Now, where was I?

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - The Way We Were -

Around this time, I was com­ing to the end of my first year in a Lon­don ad agency. Like many grad­u­ates with a shiny new de­gree, I’d found my­self tak­ing a job I was dra­mat­i­cally overqual­i­fied for, at least on pa­per. But the deal was that if I be­came the pro­duc­tion trainee in a lit­tle agency called Pri­mary Con­tact, in my spare time they’d teach me the rudi­ments of be­ing an ad­ver­tis­ing copy­writer.

Lo­cated just off Lon­don’s Ox­ford Street, Pri­mary Con­tact was un­usu­ally cre­ative for a busi­ness-to-busi­ness agency. When I joined, its main claim to fame was ad­ver­tis­ing the new Sin­clair pocket cal­cu­la­tor in the Sun­day colour sup­ple­ments, rather than in the ex­pected of­fice equip­ment mags – it had spot­ted that a po­ten­tially bor­ing busi­ness tool could be­come an as­pi­ra­tional ‘must-have’ gad­get, and sales took off. With a staff of just over 20 peo­ple, the agency was billing about £1.3 mil­lion a year – heady stuff in those days, es­pe­cially as it op­er­ated a profit-shar­ing scheme.

My job as ‘de­mon child’ – even I was young once – was prob­lem solv­ing, which ranged from keep­ing the ar­chives up-to-date to find­ing and order­ing 500 lit­tle plas­tic walk­ing dogs from Hong Kong for a mail­shot. I was also the

de­liv­ery ser­vice for im­por­tant mail around Lon­don – usu­ally ac­com­plished via mini-cab, which of­ten seemed to be the same Wart­burg Knight es­tate that oth­ers were rude about but which I thought was in­ter­est­ing.

Around the time of our main photo, we were also op­er­at­ing with­out elec­tric­ity for two days each week, as the Govern­ment’s re­sponse to the strikes in the power in­dus­try. My task be­fore this started was to buy up 50 camp­ing gas lights, to keep the agency il­lu­mi­nated (we could have later resold them many times over to the less far-sighted). For­tu­nately we didn’t have com­put­ers then, so it was busi­ness as usual, even on days with­out elec­tric­ity.

All the while, I was learn­ing the ba­sics of copy­writ­ing, though I knew I would never match my men­tor, Pri­mary’s gifted cre­ative di­rec­tor Richard Jeans. Nowa­days po­ten­tial re­cruits have to go to col­lege for a proper mar­ket­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion or be­come an un­paid in­tern, but I doubt they’d learn half as much as I did in that first year. It was the best ad agency I worked in.

The new Sin­clair pocket cal­cu­la­tor proved use­ful for help­ing young Tony keep track of his profit-shar­ing.

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