John Singleton, “See you later, Bryce,”
Advertising News, December 8, 1972, p. 4.
Most of the people I have spoken to about old Bryce Courtenay leaving advertising have expressed regret.
On the other hand I think it is one of the best of all possible things that could have happened. For a long time Bryce Courtenay has been the bane of my life.
I first met Bryce when I was hired by McCann to write and re-write and write and re-write one campaign for Maggi, which started off pretty lousy and got worse by the day.
I think it was all just a benevolent idea of the big agency’s to keep me off the streets for an hour or so a day.
McCanns those days was a pretty strange place. It was made up of a system of having a creative director in name who was really an account director sent downstairs (why always downstairs?) to make sure the creative people didn’t actually do anything different.
Under this creative director was Vic Nicholson who was sort of the really truly creative director, but not officially. So don’t tell anyone.
And under Vic was a series of creative group heads who were people to boss you around when Vic wasn’t around.
Bryce Courtenay had one group, a couple of other unforgettable people whom I have forgotten had another couple of groups and I was in a group (with Duncan McAllan) run by Alan Clayton and Hal Apte.
Those days McCanns wasn’t exactly a bed of roses and we all got pretty dark about it most of the time.
We protested over all the horrible conditions very positively and intelligently by getting drunk every second day, and sometimes twice a day, at the old Dumbastard Castle.
We told all the account executives to go and get stuffed and do it all themselves just as a matter of course.
We balled up the old McCann computer time sheet system by forgetting our numbers and generally we went about the whole revolution with what could most kindly be described as crass stupidity.
In the two or three months that McCanns let me get away with my own particular brand of hara-kiri I noticed there was only one exception to all this brick fight mentality and the exception was one Bryce Courtenay.
“I wonder why Bryce doesn’t come and get pissed and throw some bricks,” we all used to say. About three months later we found out why.
McCanns decided to have a new creative director who would be a creative director in name as well as responsibility, and who do you think got the job?
Right, old Bryce. About 26 or something sitting there quietly, grafting away. The Ken Mackay of the advertising world.
It really gave me the shits. It gave us all the shits and we all, no doubt, went to the pub and threw a few bricks.
And what gave me the shits worst of all was that Bryce did the job so extraordinarily well.
Not only did he do the job well, but he presented the job and therefore, McCann, in a totally new light.
It is probably hard to imagine now, but he was probably the first of Australia’s full-time creative directors. Not just a copy director, or an art director. Not just a fancy title, but your fair dinkum creative director.
He have the whole creative department idea respectability and acceptance by all clients and even most agencies.
And that wasn’t so long ago. It was only about ten years ago that Bryce and myself were both invited to talk at one of those beaut old 4A seminars at Terrigal.
Neither of us had ever spoken in public before, but neither of us was admitting a word of it.
We had to talk on some fantastic subject like the future of creative advertising in Australia, something really mind-bending.
With typical native cunning Bryce suggested that I speak first and I snapped up the offer which I soon regretted.
I made a rather charming speech about how the advertising business was rotten, how account executives were a whole load of horseshit and clients were worse.
Bryce then stood up and said exactly the same things in a manner that people expected and respected.
I got booed and Bryce got cheered and that was sort of typical of how things have been between Bryce and me for the last ten years.
We’re both going around saying the same things and everyone is saying what a great guy Bryce is and what a less than great guy I am.
And often over a few hundred beers Bryce and I would discuss this particular phenomenon and it was agreed that though Bryce could see the reason for all this I certainly could not.
And then after about five years as king of McCanns, Bryce landed as king of JWT with your old Roger K and Denis E.
Those days the Crown Hotel was right in the neutral middle of JWT and Berry Currie, where I was enjoying my own brand of whatever, and many was the night we would meet and argue and disagree and agree about this whole wild unbelievably enjoyable and unbelievably rotten world of advertising. Some of your really great times.
My wife, who at best looks upon me as a highly insured bad risk, would think even less of me at the mere mention of one of those frequent nights when Bryce and Roger and Denis and myself would wind up out the back of my place after all the pubs and all the clubs in town had decided it was time to call it a day.
And all we would talk about was advertising, advertising and people, people and advertising.
But now the years, the joys, the disappointments, successes and frustrations of this world of ours, called advertising are breaking up that old gang of ours.
Roger has gone to the great big bike track in the sky. Denis has been up and down and up more often that Mamie Stover (today he presides over the re-birth of Pritchard Wood) and Bryce has gone.
He’s gone because he reckons he can get more out of using his communication talents in getting Australian companies to better realize the benefits of all those markets overseas.
He’s joined up with some other guy who knows the details and someone else to help with the physical filmed sales presentation and now, today, Bryce is off to do his own thing.
He might make it, he might not.
But one thing is positive. Without Bryce Courtenay, advertising in Australia will never be the same again.
And maybe for that reason more than any other I just get the feeling, or is it hope, that he’ll be back.
Footnote: If you want to know about it, or how Bryce can now help your clients, or your business, or your agency overseas, JWT will tell you how to get in touch.
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