Alan Wood


At nineteen years of age I deferred from my torturous Science Degree and tumbled into the Advertising industry. For the next five years I worked for a medium sized fashion and retail agency which morphed into the retail arm of a highly respected US agency called Leo Burnett. I started as a despatch boy delivering dubs to radio and TV stations, gathering props for photographic shoots, emptying cigarette laden ash trays and garbage bins, and picking up drunken directors from fancy restaurants on a Friday afternoon. I then worked in the dark room, the art studio, the production department and as a copy writer.

I loved every minute of it, except maybe those ash trays!

With my trade in the craft of making advertising complete I accepted a position at the then “University of Advertising”, London based J Walter Thompson – founded by the supposed creator of the industry. Starting as the Production Manager I was quickly moved into Account Management working on Benson and Hedges, when it was still OK to work on tobacco, and then Kellogg (new product development) and Unilever (haircare, fragrances, oral hygene). JWT sponsored me through a marketing course at the NSW University School of Business and sent me to the Philippines to study their proprietary strategic planning model.

The agency and these giants of packaged goods marketing taught me a great deal about market research and the ‘science’ of developing marketing and advertising strategy.

After five fantastic years at JWT I briefed a head-hunter on my ideal job and only a few months later, arrived at creative power-house Saatchi & Saatchi. In six incredibly productive months we produced six infamous ‘which bank’ television commercials for Australia’s best advertised brand, The Commonwealth Bank. I also worked on The Australian Pork Corporation’s ‘get some pork on your fork’ campaign. I received a very positive performance review and was fired a week later because of an apparent personality clash.

My education was complete – I had been shafted!

After a few reflective months on a Hereford cattle station in the upper Hunter Valley I returned to the advertising industry as an Account Director at my favourite agency brand, DDB Sydney. I was employed as an Account Director primarily to work on Tip Top Bakeries. In what was to become a career defining moment I was asked to rescue a failing new business pitch to the Keating Government for the introduction of the Superannuation Guarantee, in what was to be the largest Commonwealth Government Public Information Campaign ever undertaken. Not only were we were successful against 10 of Australia’s best agencies, but this massive campaign was then implemented successfully by all qualitative and quantitative performance criteria. Three years later the Account was put again to compulsory tender and we were successful again, and I was promoted to Group Account Director in charge of McDonalds Family Restaurants Australia. Controlling $65million dollars and over 60 staff we did everything for electronic and print media to the place mats and menu boards in the restaurants. My field marketing teams in each state even looked after The Ronalds.

This was a massive job for a guy just 30 years of age. Moreover, the output from my team was extraordinary and the creativity of our advertising world class.

I really believe that this great Agency taught me how to be a winner. I worked with so many extraordinarily talented and intelligent people in a great culture. I will always remember DDB as my favoured place to work, and the place where my intellect was most enhanced, despite the successes that lay ahead in my career. Somewhat sadly, I left DDB to join McCann Ericksson Sydney to manage The Coca Cola South Pacific advertising business. Not long after I was made Client Services Director – the manager of the managers – and invited to join the Board or Agency Management Team. We had an amazing client list including Coke, Nestle, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, The Boots Company, Cathay Pacific, Reckitt & Coleman and many more. I then took on the added responsibility of New Business Director and for two consecutive years we were the second most successful agency in Australia. During this time we won two huge highly competitive Commonwealth Government tenders, the first for the initial Telstra Share Offer, and the second for the highly controversial Howard Costello Government’s ‘not a new tax, a new tax system’ GST pre-election public information campaign. Contingent on our winning these appointments was my personal management of their implementation, which I loved. We also won Rebel Sport, Diet Coke, and assignments from Bacardi, Unilever J & J and Nestle. Eventually the Chief Executives position became available and I was advised by our Asia Pacific Regional Director that I was his recommendation for the role.

The fact that I was not appointed because I was unknown in New York made me realise there was other options on the table – heading north!

Even though I was offered positions in Sydney, South Korea and Singapore, a shift had happened. My wife and I, having had our first child, decided to open a new chapter in our lives and relocated initially to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, then to our mixed farming business in Kilkivan, SE Queensland fulfilling a dream that I had held since holidaying with my border mates at school. (see Bronwyn’s profile for more on that).

The full circle has now been completed, albeit in a very different way. Now I no longer sell, cancer, obesity, cigarettes, alcohol and taxes! We are fortunate to service clients at Brand House Co who have similar ideals and genuine, quality region businesses.

The satisfaction of who we deal with and the work we produce to day, far outweighs those stressful years in the city.