George Parker remembers creative director Bill Hamilton

I was devastated to hear the news that Bill Hamilton (left) passed away last week at the age of 74. I have known and worked with Bill at Chiat, Ogilvy and J.W. Thompson over nearly thirty years. He was without doubt the best Creative Director I have ever had the pleasure of working for.

I will never forget the singularly unique way Bill had to solve problems. He would give you your head whilst urging you to deliver multiple solutions until midnight before the presentation. I quickly learned that the smart thing to do was keep a couple of ideas in your back pocket until one minute before midnight. Actually, it was even more advisable to keep a couple in your pocket until one minute before the presentation.

When I worked with him at Ogilvy on the re-pitch for the Compaq account, we had been told that they only wanted to see marketing solutions, no creative. Bill said fuck that, let’s do some ads. He described them however as “Ad-Like Objects.” We still lost the account. So we went out and got pissed.

Also at Ogilvy, my partner, Michael “The Irish” Furlong and I had to come up with stuff for an American Express “The Best Five Restaurants in New York” promotion. We informed Bill that to do this properly, we would have to dine at all five restaurants. Bill said ‘Fuck that, you can go to one. So, we went to Smith & Wolensky and ran up a lunchtime bill of $400. Bill signed off on it, but said, don’t ever pull this stunt again. Then we went out and got pissed.

Speaking of which, Bill always had a well stocked fridge in his office. We would “strategize” over copious amounts of chilled white wine whilst smoking our brains out. Ha, the good old days.

Never forget that Bill was responsible for some of the great campaigns of the eighties and nineties. At Ogilvy, for IBM: “Solutions for a Small Planet (below).” A massive shift from the corporate “Big Blue” stance of many years. Also at Ogilvy after winning back the AMEx account “Card Holder Since.” Great stuff. He signed off on the IBM ad that won me the David Ogilvy Award. We went out and got pissed, at his expense!

Moving on to JWT, he revolutionized financial services advertising, with his wonderful work for Merrill Lynch. I worked for him on all kinds of accounts. The best being Qwest where he virtually game me carte blanche (whatever that means.) He asked me to go out to LA and present myself as the new CD on the Microsoft account. Having just moved from California to New York, I said I wasn’t really interested. However after many drinks I agreed to go. I then had to sit through dinner with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer at The Ivy.

Returning, I informed Bill I would rather blow my fucking brains out than go through that shit. OK, he said. So, we went out and got pissed.

OK, to wrap this up, the opportunity is rarely given to us to work with someone who you not only respect, but also who you truly love.

If you are looking down on me whilst I write this… Cheers Bill. Let’s go out and get pissed.

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About George Parker

George Parker has spent 40 years on Madison Avenue. He’s won Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, and the David Ogilvy Award.
His blog is adscam.typepad.com, which is required reading for those looking for a gnarly view of the world’s second oldest profession.” His latest book, Confessions of a Mad Man, makes the TV show Mad Men look like Sesame Street.

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