Neil French is without a doubt one of the most inspiring and famous advertising copywriters ever lived and he has just published a book about his professional and personal life titled Sorry for the Lobsters.
A CRAB STARTER
Twenty years ago, the journalist Philip Kleinman and I were sitting in a shack-on-stilts in a swamp off the southwest tip of Malaysia dismembering large mangrove crabs and discussing the problem of what the hell to do about Neil French.
I had just finished judging the Singapore Creative Circle awards. There were five judges, three of us from London: me (CDP), Alexandra Taylor (Saatchi) and Steve Dunn (Leagas Delaney). We were all experienced D&AD jurors. It was in our blood to be cruel, ruthlessly to reject anything less than perfect, to acknowledge only what was outstanding and reward nothing but the conspicuously brilliant.
We’d arrived not knowing what to expect. Singapore surprised us.
On day one, we were asked to listen to an opera, written and performed by a local agency and entered in the ‘self-promotion’ category. It was three hours long.
‘I’m not giving it three minutes,’ said Dunn, never a diplomat. ‘It’s a piece of unmitigated shite.’
On day two we were surprised again, this time pleasantly. Among the thousands of press ads lining the walls were a considerable number of striking ideas, witty, unexpected, many of them written with a sort of rakish nonchalance that we guessed must be typical of the easy-going Singaporean way of life. We further supposed that, as would have been the case in London, this pool of excellence represented the work of probably half a dozen of the most creative agencies.