappy eh?

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?)


by MD Esq.

I love doing my lectures.

Not just because I like the sound of my own voice but also because I get to meet so many different people.

Sometimes the chat goes on after the talks have finished.

One of these extended conversations has resulted in COY taking on an exciting new(ish) photographer – PAUL BURCH

Paul’s not exactly ‘new’ insofar as he’s been in advertising for a couple of decades as a successful Creative Director/Art Director.

He’d been keeping his photography under wraps and was only moved to show me his efforts after he saw my talk at Publicis earlier this year.

Paul made it clear that although he was passionate about photography (having worked with some of the greats like David LaChapelle, Albert Watson and Paolo Roversi), he had been happy to beaver away at it on the quiet.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much given Paul’s modesty.

As it turns out he had nothing to be modest about.

The work was fantastic.

No one would have guessed that he was completely self taught and didn’t do the normal kind of apprenticeship.

His work had the polish and sophistication of someone who’d spent a lifetime perfecting his craft.

What made it even more remarkable was the majority of it was shot on film with minimal retouching.

He’s even created his own Collodion wet plates!

So to cut a long story short, Paul is now a COY photographer with a bunch of exciting new projects to sink his teeth into.

I’m convinced that Paul is not going to be able to operate under the radar for much longer (even if he wants to).

Paul’s Portfolio

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…just a snapshot from our ‘Evil’ Exhibition that went up at JWT last night.

We were going to stick this one in but we pulled it out at the last minute.

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I’ve been talking a bit lately.

Not just the odd chat but actually pitching up to various agencies and putting on a proper lecture.

And not only in blighty. I’ve also chewed some ears off at DDB and TBWA in New York.

It’s not overly formal though, to me it’s felt like sharing 35 years worth of creative fun with a few mates.

But I must be getting the hang of it because I keep getting invited to do more.

On a couple of occasions I’ve found myself talking to around a hundred people.

And even more surprisingly (to me) I’ve recently been asked by two different CEO’s and a planner to do one for their clients.

I genuinely thought it had more appeal to a creative audience but it seems that a lot of different people are getting something out of it.

Unexpectedly it’s all turned into a snowball that’s gathering a fair bit of momentum.

Just as an entertaining side project I try to produce a new poster for each talk, and if time permits I send the brief over to the host agency a few weeks in advance.

I’ve started to gather a bit of a varying collection now even though essentially it’s the same talk every time.

Actually, that’s not entirely true, because I always seem to wander off piste and recall different stories along the way.

There is a definite overall plot (which I don’t want to reveal for fear of spoiling the experience for those who haven’t heard it) but several different themes seem to get repeated throughout.

    1. I’ve been doing advertising a long time.
    2. I’m not scared of self-promotion.
    3. I don’t like people saying NO.

I’ve enjoyed every single talk but my favourite is the last one I did at Leo Burnett.

Not only did they produce a poster for my collection (thanks Anna, Becky and Lance) but they also let me put on an exhibition.

It’s the first time I’ve seen a big bunch of my creative stuff together in one place and it gave me a funny feeling in my trouser leg that was most pleasant.

Burnett’s ECD Justin (Tindall) delivered the most flattering introduction I’ve ever had in my career and throughout the talk everyone seemed to laugh in the right places.

…and then we went for a beer and a kebab.

It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Big thanks to all those involved especially Lance (Crozier) who had the idea in the first place and to Head of Art Buying Leah (Mitchell) and the rest of her fantastic team.

Dave Dye and Andy Dymock.      Guy Moore and Don Bowen.

Anna and Becky and friends.

James Long and Adrian Britteon.

There was an exhibition too.

Everyone seemed to laugh in the right places.



A few months ago I got a call from D&AD…. they said, ‘don’t let us down, where is it?’

I said, ‘pardon?’ (Or something like that).

…You see there had been a bit of a mix-up and the brief for the 2012 D&AD cover had gone to the wrong Mark Denton (or maybe Mike Denton, or Marc Danton).

Their plan was to have 50 different covers to celebrate D&AD’s 50th anniversary realised by some big knobs in Design and Advertising like Ridley Scott, Sir John Hegarty, Paul Smith, Dave Dye, etc, etc, etc, etc and very flatteringly yours truly.

The trouble was, once the mistake had been realised I was starting 5 weeks after everyone else and 3 days after the official deadline.

Ordinarily I like the challenge of a tight deadline but at the time of the phone call I was in New York picking up a big design, TV and print brief from DDB and I was already in the middle of a print project for Leo Burnett London.

I remembered a piece of paper that I’d pinned to the wall behind my desk about a year earlier. It was a scribble of an idea I had for my gravestone.

It originally had no reason to exist, there was no brief for it, it was just one of the things that regularly fall out of the end of my pen.

So I thought ‘that’ll do’ and a few phone calls later we had a sculptor and a model-maker on board and a photographic session booked.

…Cheers Sean, Carmel and Steve. You did a brilliant job.

I’m dead pleased (BOOM, BOOM!).

Client – D&AD. Concept – M Denton Esq (that’s DENTON). Photography – Sean de Sparengo. Photography Assistant – Joe Giacomet. Sculptor – Carmel Said. Model-making – Steve Dring. Producer – Miss Sara Cummins.

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“How would you like to help us launch a new beer brand by creating the history of a fictional 88-year-old owner of a brewery and her family, designing the packaging, shooting commercials and an online mini-documentary, as well as producing print, posters and a hard-cover brand book?”


That was the question put to yours truly M Denton Esq and my Superwinning team at COY!

And of course the answer could only have been YES, as this kind of project is right up my strasse.

Not that I’ve ever been involved in any project that was quite like this.

The Agency was DDB NY and the client was DDB Worldwide. A bit unusual for a start.

They’d come up with the notion of launching a new beer brand from scratch and promoting it during the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival week.

Odd in itself, but what was even more unlikely was the fact that the brand would exist for that week and that week only.

For DDB it was an exercise in demonstrating their superior expertise in promoting brands by grabbing that slightly distracted audience and wowing them with ‘Ethel’s Brew’.

That’s the name of the beer, ‘Ethel’s Brew’.

Ethel being Ethel Goldschmidt, the afore mentioned 88-year-old New York Jewish, newly widowed Grandmother and founder of the fictional brewery.

The story goes that Ethel and her husband Burt fell in love with beer after a visit to Oktoberfest back in 1952.

Burt especially was obsessed with his new passion and dreamed one day he would launch his own beer.

Unfortunately, he died in a freak accordion accident before that dream was realised and in honour of his memory Ethel pledged she’d make it come true.

Only somewhere in the process ‘Burt’s Beer’ had become ‘Ethel’s Brew’ and a conservative 88-year-old Grandmother had spent all of her spinster daughter’s trust fund money and transformed herself into a bit of a vamp, determined to go out with a BANG!

The brilliant concept was the brainchild of the ‘Dynamic Jew-o’ Aron Fried and Carlos Wigle with the equally brilliant Menno Kluin steering the ship.

They were the most enthusiastic and supportive bunch I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I really can’t remember the last time I’ve ever been given so much freedom.

Carlos and Aron flew from NY to GB for the shoot, rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in.

There was such a great team spirit that I thrust a couple of cameras into their hands and they helped us capture some of the enormous amount of collateral required in just 2 days.

And what a fantastic, funny, totally delightful couple of days it was too.

The only really hard part of the shoot was finding Kosher nosh in South Woodford.

I’ve got to mention that we couldn’t have produced the project without the enormous amount of help and support we got from Mark Grosvenor, and the rest of his team at Tag.

The commercials look a million dollars worth thanks to editor Joel Miller at Cut + Run NY and post-production courtesy of MPC. Music was specially composed by Finger Music.

My mate and long-term creative collaborator Sean de Sparengo did the impossible by not only shooting over 25 portfolio quality stills but also DOP-ing all of the moving stuff (AT THE SAME TIME!).

And last but definitely not least, thanks to Andy (Dymock) for helping me with the print, the 40 page brand book being a mammoth task in its own right, let alone the required labels, outdoors posters, banners etc.

All in all it was a highly enjoyable project, the only sad note is that it’s not the start of a long running campaign.

I absolutely, definitely haven’t had quite as much fun since 1987.

Director/Designer – M Denton Esq, Producer/Kosher Katerer – Miss Sara Cummins, Associate Creative Directors – Aron Fried and Carlos Wigle, Executive Creative Director – Menno Kluin, Chief Creative Officer DDB NY – Matt Eastwood, Global Chief Creative Officer – Amir Kassaei, DDB Producer – Katy Fuoco, Photographer/DOP – Sean De Sparengo, Senior Art Director – Shawna Laken, Copywriter – Katie Riddle, Typography – Andy Dymock, Retouching – Rob Sherratt at TAG, Editing – Joel Miller at Cut + Run NY, Post Production – MPC, Music – Finger Music, Queen of Super 8 – Miss Fern Berresford, Sensational Hair by Anna Dentonetti and Marvellous Make-up by Louise Constad. And with great thanks to Tanya, Holly and Steve at Short Films for all their support.

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We’re just following the lead of the new Rice Krispies Squares campaign that retains the theme ‘It’s all LIES – they’re not even Square’.

We’re chuffed that we were asked to produce the latest TV and poster executions…then again the last ones went down very well with the punters and the posters got into D&AD for art direction.

We hope you like the new ones, each poster was hand painted by a trained badger.

Many thanks to Creative Director – Don Bowen and brilliant Creative team – Sabina Kelly and Phil Deacon. Designer/Director – M Denton Esq,  Design Assistant – Kate Henderson, Typographer – Andy Dymock, Production – Miss Sara Ann Cummins

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We’ve finally got around to producing business cards for A Large Evil Corporation.

Of course, they’re not normal business cards.

They look like filthy lucre and they feature portraits of Guy Thomson and Seth Watkins (the bosses of A.L.E.C).

If you’d like a closer look send them over an animation script and they’ll send you a bundle in a plain brown envelope.

Design – M Denton Esq, Photographer – Oli Carver, Typographer – Andy Dymock



We got a call a few weeks ago from our mates at A Large Evil Corporation and it turned out that they wanted to expand their graphic identity with a new range of postcards and other bits of collateral.

It occurred to us that it might be mildly amusing if we created some made up evil products from a fictional evil trade catalogue.

They concurred.

So first of all we selected various objects from valves and microprocessors to plungers, and we gave them evil names and catalogue numbers.

…and then we shot them. Or rather our Oli did.

The most popular seems to be the nut and bolt duo (or Imelda and Ferdinand to use their correct titles)…then again, we like them all.

Photography and image manipulation – Oliver Carver, Concept/Design – M. Denton Esq, Production – Miss Fern Berresford, Typography – Andy Dymock.

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