Celebrating the creativity of Frank Budgen.

January 17, 2016

Frank Budgen was a groundbreaking copywriter, director and inspiration.
He died on Monday 2nd November 2015.
I loved his work.
He continually delivered astonishingly effective and beautiful adverts, and yet remained humble and keen to learn new things.
He understood the need to make an impact.
So he changed and evolved to ensure that his approach always felt fresh. It always had something different.
He was a hero to many.

He was responsible for one of my favourite pieces of film (not just adverts) of all time, the ‘Double Life’ spot for the Sony Playstation. For me, it absolutely nails the target audience.
They don’t see computer games as a waste of time. They’re proud of the effort they put in and the alternative digital lives they lead. It’s a tribal thing, where the advert recognises the emotion that gamers feel. It looks fantastic and it still gives me goosebumps to watch.

He began his journey in advertising when he started as a copywriter at BBDO. He then moved to M&C Saatchi before becoming creative director at Boase Massimi Pollitt (BMP). The reputation that BMP enjoyed was based on their excellent creative output – one that saw regular award and account wins.

While working at BMP Frank directed his first commercial (that he also wrote) for John Smith’s Brewery.

By 1992 he had decided he wanted to direct rather than write and he left BMP to join the Paul Weiland Film Company. He continued to develop his skills there and launched his own production company, Gorgeous Enterprises, in 1997.
It’s one of the delights of working in advertising to call Gorgeous and be greeted with “Hello Gorgeous”.

He features in The Commercials Book: How 32 of the world’s best directors make their commercials. It’s a fantastic read. He talks at length and eloquently about how he approaches directing.

“In the end you have to let a piece of work kick you in the gut. I think too many people look for rules in advertising. It’s not about that. You have to feel it, and often too much of it gets strangled by logic.”

“I see my work as a team effort where there’s no distinction between writer, art director or director. Anybody can contribute to any part of the process. Most of my best work has been a collaboration between me and the agency at script stage. And it’s great when that carries on through the shoot into post production.
A lot of trust has to be given to a director the team may hardly know and I guess having an agency background can be reassuring.”

“Some people say that advertising has changed for the worse over the years. I actually think it’s got better.”

By his own admission he rarely knew what the finished commercial would look like. He took the approach that change was constant and he remained flexible in his approach to casting, rehearsals, locations and editing. And he wasn’t pigeon-holed by a style, or a technique or an approach. As he put it: “People tell me that I’ve got no style at all, which I think is meant as a compliment.”

He was recognised in 2012 at D&AD’s 50th anniversary celebrations as Britain’s most-awarded commercials director (jointly with Tony Kaye).

When he was working as a copywriter he wrote this ad for The Guardian that still resonates today.
It’s simple, memorable and powerful. The idea fits perfectly with the proposition – that The Guardian gives you every angle on a story. It was directed by Paul Weiland, who Frank went on to work for after BMP.

Here’s a selection of beautiful adverts Frank shot after he became a full-time director. Judge for yourself if he had no style.
(I think I’d change that earlier sentence to: Frank has no one particular style associated with his work. But, damn, he had style.)

Audi ‘Number One’ (1995)

Capital Radio ‘Static’ (1996)

VW ‘UFO’ (1996)

Centraal Beheer ‘Museum’ (1996)

Guinness ‘Bet on Black’ (2000)

Levi’s ‘Twist’ (2001)

Reebok ‘Escape the Sofa’ (2001)

Nike ‘Tag’ (2001)

NSPCC ‘Cartoon’ (2002)

Nike ‘Shade Runner’ (2002)

Playstation ‘Mountain’ (2003)

Xbox ‘Jump rope’ (2006)

Sony Bravia ‘Play Doh’ (2007)

And finally Playstation ‘Double Life’ (1999)

Well, it is my favourite.
Watch it again and marvel at the sheer beauty of it, on all levels.

Frank Budgen
(1954 – 2015)
Copywriter and director

Goodbye to a man who commanded armies and conquered worlds.
He will be missed.

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