Paul Simons: heroes of adland stalk Soho’s Star & Garter

(The following will only make sense to readers in the UK, apologies to the rest of the world)

I decided to make a trip in to London from my home in the countryside and after thinking about travel options decided to go by rail, recalling ‘let the train take the strain’ helped make the decision.. The day began with a breakfast of boiled eggs and toast, after all I will not forget the thought of ‘go to work on an egg.’ The train was a bit dull and slow but the nice driver kept reminding us ‘we’re getting there.’ I made my way from Paddington station to Soho and popped in to the Star & Garter in Poland Street for some refreshment.

The first person I saw was Dave Trott who said “Hello Tosh, gotta Toshiba.” I reminded him my name isn’t Tosh and asked him if he would like a drink. He suggested one that is ‘probably the best lager in the world’ whereupon Kelvin, the landlord, said try this one, it refreshes the parts the other beers can’t reach. David Droga then intervened with a can of Castlemaine in each hand and said “Australians wouldn’t give a XXXX for anything else.” Trotty retaliated with “All the sugar turns to alcohol” which is loosely connected to Holsten but didn’t match the other suggestions.

Then true royalty graced the floorboards of the S&G as two knights of the realm appeared, no not the little one, Sir John and Sir Nigel of BBH fame (shame J. Bartle bailed out early as they would have been a trio of knights, pretty impressive on the pitch circuit – beat that loser.)

I have known Nigel longer than anyone else in the ad world and he has never changed from the way he looked back in 1972. I would love to know what he takes to achieve everlasting youth.

Sir John came across for a chat and said “Vorsprung durch Technik,” I was a bit stuck for conversation as I don’t speak German but I was saved by Robin Wight who shouted across the from the snug: “The Ultimate Driving Machine you cretin” and I’m thinking here we go again, the bar at the S&G is getting overcrowded with egos.

The pub was slowly filling up with ad folk, been the same for the last 40 years or so, and therefore no surprise to see James Murphy appear, albeit a long way from his Paddington HQ. He walked around shaking hands with lots of grovelling from more junior types who had managed to slip in under the radar of Kelvin; he can sort the men from the boys instantly and quite smartly has made the S&G an unspoken boozer for advertising names.

Suddenly a dark cloud blocked out the early evening sun and in walked Sir Martin. Not a familiar sight in drinking holes around central London. SMS as he is known courtesy of me then tried conversing with various creative types about data analytics, leading to the energy being sucked out of the building. The people in the room write lines and draw pictures, spreadsheets not their first skill in the toolbox.

A plucky creative crept up and said to SMS “You’ll never know where the yellow went until you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” Not a great conversation starter but SMS missed the ball anyway and the next equally historic brand asset: “Hands that do dishes will feel as soft as your face with mild green Fairy Liquid.” Not a flicker even though an asset made good by one of the agency brands he acquired over the WPP years.

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About Paul Simons

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Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.

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