Tony Cullingham

Watford Advertising

The Best Five Creative Directors as seen from my position. (A squeaky swivel chair in Room 203 on The Bill Bernbach Wing , North corridor.) 

Creative Directors have enough on their plate trying to keep their jobs without giving their time to help me keep mine.

Without the support, advice and free chocolate Hob Nobs from some of the UK's leading creative demi-gods, The Watford Course would have folded up years ago. It's not my place to cast judgment on CD's creative work or their agency's output. I can only judge their generous spirit and  fervent passion for our work at Watford.

Some distinguished Creative Directors  won't  reply to my letters/emails. I find this strange, particularly when  their creative departments are staffed with more than a sprinkling of our graduates.Oh well.

Here are the ones who recognise this very simple fact: that by helping Watford they are helping the Advertising Industry to get the best creative talent. 

 Here are my top 10 chart positions and my reasons why. Last year's position in brackets

 1 (1) Dave Trott.



If Dave Trott was a band he would be The Ramones.

He has more energy than the entire back catalogue of Joey and the boys.

His energy in a workshop is tangible as he runs through a set list which comprises  every conceivable marketing and creative principle known to adman . 

His mantra of 'Radical Reasoning' is like having  your very own focus puller in the brain.  At the end of a Dave Trott workshop all  those fuzzy creative and strategic thoughts are  aligned  to  pin-sharp definition.

Inspirational. Charismatic.  Caring.  Above all, Dave is genuinely passionate about helping young creative talent develop their ability. The day Dave retires will be a sad one for all of us in advertising. And  particularly sad for the future students of advertising. Irreplaceable. 

Dave has run workshops for Watford for the past 20 years.

He will always be number 1

Dave in action, January 2010 running a masterclass which started at 6.00pm and finished at midnight!!!

1b Gordon Smith. 


 Gordon loves his ski-ing.

A few years ago he was in France at the top of black run on a beautiful spring morning. He wiped his goggles,  pulled his bobbly hat over the peaks of his ears and stared at the  icy ravine below him. 

He then took out his mobile phone and called the office to set our students a brief. 

Okay, I made up the bit about the  hat.  A diamond . Enough said.

2 (5) Flo Heiss.


Flo Heiss has helped my course since Dare first opened it's doors for business. 

 And he's done a huge amount for Watford this past year.

He assessed all the student folios.

He's had the course working at Dare for a week.

He's pushed our thinking 

He's set us projects.

He's read to us, played videos to us and bought us all beers.

We all love Flo at Watford. No wonder he gets first pick of our graduating teams. See the Dare project page.


 3. Dave Buonaguidi

I was terrible at languages so forgive me in thinking that 'Buona guidi' means 'Good Guy' in Italian.  If the translation is accurate then I can't think of a more appropriate surname for this genial, genuine ball of creative gentleness.

If the translation is not accurate then I am a delusional rabbit.

We have a terrific relationship with Karmarama.   Dave  gives placement space to our teams. He's always interested in the work we do and  he has been a big hirer of Watford talent over the years. He treats me with respect and I know that if I wanted to  call on him for help he would be there.  With a ping- pong bat in his right hand.

4  (321) Ed Robinson

Let's do a workshop. Let's do another one. Come on over. Get involved with the agency. These are not my words. They are the words of Ed Robinson, Creative Director at Publicis. In the last few months Ed has poured so much energy into our course I feel I should leave and hand over the reins to him. A year ago I hardly knew him. Now he's a real mate of the course. Thanks Ed.

5 ( 19) Paul Brazier

Paul ushered the students into the board room one cold February morning. We all took our seats. We didn't take them very far. All went quiet as Paul gave a warm,cosy chat about 'creative simplicity'. He was so engaging I wanted to curl up and  toast marshmallows. He is a genuine bloke. Someone I would have called a brick back in the day. Paul said he is always keen to work with Watford and I respect him hugely for saying so. Below,  Watford teams working at AMV for the week.

6th Dave Dye

Dave is without a shadow of a doubt the best art director in the U.K.

No one comes close.  For me, the one thing that sets Dave apart from other  top art directors-he is so incredibly humble and generous.

For the last two years I have taken my students to see him for a master class in art direction and design.

His mild manner and sheer passion for advertising is palpable.

Dave's every word  is softly spoken and  hangs in the air for a second before coming to rest in the warmest, snuggliest part of the brain where we keep our happy moments.  


 Dave exuding inspiration from behind the student with the purple hat.

7  (27)Tom Tagholm. 4 Creative, (Channel 4 )

Tom, along with Richard Burdett MD and Ed Webster Head of Traffic, have been instrumental in providing us with some of the most exciting days of the Watford calendar. Tom is an excellent critiquer of student ideas and is a natural educator.

Tom, Ed and Richard have  opened the large glass doors at Channel 4 and have kept us busy  with creative workshop days where the students have worked to live programme briefs.

The  C4 boys have also  hosted  one of our more memorable and rousing nights;  The  Watford Graduation Ceremony in 2007. 

Tom and Ed have awarded freelance work and jobs to our students and I'm very proud of the fact that we are involved with such talented people.

8  (8) Paul Gayter. Creative Director , Brainwave, Washington USA.

Paul Gayter is a genius. Many people have the job title 'Creative' They write appropriate ideas for the briefs. Only  a handful of people on this planet are blessed with minds that are truly on a different creative leyline.

Paul has  a creative idea every 7 seconds.

His mind works in ways that astounds me.

And he sees a creative opportunity in everything around him.

Most of his ideas are rubbish .

The ones that are not rubbish are pure unadulterated genius.

He set up washing machines to wash  celebrities' clothes and created art works from the the fabric left in the washing machine after the final spin cycle ?  

A range of gravity defying  furniture for kids  called Funiture?

A range of original and funny greetings cards based on The Tarot?

Not to mention his award winning advertising campaigns he has worked on in the USA.

When Paul came over to England for two weeks he spent more time at Watford than he did  with his own family. And he loves his family dearly.

He is one of only three people who have helped to define me as a  tutor.  And I am indebted and thankful that he  became my friend as well as a  mentor.

9 (31) Sam and Dave, Leanmeanfightingmachine.


They set  a live brief.They took a student idea. They turned it in to an award winning piece of advertising. They invited the student team to  the Grosvenor House to pick up the gong. The work was regarded as one of the best pieces of Digital Advertising in 2008 .

They gave the  credit to the Watford team  !!!
Now tell me , who in their right mind would do that ?

Also, Sam and Dave's  1968 hit, 'Can't You Find Another Way?' on Atlantic records  is a favourite on my Spotify jukebox.

Sam and Dave are the most confident, ego-less, talented, humble creative directors I have met in my 20 years at Watford. Long may they remain so.


 10 (2) Trevor Beattie

One day I received a letter out of the blue from Trevor.

It simply said, ' How you doing Tony?. Is there anything I can help you with.?'

 In all my time at the college I had never received an unprompted letter from a Creative Director to offer support.

Why would they write to me?

They have clients to keep,  and creative teams to manage and inspire. Being a Creative Director is a

Trevor is different. He knows how hard it is at the grass roots. He knows we need help.

He hasn't forgotten what it's like to  be young and struggling.

He  knows that the students are working 12 hours a day. 7 days a week with the added pressure of a £14,000 Uni debt.
After reading his letter I did what any self respecting tutor would do.

I bit off Trevor's hand off for help. He and his wonderful teams have been helping us ever since.

It is no coincidence that when Trevor launched BMB he did it with a Watford Team, Pat Burns and Gavin McGrath. He has since hired 5 more of our teams to his creative department.big job.