Adam Curtis

Here is a lovely documentary made in 1969 about that year's Christmas office party at a London advertising agency.

I've used shots from it in the past - but I've always loved it as a film - so I thought I would put it up.

It tells the story of the preparations as well as the party - and it beautifully captures the mood that Christmas parties always create in offices.

The firm is called Davidson Pearce Berry and Tuck. I did a bit of research on them and it turns out that the film also captures them at a fascinating moment of change.

The original agency had been around for years and had always done very straight Industrial advertising in trade magazines - aimed at buyers. Their biggest clients were firms like Colt Heating and Ventilation, Wates the builders, and Holman Compressed Air.

Not boutique.

But recently two very ambitious young advertising men had joined. One was called Norman Berry - who had come from Young and Rubicam, the other was called Allan Rich.

They were determined to turn the agency into what Mr Rich describes as "a sexy boutique agency". They were modelling themselves on the new kinds of American agencies that people like Mary Wells had set up in New York.

And they had just scored a great success. The firm had got the account of the Conservative Party and its new modern leader Edward Heath. They were going to do the advertising for the 1970 General Election.

Saatchi before Saatchi.

And they were changing the firm radically. The old patrician world of British advertising was being dismantled and by now much of it had gone from the agency.

The only real remnant of that old world in the film is Mary Crowley from Accounts (along with her unnamed friend from Wages). I love Mary Crowley, she is like a ghost from an older Britain haunting the new "on-trend" flash agency.

But that new world wouldn't last long. The firm would succeed with helping Edward Heath get elected. But very soon an economic crisis would hit Britain - and advertising too.

The firm was bought by the giant US agency, Ogilvy and Mather, and Norman Berry went off to America. And the old agency just faded away.

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by Jason Rich

    on 7 Dec 2011 23:56

    It is great to see my father just before the start of his wonderful adventure that was The Media Business which eventually floated and then was paid to revive the fortunes of Mediacom when TMBG took Mediacom over but kept the Mediacom name.

    I have no other real insight into my father. This allows me to look into the man that I don't know at all .. and begin to know him a little.

    If at all possible Adam I would like a copy of this. To know I can always access it, to be able to show his grand-children and one day mine.

    Many, many people owe their careers and hence in many ways their lives to him. Though they were all at one point his great and wonderful 'kids', they all in turn helped shape his.

    I was always on the outside of both families ... but I never really saw it then.

    Whilst not the point of the piece ... to have come to know Rich now, through him and his family, may have surprised you. He was caught completely ... and yet I would have guessed most looking would have thought him 'unreal'.

    He is very real ... and I can see more than ever ... he is wonderful.

    Thank you

    Jason

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by DavidBowE3

    on 1 May 2011 20:43

    jesus christ avishalom, just watch the videos

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by thestuffreview

    on 5 Apr 2011 03:45

    Nice photos and video..we can see old style party.
    In my office..quartely we perform party..to create solid team. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by Leigh

    on 3 Mar 2011 14:58

    I worked for Davidson Pearce in the early 1980s and it was a very successful Ad Agency. I was on the TWA Account, there was also the PG Chimps campaign on at the time & Tommy Cooper was a regular visitor as he appeared in a range of ready-made meals. We were based in Brompton Road, next door to Harrods. We also had office Christmas Parties, although perhaps 11 years after the one in the film it wasn't very different! Happy Memories.

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by mididoctors

    on 21 Dec 2010 12:39

    @ avishalom there is screen capturing software that can film your computer screen or designated areas. google screen capture or screen recording

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by avishalom

    on 19 Dec 2010 20:04

    I am still irritated that Curtis' working on blogs cannot be downloaded. We have no guarantees the BBC will preserve any of this material for our uses. Take the Afghanistan series. Nor has the BBC gone and retroactively unlinked certain embargoed films from the first few posts Adam put up. This is sloppy, and a little cavelier.

    @Leeravitz and Mini

    "such interesting and nuanced film-making is rarely allowed much leeway these days - now that every subject is far too camera savvy to respond objectively (or near objectively)"

    *I find a big difference between distrubtion and what's actually produced. How can you know, unless you could show me the distribution for the old documentary? Today we have a more robust documentary market. Something as beautiful as "Herculaneum Shadows and Light" is made, and will not see the "light" (forgive the pun) of day, because it has no distribution. Or think back of Niall Ferguson's highly politically incorrect documentaries on Channel 4 made only a few years back. Try buying them in a store or online. You absolutely can't. Want to call blackwell or whatever the producer's name is? Good luck. Or take the Triump of Western Civilisation, a massive BBC documentary, a classic. Unlike more famous coeval documentaries it is today completely off limits today. I recall when Curti's Century of the Self came out - many of us formed some kind of priviledge club. When we told people about it, they weren't interested in watching it, since they had never heard of him, or his work. Till this day a few of his episodes "Oceans Apart" are not available to us.

    "This sense of crafting a documentary for the purpose of social analysis, anthropological study or in order to create a solid political point seems to have largely fallen by the wayside in present times."

    *I don't feel Adam attemps any such thing. But I don't say this with any bitterness. It's just my little opinion.

    I simple don't get the imperssion that Adam is trully interested in advertising, marketing, PR, nor even politics or political history. Having read a few works specialised in the field of PR, and often keeping updated on them I get the impression Adam is keenly aware what historians of the field have done, and he doesn't seek to approach their depth, nor to attempt translating it entirely on camera. His camera, to me, is psychological.

    Take Century of the Self. This made Adam's career. The source of its narrative is familiar to those who have read Stuart Ewen's "PR! A Social History of Spin". Ewen happens to make an appearance in the documentary, so we know Curtis read the work. Favorably inclined towards Curtis, you'll call his Century Ewen on celluloid. Ill-inclined, plagiarism. I say this merely to point out that Curtis does have direct inspirations for some of his work. The Trap seemed tohave Isaaiah Berlin at its source, while the Power of Nightmares was indebted to thinkers like Shadia Drury.

    Curtis doesn't treat history, or political science, with any academic rigor. Indeed, to academic observers, and to myself, his work has greater coherence when seen from a Psychoanalytical perspective.

    I am not worried about "bias" or "prejudice" in Adam's work. Like I said in a few comments back on another of his posts - he has a hysterical perspective, and I salute it. I still don't have a clue where Adam is coming from, but I see a psychoanalytical posibilities. Yes, this post is certainly abotu a party at a marketing firm. But we could agree that it is a withdrawing from the broader subject matter, and Adam expresses a bit of sentiment here, which is itself an unconscious assertion that he sometimes dwells too far away from home, for too long. I definitely do not see any conflict - it us as, as the audience, who will splinter. Naturally, we are all consuming different parts of Curtis' work. He is the coherent one, we as an audience can coalesce, but we can't be coherent.

    Although I could see psychological counter-arguments. Whatever. I'm just thinking out loud, but I certainly enjoy whatever exchange comes way.

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by TimothyF

    on 19 Dec 2010 07:31

    Subtly odd pronunciation of "accounts" (1.34) and "pounds" (1.55).

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by puckdale

    on 18 Dec 2010 19:47

    Fantastic documentary. But the 'what happened next' to Davidson Pearce is way off. It was a very successful agency throughout the seventies and never sold to Ogilvy - it was associated with many famous campaigns such as the PG Tips Chimps but finally lost its way in the 80s and was acquired by BMP in 1988. Allan Rich, the only media director I've seen drinking nothing but bitter lemon, went on to found the Media Business.

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by moreram

    on 17 Dec 2010 19:52

    Dear Adam, thank you for all of the good work you have done in trying to bring understanding to this otherwise "mad" world. Another interesting aspect that you may care to look into is the paradigm shift in the way viewers can now interact with the BBC in real time through its HYS blog. Of particular interest might be the HYS topic concerning Larry King, the popular American interviewer who has just decided to retire. The BBC asked it's bloggers what they think Larry King's legacy might be. The answers here are revealing of how the Internet is allowing previously passive viewers to actively coerce the BBC in true democratic fashion to discuss what they believe is relavant. I hope you find it as enjoyable and as enlightening as I did. The link to the comments is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/haveyoursay/2010/12/what_is_larry_kings_legacy.html?page=2#comments You need to read a few to get the jist.

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  • Comment number 14. Posted by oliver holtaway

    on 17 Dec 2010 16:54

    "Lady copywriter"!!!! Marvelous.

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