Five things you didn’t know about advertising agencies: 1960s

1/ British ad legend Charles Saatchi wanted to be a film writer but lost a competition with Ridley Scott to write the script for a small and now forgotten British film about an athlete. So he decided to create the biggest agency in the world instead.

2/ Suits on Madison Avenue used to be the best-paid executives in the world, ahead even of Wall Street types and Old Etonians in the City of London. Film star Cary Grant (born Archie Leach in Bristol, England) was the epitome of this super-smooth breed, famously in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic North by North-West (made in the fifties but you get the point).

3/ When he quit as a film star Grant was signed up by US fragrance firm Faberge as possibly the first ‘brand ambassador’ although he wasn’t known as this. Faberge profited greatly from the down-market men’s fragrance Brut. It is also believed to have been controlled by the New York mafia.

4/ Celebrated London creative agency Collett Dickenson Pearce, home at one time to Charles Saatchi and Ridley Scott (see above) was a publicly-quoted company in London in the late 1960s. But it de-listed after a series of scandals which included buying chairman John Pearce a herd of pedigree cows on the company. It also paid for watering his south of France villa gardens on expenses. Income tax for top earners in the UK was 98 per cent at the time.

5/ Account representatives at J.Walter Thompson (account managers as they are now) were furnished with a printed card showing the date and provenance of fine vintages of wine, so that they didn’t embarrass themselves before clients. JWT was also the best place to work because everybody had to retire at 55. This rule still obtains but staff complain that it’s just a way to get rid of them on the cheap.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.