What got me into marketing: Advertising Director

As for many of us it seems, it happened entirely by accident. To be honest I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do when I grow up, but after 34 years (with a three year gap along the way) maybe I’m now getting used to the idea.

I didn’t even remotely consider a career in marketing until literally the day before it started in late October 1987. I had just finished a PPE-style degree at York and from the age of about 11 had no plans other than the military, but had repeatedly delayed entry following my dad’s advice to get more qualifications. He was a left wing academic so he didn’t really want me to go into the military, which of course is one of the reasons why I did! I had spent a great deal of time on various familiarisation courses with both the Army and Navy and spent entire summers away developing skills to help me get in. I was pretty committed and a group of three of us from school had made a teenage pact about it, which seemed to make sense back then for some reason, and consequently I never really considered any alternatives.

Here’s a photo of me from that time, sporting about the least military haircut possible:

Anyway, I was a week away from going to Gosport for the last bit of officer selection when my father’s long illness took a serious turn for the worse and he passed away very soon after. I had already taken the decision to stay home with my family and delay my selection process until the next intake, but in the meantime I needed a job to pay for board, lager and football boots, so I kept an eye on the Yorkshire Post.

The pivotal 10×2 was placed among ads for fork lift drivers and warehouse work, but it looked different as it was for a graduate gopher to work in a Bradford-based advertising and marketing agency. It sounded different so I rang, went in that evening and they offered me a job to start the next day. I couldn’t start until lunchtime because I had to go and buy a terrible suit and a paisley tie – they were the specific requirements back then. The job involved a lot of driving back and forwards to printers, typesetters, railway stations and bike courier meet points as well as being shouted at by people who definitely knew a lot more than me and all drove BMWs.

No more military

Two months later I wrecked my knee playing football, had an op to remove my cartilage and that made the decision for me. No more military, but I guess I was getting the hang of this agency thing. I will resist the temptation to drone on about the old days other than to say it was very hard work and long hours (very little tech except a phone and fax), but with generous pub opportunities to get you through it.

It was a good time to join and the agency (JDA) was owned by Judith Donovan (now a CBE and one of Yorkshire’s great and good) who was one of the early leading lights in the emergence of direct marketing as a thing. The agency grew terrifyingly quickly so I learned a lot fast and was lucky to work with some amazing people who have gone on to do incredible things. I also worked on some flagship accounts back then including American Express and McGraw Hill which got me to the USA a couple of times as Judith’s bag carrier and drinking companion.

Then I left and went back again after a year, and then left again before eventually doing 15 years at Advertising Principles in Leeds as an Account Director, then MD. I worked on clients such as HSBC, First Direct, Ronseal, Disney, BBC and Seven Seas Healthcare. It was the work-hard, play-hard period and of course by this stage the pubs were open all day which was lovely.

Coming HOME

In 2007, I left to scratch an itch I had to work in the charity/humanitarian sector and loved it. I somehow ended up in meetings at places such as the Houses of Parliament and the UN working with some fascinating people. Then the financial crisis and new government in 2010 changed things a little, as did my chance re acquaintance with Dave Sewards at which it seemed neat and tidy that he was looking for a Client Service Director/MD type and I had scratched my itch, as well as taken the decision to live a drier life, if I can put it that way, and I have been at HOME ever since.

Like Dave, I have always been very mindful of the HOME commitment to avoid the mistakes and pitfalls of agencies we have both previously worked in. The resulting spirit and culture and all that we have created as a group of people is why I’m a bit hooked and still don’t seem to be able to answer the question of what I am going to do when I grow up. The truth is, we agency folk often forget how lucky we are and whilst the grass often looks greener, I’m not so sure, everything considered, that it really is.

So that’s me and I’m pretty sure I will be agency until I go fishing…

Written by:

Richard Dudleston Advertising Director


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