Tony Cullingham

Watford Advertising

 How To Get Me To Offer You a Place at Watford.

It's dead easy ......

 ..go to The Home and Creative Test page. Complete the Test and send your replies to Alison Gordon, Admissions, West Herts College, Hempstead Road, Watford WD17 3EZ.   If you get offered an interview this is what I'll be looking for : 

1. Prove you love advertising.

You should know the names of all the agencies . You should know  what accounts are where  and  the names of the creative directors and the leading creatives. You should know  your advertising history.  When I  mention 'Dambusters'  the ad should spring to mind , not the film. If I ask you to name the best three VW Beetle ads that DDB New York did you should have a view. You should have an opinion on the work of Erik Kessels,Bill Bernbach,Dave Dye,Trevor Beattie,Graham Fink and Flo Heiss.

2 Prove you are creative. If you are creative you are creating. You are building web sites, writing ads, making films, writing books, producing art installations. Don't be precious. Think.  Do.  Learn.   Move On.

3 Prove you like writing ads.

We all know what an ad is.Take a simple benefit. eg Brillo Pads. Best scourer. Come up with a campaign thought  that communicates this message in a creative way and execute the idea in as many different ways as you can. Write your ads in posters. Poster are the purest , simplest forms of advertising. Writing  poster campaigns forces you to think simply and clearly. Check the D and Ads to see examples of good poster campaigns. You should come to the interview with a book of ideas/ads for brands. Be as visual as you can. If you can't draw do crude drawings. Or find the visual you want on an imagebank and paste.

4. Prove you are a cultural sponge.

Mop up everything. literature, art, cinema,poetry,politics, economics,music, theatre,dance,opera,..............

You need to be an interesting person with a wealth of reference points and experience you can draw upon. I look to my students to teach me something. Students in the past have turned me on to Maus,Modest Mouse and Dangermouse. In reciprocation I have turned students' attention to the  creative minds of Buster Keaton, Eno,  Peter Greenaway, Prince Buster and Peter Cook.

5 Prove you love Digital.

You should have your own website/blog.

6. Prove you can write or art direct.

Or prove you can  do both. Ideally, you should have some published work under your belt.

7. Prove you love hard work.

Right now some agency creatives are doing 60 hours a week to hang on to their jobs.  Some are working weekends for free.If you love coming up with ideas and executing them you'll want to work the  hours. If you don't love it you should consider studying something else.

8.Prove you know something about the Watford Course.


 Do your research.You wouldn't book a £3,500 vacation to Greece without research. Ditto Watford. And it's not even a holiday.

9. Prove you don't take yourself too seriously.

You need to laugh at your mistakes and failures and move on with a smile as wide as The Dartford Tunnel. Writing ads is a trivial pursuit compared to what some people do for a living.

10. Be punctual and be nice.

 This is most important.




1.     Do stuff


          If you’re going to create for living create.


 Here are three areas:


A) Traditional Advertising.


Pick clear simple benefits to communicate. Work on familiar brands.

          e.g. Subway.  Biggest sandwiches.

          Birds Eye Fish Fingers 100% fish.


Write 20 ads to an idea summed up a strap line, pick the best execution put it in your book. Repeat three times to give you three ads



Work your ideas up in posters.

Use a maximum of 3 elements.  (Visual, headline, strap/logo)

Draw your concepts up no bigger………










          ………than this




If they are simple, they’ll communicate in this size.


Work through a dozen briefs in this way and put the best 3 ads from each brief in a portfolio.





B) Create ideas for that the consumer would do or participate in.


This is called Use Generated Content, or UGC for short. For example : let’s get   teenagers  to  climb lamp posts.


 It could be a good way of communicating  GRIP for a brand of street shoe in a non ‘addy’ way.






Increasingly, ownership of ideas and the generation of executions lie at the hands of the consumer. You just need a simple message  and then  create an  idea/opportunity for your audience to get involved in.


 C) Create  your own projects outside advertising. 


       Write and film comedy sketches, perform stand up, create          art installations, draw, paint, blog, create ideas for new products, invent should be continually making stuff.


Get out there and say what you have to say.






2.     Be smart.


You’re not a student.


You’re a professional.


You’re just  not in the profession yet.


So start acting and thinking like a professional creative.


Know your advertising history.


If a Creative Director asks you for your opinion on George Lois or Helmut Krone you  really don’t want to say..’who’?


Unless you want to come across as an amateur.


Find out the ins and outs of every half decent agency  across the planet.  Get to know the brands, their work, the creative directors, the best teams, the names of the creative pa’s and the colour of the agency carpets. 


Dig out every great ad that’s ever been written.(D&AD, archive websites, advertising books).


Read books on marketing, advertising, ideas, creativity.



Check out  Anne Elizabeth Moore. She’s an American writer who has written some marvellous books on modern day marketing methods.    


Build your own web site. Blog and post your ideas/virals.


Get involved in the debate around ideas. and do it for me.


Check out  the recommended reading  I have listed on my website


Know the business.


Get to know the demands of the business.


Get to know people in it.

 3 Widen your cultural hinterland.

I’m constantly baffled by people who are only concerned with the creativity of their time.

Don’t just look to the present to feed your imagination.

Laurel and Hardy can teach you more about visual comedy than Mr Bean.

 Dylan Moran is good but  he’s no Bill Hicks.And Bill Hicks is no Lenny Bruce. Lenny Bruce will show you what attitude is.

Douglas Adams’  The Hitchikers Guide to The Galaxy can teach you more about  writing for radio than I can.

Eisenstein will  tell you how to tell a story. And so will Aesop.

Bukowski will show you how to write copy. As will Dave Trott with his blog.

Emily Dickinson will show you how to put emotion into words.

De Sica’s 1948  Bicycle Thieves will teach you  Neo Realism.

Hockney will inspire you more than any ad man.

Ada Lovelace’s concepts  laid the groundwork for the modern computer.  And that was in 1843.  What does that teach you?

Choose your inspirational leaders. Follow them. 


4      Ha Ha Ha


          Comedy is a funny thing.


Dawn French  said, ‘if it’s bad taste it isn’t funny if it’s funny it isn’t bad taste’.


Steve Martin  said ‘wars only exist because people don’t laugh enough’.


John Cleese  said ‘it’s the aim of every Englishman is to go to his grave unembarrassed.


Eric Morecombe said ‘like isn’t Hollywood. It’s Cricklewood’.



And Spike Milligan  said ‘ Yingtong yingtong

yingtong yingtong yingtong idel i ay’.


You need a sense of humour and you need to have a laugh.

         Read Frasier,  Seinfeld, Blackadder and Ronnie Barker      



Watch Monty Python, League of Gentlemen, Black Books,  Red Dwarf, Jam, Friends, Arrested Development, Green Wing, Father Ted, Fast Show – South Park, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin,  The Marx Brothers, Chris Morris, Childrens’ T.V and Stupid.  And don’t forget The Simpsons !!!


Listen to Radio 4 – it’s where most of the great comic writers start out. Listen to The Goons, Viv Stanshell and Graham Shuttleworth.


Write a stand up show and perform it in front of your dog on a wet Sunday afternoon.


Fun is good in advertising.  And fun people get jobs.



  5.     Sponge


Absorb everything around you.  Watch people going about their lives. Soak up insights, truths, observations.


Eavesdrop on conversations.


There’s no such thing as normal. 


Everyone is a bit weird.  The funniest things are ‘everyday’ and  they happen every day.


Start a scrapbook. Keep a diary. Fill it with anything you think is interesting.  Pictures, news cuttings, chocolate wrappers, photographs, ads, cartoons, doodles, quotes, East Timor’s national anthem, ideas which could change the world……..


  A philosophy.


     I know you’ve heard all this before but there is no

     harm in repeating  the following.                                                          


     The important thing to remember at all times is that the secret of success is down to hard work. You need to put in the hours.


    Laurel and Hardy made over 100 films as individuals before they teamed up as Laurel and Hardy.


    The Beatles played three sets a day for 7 days a week in Hamburg.(Hence the song '8 days a week'. 


    Derren Brown locked himself away for two years to learn his craft.


    You’ve got 36 weeks at Watford. Not much is it?


    Any job worthy having is all about the hours. 


     But there is one difference with the job of advertising.


     Advertising is FUN.


     It shouldn’t feel like hard work.

     It’s enjoyable.

     If you are not enjoying it  then something is wrong.



I’m typing this at TBWA London. I’m sitting next to one of my  former students, Fernando Perrotoni. 


This is what he would like to tell you.


“I left Brazil in August 2006.

I said goodbye to my wonderful mother, my fantastic father and my best friend ; my  twin brother.

I resigned from a well paid job as an art director in Brazil.

I sold my beloved car. An old VW Golf.

I split from my long term girlfriend.  

I borrowed huge amounts of money and left my life behind  to go  to Watford.

Tony said I was mad.In fact he said I was crazier than a lunatic asylum.

But I had  to give it a go. It was the biggest risk I have ever taken.

Watford was the hardest I ever worked. 16 hours a day. And most weekends.

I wouldn’t be sitting here today at TBWA  working on  John Smiths beer, Adidas and a new campaign for Twix, if it wasn’t for The Watford work ethic and the sacrifices I made.”


 Addendum July 2013.


Fernando moved to Mother in East London which, ironically enough, was further away from his mother in Brazil. He spent two years  in East London creating some great work on, Stella and Moneysupermarket.


In 2013 Fernando returned to Brazil.

He's back with his family and is looking to purchase a Lamborghini with go faster stripes. I am not sure whether he is looking for his ex girlfiend.