Magazine article Marketing

Abbott's Devotee

Magazine article Marketing

Abbott's Devotee

Article excerpt

At the age of 12, Peter Souter sketched a picture of himself as a 24-year-old and wrote beside it 'Advertising executive'. What he forgot to draw was another of himself as a 35-year-old, which would have read 'Top creative job in British advertising'. This was confirmed last week when his chairman and long-term mentor David Abbott retired (Marketing, July 23).

Despite his new-found pre-eminence, Souter describes Abbott's withdrawal from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO as "an unending tragedy".

As the creative force behind Britain's most successful advertising agency, Abbott is a name that many blue-chip clients still mention in hushed reverence. His poster '"I never read The Economist," management trainee aged 42' hangs in advertising's hall of fame. He was also the man behind BT's enduring 'It's Good to Talk' campaign and Yellow Pages' 'JR Hartley' classic.

But while the final tributes to Abbott echo around Soho, the players will be asking: can Souter, Abbott's personally blessed successor, emulate the great man's leadership and, more importantly, nurture powerful and effective work for AMV's clients? If Abbott, 59, had any doubts he probably wouldn't have gone off to write his novel. He had been grooming Sourer for years before announcing the formal succession last summer.

Souter, for his part, has idolised Abbott since his student days. While at St Martin's School of Art in London, Souter identified Abbott as his ideal copywriter and boss. So he stood outside Abbott's house with a placard saying: 'AMV - Volvo preferred' as a pastiche on Abbott's Volvo ad at the time. Abbott gave him a lift to work but not a job because he was initially unimpressed by his work.

The Design & Art Direction evening course proved a better ice-breaker for Souter, who used it to win a job at Delaney Fletcher Delaney in 1985. He eventually got his first job at AMV in 1991 and now writes on his CV: "In the first five years of his career he [Souter] worked in some really terrible agencies doing some highly suspect advertising."

His subsequent rise through the ranks at AMV makes Tiger Woods' golfing career seem plodding.

John Kelley, creative director on Ogilvy and Mather Ford business and a senior creative at AMV at the time, says: "Peter quickly established himself as not only being very clever, but as someone who could turn around some of the tougher, less sexy briefs."

In handing Sourer his job, Abbott effectively skipped a generation of creatives at AMV, clearly favouring young blood as part of a long-term investment.

Most people who know Sourer testify to his ability to strike a chord with the right people. …

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