Friday, 30 March 2012

The Chip Shop Story - Andy Cheetham

Andy Cheetham is the owner of Cheethambell JWT, which has been around for 20 years. This session was, again, one of the best of the week. It was very insightful and also very inspiring.

In 1991, Andy had been made redundant 3 times in 3 years. He had never worked out of Manchester and there was also a recession on, so he had no job to go to. He had 5 years experience, had never been in a management position, and had no reputation to get a job. It ended up getting worse, as his car was then stolen. He asked himself 'what do you do now?' His answer was to get a reputation; he would do this by getting a portfolio. On his side, he had youth, boundless enthusiasm, a little talent, and he had no significant debt or assets that he wouldn't gamble. He also thought that if no agency would employ him, he'll start his own, the only problem was, he had no clients, no money and no contacts. The idea was to make/buy a reputation, using 3 creatives in similar conditions/situations, and all the money he had.

Barnacles is a fish and chip restaurant in Llandudno. It's owned by Andy's mum and dad. Andy started creating press ads for the shop, which were low cost, full page ads in the local press. They started to enter these advertisements into awards; the awards rulings said the ad has to run, BUT it didn't say how long/many times it had to run. The ads were really simple ideas, playing on the quality of the food; after all, people love a good concept! They then started to move onto bus campaigns. These are a good idea, especially in small towns, as there's not many and they tend to run an ad until they get a new one through. Eventually, though, there was an uproar about the ads; any ad for a small brand became known as a "chip shop ad."

One year later, the awards loophole was closed, as they tidied up the awards. They couldn't enter Barnacles any more, as award owners had gotten many complaints from creatives.

Twenty years later, many people don't know why they're called 'chip shop ads,' it's just what they've always heard them called. The Chip Shop Awards came about because of these 'chip shop ads', which is a global award ceremony. "The Chip Shop Awards is about fostering and recognising creativity with no boundaries and no rules. It's an international creative awards, open to anyone with great ideas." The slogan for the awards is "Creativity with no limits." The results, twenty years later, include:
  • CBJWT is rated as one of the top UK agencies outside of London
  • Andy has been a campaign A-List member since its inception 9 years ago
  • Made a fello of IPA
  • D&AD executive committee member
  • Part of JWT World-Wide Creative Council
  • 300 plus awards, plus 2 lifetime achievements
  • An Atlantic yachtsman
  • And also has a property portfolio
When asked if Andy is proud of his achievements, he answers yes and no. It's a dog-eat-dog world, where most creatives have manipulated an awards at some point. It has, however, created opportunities he never would have dreamed otherwise.

What's changed since the Chip Shop days?
The world became digital! Making things became easier than ever and cheaper than ever. People still love great ideas, and it's up to you to make it happen with new tools etc. Finally, the economy was bad in 1991 too, so don't be disheartened by it now.

The advice Andy gave us was:
  • Show your personality when e-mailing your portfolio's etc
  • Make an effort in EVERYTHING you do!
  • Interrogate the brief, find out what the brief's about and get your core idea
  • When it comes to awards:
    • The best work wins
      • Only enter your absolute best work
      • Try to spend more time getting the few bits right, than scatter-gunning the awards with rubbish
  • Always play to win!
  • Know what's good out there (know what's commercial out there, why things work etc.)
  • Self-filter - if you can spot a flaw in something you've created, a creative director will too, and will grill you about it
  • Edit, edit, edit
  • If it's been done before, it's likely a creative director has seen it
  • Get your core idea right
  • "Be what people are interested in!"

Overall, Andy's session was really insightful into how you can make a success out of the most simplest idea. Although I don't agree with his approach of manipulating the awards, it was only because of this deception that Andy hit the 'big-time'. It is such an inspiring story, of someone who was so down on their luck, after being made redundant 3 times, in 3 years, and then no one wanting to hire him, and eventually going on to start your own company, just working small time for your mum and dad's business. It just shows that ideas come from anywhere.

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