In 1995 I decided to quit advertising.
My last contribution to the industry would be to judge the Sharks in Kinsale in September, and then it would be over. I thought I had given my best years to Young & Rubicam and it was time for something new. Maybe a Jazz Bar or a Hotel for musicians in Antwerp.
The jury that year was headed by the legendary Bill Westbrook. Bill was the creative partner of Pat Fallon. Together they had made Fallon McElligot of Minneapolis the best agency of that time. It was the best jury I had ever been in. Small and cosy. No table with voting debates. Just four blokes from around the world, and a charming Swedish lady, watching TV and commenting as the spot went by. As a group we made a selection, and as a group we gave Sharks away to the work we thought was outstanding. No politics, no nationality disputes. Just ads and their creative value. Hearing Bill and the other colleagues give their feedback taught me more about the craft than anything else before.
After the judging, we all stayed for the Festival. Off course. And during that week an old friend showed up. André Duval. We ran into each other in the Spaniard, shook hands and he said:
• Hi, I resigned from TBWA, will you start an agency with me?
I said no.
No never, no more.
The Irish pub songs had taken over my head. And the decision was clear in my mind. No more advertising business for me. And certainly not with my name on the door.
So André, who has a problem with the first and the last letter of the word ‘no’, suggested a walk on the wild cliffs of The Old Head with the wives. A place I had always loved, the years before. But when we arrived, the place was taken over by bulldozers. I was shocked. André told me they were building a golf course, and I should learn how to play, cause I would love golf. A golf hat and my name on the door. Less was necessary to make it definitive. No.
The morning after the award ceremony, André took me to the local nine holes village course on the river banks and taught me how to hold a club. We spent the whole afternoon playing hole four and by the time we had reached the green, we had to hurry back up the hill to catch our plane.
Six months later we rented an old house in Brussels. We had three desks. One for André, one for Catherine, his assistant, and one that was most of the time empty. It was mine, but I was out practicing my golf swing, since we had no clients to work on.
Things changed fast. Stella Artois were the first to join, and every time I came back from the driving range, André had hooked another client with high creative expectations. A year later Duval Guillaume was on the map.
What had changed my mind?
Bill Westbrook, one night between two songs of another Bill - Crosbie, told me, if André and I would start an agency, I should come over to Minneapolis and spend some time with his teams, to see how they work. It was like Spielberg saying -hey if you are ever in Hollywood, come and spend some time with us.
Every year to follow, we celebrated our start in Kinsale with a round of golf on the course that now is number one on the bucket list of every golfer in the world - Old Head of Kinsale - after we picked up our share of Sharks in the Actons hotel. Over the years we met with fantastic people. My second time in the jury was with Dan Wieden and many others who influenced and inspired our work because that was Kinsale for us. The crowd was a bunch of fellow craftsmen happy to share their enthusiasm for an idea. And the advertising stars were your neighbours on the tap waiting with you for a beer to be poured - which can take a while in Ireland!
For us, Duval Guillaume, Kinsale was the most friendly spot on Planet Advertising.
Sure, the Spaniard is not the Majestic and Actons is no Palais. But salmon and Guinness can beat champagne and lobster by miles, when it comes to making great things happen.
On behalf of André, me, and all the people who ever worked at Duval Guillaume, we thank the team of the Sharks Festival for setting up this charming event every year. You keep the heart of the industry healthy.