YouTube’s brilliant, isn’t it? You can find just about any long forgotten ad and remind yourself of how good or bad it was. One such ad, which readers of Sad Men will know almost sabotaged my career, is here in all its glory. Kiwi Sexhunk John Rowles, shirt unbuttoned to the navel, barges into someone’s courtyard and starts singing a heartfelt ditty about their roof.

Being set in Adworld, no-one is remotely surprised.


My First Ad as a Sad Man.

Not everyone can be a Sad Man. It takes a special kind of ability, as demonstrated here in my first ever ad. You need a combination of clumsily-worded headline, overwritten copy, tired clichés and implausible claims. It’s the latter that I’m most proud of in this example, where the premise of the ad is that “almost any commercial vehicle owner” will say that WASS, a relatively small provincial dealership, is the best in the country. This is followed by the claim that the very same commercial vehicle owner will happily give you a department by department rundown of the WASS organisation. Er, no he/she won’t.  


The Difference between Mad Men and Sad Men. Illustrated Using Footballers and Cars.


The Mad Men were at the top of the advertising tree, working on accounts like Lotus cars. And how did they make products like these desirable? Easy. Make sure football’s most glamorous player, George Best is snapped confidently posing on the bonnet of one.

Sad Men worked on accounts like Lada cars. And how did they promote Lada’s used car warranty scheme? Easy. Make sure football’s least glamorous player, Bobby Charlton is standing by one of the cars, pointing at the windscreen and looking uncomfortable.

A Short Interview with Fred Shively, Who Gave Me My First Job in Advertising.



DR: Fred, thanks for taking the time to talk to the Sad Men website. As readers of the book will know, you were the creative director who eventually gave me my first job, after initially rejecting me in favour of someone else. Obviously, as a mature adult I am now over the pain and anguish caused by this, BUT HOW COULD YOU CHOOSE SOMEONE ELSE OVER ME?

FS: Essentially it was because your opponent deposited a large sum of money in my Swiss bank account. Also I had some former contacts in the intelligence services do a background check on you. Do you really want me to reveal what they found?

DR: Moving on to the Lada “Tough Cars, Tame Prices” campaign which features in the early chapters. I was impressed at the time with the sheer glamour of you jetting off to Kenya to shoot the TV advert. The only slightly puzzling aspect was your decision to include polar bears in it. You don’t find them in Kenyan jungles, do you?

FS: Yeah, I had to fire the fact-checker on that one. Slipped right by me.

DR:  When I finally became a creative director, the best part of the job was being able to take all the interesting briefs that came in and getting other people to do all the rubbish jobs. What did you enjoy most about it?

FS: Taking all the interesting briefs that came in and getting others to do all the rubbish jobs. Oh, and my office was better and I got to drive a Ferrari until we won the Porsche account. 

DR: Not a lot of people know this, but as well as playing a leading part in my advertising life, you also played a leading part in the 1979 film Yanks, directed by John Schlesinger. How did this come about?

FS: I was going through a mid-career crisis and acting just seemed the next natural step. So when the opportunity to audition arose, I couldn’t pass it up. Richard (Gere) sends his love by the way. 

DR: Can you share any memories you have of working with Dave Roberts? Preferably ones that make me look good.

FS: Well on the few occasions you weren’t doing your Howard Hughes thing and managed to show up for work, I was mightily impressed by your output. Particularly for the eight page campaign for the incontinence chairs. Outstanding.

DR: Finally, are there any particularly terrible ads that you remember from your days in Leeds? Please do not include any of mine, which were all brilliant.

FS: Absolutely. It was a commercial for a particularly dreadful furniture outlet and featured a sequin besuited singer/pianist doing a re-lyriced pastiche of a Gilbert O’Sullivan song ‘Get Down’. Oh, wait a minute… I wrote that .