Neil French. The most colorful advertising creative man the world has ever seen at least this part of the world. Pole dancers to sexist comments to brilliant writing to scam ads to bull fighting to cigars, he has given it all. Advertising’s very own bad boy quietly settled for a Dad’s post. I was fortunate enough to spend couple of days with this legend at Shanghai last year.
I have always admired his guts, audacity, cleverness and above all his craft, as an art director having worked with someone of the best Indian writers like Biwas Sen, Chax, Kersey Katrak, Mohammed Khan, Ivan Arthur, Balki and Agnello Dias, still feel some dissatisfaction of not working with Neil. At least I cherished the moments spent with him in China. I hate the sexist and blunt rude man in him at the same time love his simple frankness. He loves his live, work and women. His passion for writing and dismissiveness both are equally infectious if you listen to him long enough.
The time I spent with him was like a movie trailer , I witnessed him autographing on the breast of a young chinese ad professional to his Cigar chewing arrogant command for respect look to insights into his work to his obsession to play online monopoly to an anxious dad worried for his son being left alone at a friends place. I got to see the man up close delivering all emotions.
Talking about his sexist remarks on a fellow CD at WPP, which forced him to step down as worldwide creative director and have had the grace to accept that his sense of humour not going well with the community. Couple of years later found support in Asian creative icon Jureeporn who attributed her success to his encouragement of women creatives in Asia.
Two of my favorite campaigns:
To prove a point to clients who think that print as a medium is not suited for FMCG and beer. So he went on to create a brand called “XO” which never existed in real life and even created fake packaging. He broke every beer advertising rule, no pouring shots, no drinking shots, no sexy women, no expensive cars, no mouth watering defrosted glass with froth. The campaign became a rage and people flocked to the shops and bars only to discover that the brand never existed and it was a private lesson taught in public. You need guts and audacity to think and implement a campaign like that. Hats off.
When Johnny Walker was a market leader, Chivas considered to be cheap and therefore selling less in a status driven market. The obvious decision was to increase the price but along with it came a super confident tone of voice almost bordering on arrogance did the trick and Chivas became No:1. In case if have not read the line it says : “If you don’t recognise it, you’ve probably not ready for it” and what you see below is a bottle without the label. Absolutely Audacious.
Lessons from this master’s life are: when you enjoy your life and live fearlessly you tend to come up with brillent ideas. True. when you are on a roll you tend to engage people in a more charming way than when you are down.
As they say “French” knows how to live life king size.