Monday, 21 March 2011

Ron Collins obituary

Advertising creative known for the Cinzano television campaign

Ron Collins, who has died aged 72, was one of the most successful creators of TV ads during the heyday of British advertising in the 1970s and 80s. He was perhaps best known for his long-running series for Cinzano in which the actor Leonard Rossiter invariably spilt his drink over an immaculately dressed Joan Collins. Initially directed by Alan Parker, the advertisements ran from 1978 until 1983.

Collins created the Cinzano series while at the Collett Dickenson Pearce (CDP) agency. In 1979, he left CDP to co-found Wight Collins Rutherford Scott, which became and remains a major player in the industry, now part of Engine. As a "creative", the industry jargon for a creative director, at WCRS, he helped put on our screens the "Ultimate Driving Machine" advertisements for BMW and the "I'll bet he drinks Carling Black Label" series, which massively boosted Carling's lager sales.

Collins's ads for Qualcast lawn mowers ? with his slogan "It's a lot less bovver than a hover" ? led to what the Sun newspaper dubbed "the Great Lawnmower War" in 1983 after Qualcast's rivals, Flymo, who produced hover mowers, complained that Collins's campaign was unfair. "There is no bother with our hover," Flymo insisted, "and we have two Queen's Awards to Industry in the past year to prove it."

The controversy was right up Collins's street. He was the epitome of the 1980s adman, admired and considered heartless in pretty much equal measure by colleagues and clients, but always focused on making their products sell. Genius, difficult, irreverent and cruel were among adjectives they used to describe him. His genius made him a young multimillionaire, but he lost much of his fortune through a spendthrift lifestyle and a poor understand- ing of investments.

Collins was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and attended Leeds College of Art before graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, where he was influenced by the fledgling pop art of David Hockney and Peter Blake. His first job was in the design studio of the Ford car plant in Dagenham, Essex, before he moved on to Saatchi & Saatchi and eventually CDP under its managing director Frank Lowe. He won his first awards for ads for Clarks shoes and Jaffa oranges.

Ironically, although the Cinzano series for CDP became something of a national institution, it also increased sales for Cinzano's arch-rivals, Martini, since consumers focused more on Rossiter and Collins than on the product name.

It was on the back of his Cinzano success that Collins co-founded WCRS. Such was the buzz in the industry over this new all-star breakaway agency that the four founders were forced to rent a suite in the Grosvenor House hotel in London to use as an address and phone number before they had time to get their own premises.

Collins's co-founder Robin Wight recalled: "Our wives used to bring us picnic lunches because we couldn't afford the hotel's room service and Ron used to give the switchboard girls weekly bottles of champagne for putting would-be clients through to what was an almost-unpronounceable name ? Wight Collins Rutherford Scott."

Collins was twice divorced and is survived by his partner, Maryse, and his children, Damon, Lois, Joel, Elliott and Daniel.

? Ron Collins, advertising art director, born 1 January 1939; died 7 February 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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