Fairwell Honeychild

Dead technology

Apologies, Leo Burnett

It’s Easter from tomorrow for four days.

Sales shoot up at DIY stores and garden centres.

Wives tell their husbands to get a ladder and paint the bathroom ceiling.

Men learn again that the sight which most irritates women absolutely everywhere in the world, irrespective of ethnicity, age, caste or religion is the sight of men sitting around not doing anything.

So, my dear wife, Sally, spoke to me two nights ago.

“Those tapes. The ones in the attic. Your job this Easter is to transfer the whole lot of the wretched things on to DVD, hard drive and USB, and then throw the whole lot away.”

I know when I’ve been given my instructions.There’s never any room left for doubt.

Yesterday, I took my Umatic showreels to Stanley Productions in Wardour Street, and got them put on to DVD for £61.57. One of these showreels covers my time at Leo Burnett from 1979 to 1984.

I was the account director in the UK on Memorex from 1979 to 1984 at Burnett, and I absolutely loved the job. I was doing other things too, including Cadbury, Nestle and Texas Instruments, but Memorex was hot. I spent a very happy three months in Chicago in 1981 running the account for Bill Haljun and Chuck Curry while Mary Mann was on maternity leave.

The ads sort of showed Ella Fitzgerald shattering glasses when she hit the right note, and then more glasses being smashed when the Memorex recording was being played back.  The claim line was, “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”

Whilst I was working on Memorex in the UK, I was also trudging off to Texas Instruments in Bedford where a completely different language was used, stuff like high power Schottky, plasma displays and eproms.  I had thought plasma had something to do with blood.

The people at TI also showed us a very coarse-grained flat LED TV which you could hang on the wall. This was new! The pictures made everyone on-screen look like survivors from a nuclear attack, which was also new, because TI’s engineers could not then reproduce blue. This would have been 1982 or ’83, I think. The Japanese much later cracked the problem of blue.

In whatever year, I sat with Roger Clayton in his office in Burnett’s London base. He is one of the world’s Good Guys despite being a dead ringer for Rasputin’s younger brother.

I gave Roger three or four silicon chips, the first we’d ever seen, an expensive present from TI. Roger already had an early Mac, and had animated on this machine a glass smashing in order to keep Memorex quiet when they were wondering what to do with Ella and her less successful follow-up, Chuck Mangione.

Roger and I were both very thoughtful.

We knew things were changing but had no idea where things might go. What we did know was that magnetic tape was not the future. Roger subsequently left to set up a very classy and successful training company in the New Forest. Memorex sold itself to Burroughs which then sold on the consumer tape division to Tandy. I moved to Gold Greenlees Trott where I started work on Honeywell’s account.

Honeywell, too, got sold.

Initially, Brian Long and Barry Francis at Honeywell wondered if the company was going to be bought by Fairchild. So we all thought Fairewell Honeychild might be the new name, and chuckled at our jollity. Actually, Machines Bull SA of France bought the company, and things, although not grim, weren’t quite as jolly as they might have been. Later, the French bought Leo Burnett, too.

What was clear was that technology was speeding up, not slowing down.

End users wanted more of technology and speed, and were ruthless in discarding stuff which no longer was helpful. Mobiles killed the Trimfone.

And, Terry Leary, as he then was, was right: “Follow The Market.”

Reluctantly, I’m now transfering my tapes, feeling like a traitor to Memorex, Leo Burnett, Bill Haljun, Ashok Suri, Colin Bayliss, Barry Berghorn, John Humphreys, Joe Petite, Bob Dreveny, Bergina Cherkezian, Will Golding, Barbara Gallen and many more. You can find most of them still on LinkedIn.

But, like old girlfriends, the time has come to say goodbye. It’s OK to say goodbye to the past.

And, for me, that time is now.

In my next post, we’ll look briefly at why some of the new technologies we use now very seriously in digital marketing are 180 degrees different to the introduction of new technologies in former years.