Prestigious ad website ihaveanidea is launching a new regular feature called 'How D'You Get In?'
Twice a month, a Creative Director will share how he or she got into the business.
First up is the infamous Neil French, former WPP Worldwide Creative Director and founder of the World Press Awards.
I'm pretty sure that every word of what he has written is untrue, but it's highly entertaining stuff.
Although everything we've done makes us what we are today...for good or otherwise...I guess you'd like the precise moment when I had my first job in this racket.
Having been thrown out of an English Public School for decking the Deputy Headmaster, I got a job (via my long-suffering Dad's Masonic contacts) as a rent-collector in Birmingham. To describe this as miscasting is like saying that Buddha and Torquemada had a lot in common. They gave me the toughest areas, the red-light areas, and the immigrant ghettos. They also gave me a leather satchel and a German Shepherd, and some bus-fare.
Oddly-enough, I loved it. The people were really nice! The red-light area was an education in itself in so many ways; the Irish taught me how to fight dirty, drink Guinness, and operate betting-scams; and the Caribbean immigrants taught me to dance and smoke funny cigarettes.
The only snag was that I failed to collect any rents.
On my final day, I was widdled-on by an angry tenant, and chased up a high street by a large gentleman from Jamaica. The dog? It disappeared in the distance, never to be seen again. Dogs are smarter than they look, plainly.
On my arrival back at base, sans pooch and pouch, the boss called me into his office.
"You're not really cut out for this, are you?"
"No, Sir. Not really".
He leaned back in his chair and sighed.
"In my experience, anyone who's totally useless at everything else seems to go into advertising. I have a friend who owns an agency. Would you like me to make a call?"
"Yes, Sir. Please, Sir. That's jolly nice of you."
Ten minutes later, he called me back in and handed me a page torn out of the hitherto unsullied rent-book.
"There's the address. You have an appointment in an hour. Better hop on a bus right away, I think."
"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir. Goodbye, Sir."
By the time the door closed, I'm sure he'd forgotten me. But I got the job, and I owe that nice old bloke a huge debt.