How paul mccartney, david ogilvy and the wwf ad account got me fired

What on earth was I thinking? Linda was a member of Wings; she would certainly involve Paul, as he was, apart from being her husband, the band’s leader. So, Wings would almost certainly be the band that backed Linda and that would mean Paul would be doing it, anyhow, even if Linda composed the song and sang it solo. But, no, in my pigheadedness, I wanted Paul to say yes.

Then the second note, which arrived a couple of days later, made my heart thump even more. In fact, it seemed to split my heart into two, one half remained where it was, thumping away, whilst the other half went up my throat and into my head and was banging around inside it, whilst my pulse was hammering in my ears.


David had very clear and heavily entrenched views and rules about advertising and how it worked. And one of his rules was you don’t get pop stars to make commercials about serious organisations. Fine for chewing gum. Not the WWF. My, how things have changed with Bob Geldof and the parade of stars that were used to promote Live Aid.

What David, a man who at that stage was around 70 years of age, and quite set in his ways, failed to comprehend was that Paul McCartney was no longer a long-haired hippy youth but a happily-married family man of around 40 years of age. He was a man of considerable standing; he was an MBE (and later knighted, Sir Paul McCartney). A man who passionately shared the same values as WWF and who had a massive following, no longer from the teenage idols with no spare cash in their pockets for WWF but from the all-important 40-plus target market who we were trying to persuade to donate a little of their income to WWF.

He also failed to realise that he was, like so many big bosses, surrounded by sycophants. Those within Ogilvy and Mather, and those within WWF. Although David professed to hate politics, "Fire incurable politicians!" and "I hate toadies!"; he just didn’t recognise it in those that sadly croaked "yes, yes," and "you’re absolutely right, David!" responses to everything he said. In short, they guarded him from reality. In fact, I remember having a conversation with Ingerborg ‘Borgie’ Baton, his head of typography for 35 years, whom David said was, "an angel and a genius". Borgie was visiting me in the Brussels office before David’s impending arrival. We were having a light lunch out of the office.

So I was encouraged to stick to my guns, for David also preached that he wanted people in Ogilvy & Mather "who grasped the nettle". Indeed, he describes the ideal characteristic of an Ogilvy & Mather senior manager as someone who has "guts, grace, charm, honesty, and someone with fire in their belly".

The voice at the other end was jolly and welcoming. "Hello Aubrey. I was expecting your call. You’re absolutely right about this McCartney thing. McCartney is right for the brand. It’s a fabulous idea." I felt much relieved. At last, here was someone who would speak out loud and back me up. Thank goodness for that.

"I can’t back you. Look, you’ve opened a real can of worms here. WWF is his pet account. He was one of the founders. Getting McCartney is a really hot idea, but it goes against David’s rule, you know, the one about…" and then he changed his voice into that of mimicking a preacher, "…singing is for chewing gum and not for a serious organisation like WWF, and all that stuff."

"Aubrey, you are right. We are right. But I hear from everybody in WWF that David is like a bear with two sore heads. Your people are backing away, and, how do you say in English, ‘licking the bottom of David’. They agree with David. They have to. To agree with you would be career limiting. David is being very stubborn."

I hadn’t slept much, and it wasn’t because I was staying awake like some five-year old waiting up all night for the arrival of Father Christmas; I was awake because I was awaiting the arrival of David Ogilvy: The Holy Spook. I was awake because I was preparing my defense. "Look David you are a man in your 70s. You are cosseted by those who surround you. No one tells you the truth. You haven’t been out in the real world for years. You don’t travel much as you hate flying. So, you don’t see much. You are out of touch. Get out of that castle, into the street. Talk to the real 40-year olds.

Of course, thank goodness, I told myself on my second night of wide-awake sleeplessness, leave that tack alone. It would work better if you were more objective Aubrey, try something like, "I understand your concerns, David". The brief is, let us remind ourselves, to reach the affluent 40-year olds we need something or someone that can ‘engage them’ and ‘resonate’ with them. Someone who they can look up to…"

So, there we sat in the managing director’s office. David was drinking tea and smoking our cigarettes, Dunhill tipped. He never had his own (he usually smoked a pipe anyway) and never carried any money ("A true Scot," said someone, "short arms and barbed-wire in his pockets").

Still reeling from the Holy Spook’s lack of willingness to debate (probably due to the fact he had consulted the sycophantic ones), and his ultimate power of, metaphorically speaking, "sending one shamefully to the guillotine," I received the ultimate insult.

"Yes. Fuck off. Fuck off. Paul has only done one piece of commercial music and that was for that Bond thing, Live and Let Die. He’s not doing any more." He said "that Bond thing" with some considerable distaste in his voice, and then he continued, "He’s not doing anymore. Do you understand?"