Friday, May 7, 2010

Admen and their cars

London in the 60’s, admen were obsessed with cars.

It was part of your package, just as whatever you could negotiate was, shirts, suits, travel, and Cuban cigars. Taxes were enormous and perks were the order of the day. We used it as a recruiting tool. The better the talent the better the perk. Cars were it, Rolls for copywriters, art directors with Aston Martins, it seemed to be mostly a creative person’s obsession.

You must remember it was the 60's, barriers appeared to be breaking down, and society seemed to become more equal. A Cockney kid could drive a Porsche, especially if he was in advertising.

During the six years we were in London, ’65 to ’71, I had a Peugeot (the company shipped it from the US, my car there) an MGB, an R type Bentley, an S type Bentley, an Alvis, bet you never heard of that one, and a Mini Cooper for my wife. I was not the worst; there were guys that were really nuts. There were others that seemed to be immune to the lure of the car, exotic or not.

A copywriter who was entitled to a car worked for me, he picked an unassuming Vauxhall, carefully chose the color, the interior, and the model, and thanked me. A good guy, easy, no weird car, even picked a client’s car.

The garage attendant came to me and said the car has been parked downstairs for three months, never moved. I called John and asked him why, he looked at me very surprised and said,“ I can’t drive. “ The car was part of his package; it was not part of the deal that he drives. A rare breed in London in those days, a great writer, even though cars meant nothing to him.
Our garage had some incredible cars, E types, big Jags, and sports cars, even a Cadillac. We were an American agency, slightly conservative, so we were nothing compared to the hot English agencies.

I would not be surprised if some of them even had helicopters there, whatever you could negotiate. Kids in limos, anything seemed to be OK.

A friend from then told me that he measured his career by the cars he had. Some even measured their careers by the work they did. Cars were something else, they marked your value to the company and your own negotiating skills, and it was something unique to the English ad scene.

History was made in the London advertising world, great campaigns were created, and it was a remarkable time creatively. Great filmmakers and photographers as well as great admen came out of London in the 60s.

Rather shallow of me, I remember the cars and the people that drove them, even the one that didn’t drive, my friend and partner, John.


  1. What happened to your Schwinn Phantom?
    At that time I drove a 64 Ford T-bird. Wish I still had it. 6 miles to the gallon when gas was 29.9c a gallon. Filled up for 5 bucks.

  2. More than 5 bucks a gallon now, here

  3. I remember sitting in the back of a convertible in Spain going to the swimming pool. I seem to recall that the car was only taken out on special occasion and for rather short distances. Kids in the back - no seatbelts - wind in the face. Loved it.

  4. It was in Spain illegally, also it used to overheat, and start squealing, as for seat belts...