George Parker: Ted Bell – Y&R adman turned writer

News this week that Ted Bell, famed Ad Man who turned into an even more famous author, died in January at the age of 76. I worked with Ted for three years when I perma-lanced on Xerox and other accounts at Y&R, New York, and he was Creative Director.

To be honest, I was not a fan of Ted’s, even though he had made his reputation at DDB and Leo Burnett with some good work. But those days were long gone, and it was obvious that he was more interested in pursuing his writing career as the author of spy thrillers featuring Alex Hawke, a British billionaire secret agent, which was an obvious “Homage” to Ian Fleming’s James Bond, even though Bond was never a billionaire, but he certainly pulled the birds.

One of Ted’s favorite quotes was… “The only reason we’re in this business is to sell.” Another homage, this one to David Ogilvy. The members of the creative department used to refer to him as “Commodore Bell.” (Not to his face) This because he was a member of the uber-expensive Greenwich Yacht Club, and yes, he had a yacht.

His office was adorned with pictures of him shaking hands with everyone from President Reagan to the Pope. Perhaps an homage to Inspector Clouseau’ s office. We always suspected, as in the movies, these had been photoshopped. At the end of 1999 he told Ed Vick, then the Chairman and CEO of Y&R he was taking a couple of months off to do a bit of personal writing. He never came back and soon thereafter; his first of fifteen Alex Hawke novels was published by Simon & Schuster and he trousered millions.

Which goes to prove, you don’t have to be Salman Rushdie to make the switch.

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