Barnacles Fish & Chip Shop in Llandudno, Wales, was once the talk of Soho, when its ad campaign scooped a heap of awards, the campaign was the work of an advertising nobody. The client was his mum. His budget? Beer money. The Drum Chip Shop Awards US has its origins in this story.
The awards scheme celebrates pure, unadulterated originality. The awards are for professionals, students, or anyone really. Read the following story about two young creatives Andy Cheetham and Tony Veasey, desperate to establish their reputation as serious creatives and keen to win awards. But short on clients.
Fifteen years ago, a surplus-to-requirements art director called Andy was chewing the fat with an in-between-jobs copywriter called Tony. Both were young, both were talented creatives, both had been made redundant from big ad agencies. And both were out to get even.
"I’d been made redundant twice in 18 months – first from BDH and then from Charles Barker. And although I was an art director, I’d never held a senior position in an agency," recalled Andy Cheetham. "Tony Veasey had been made redundant from JWT Manchester – a company which wouldn’t give me a job back then and which, ironically, I now own a piece of.
"We needed a break, wanted to do good work; the kind that would win us awards, which would get us noticed, which would land us decent jobs, so we could get on with our lives. To win awards, we needed a client. So we got in touch with a few small businesses; the sort who wouldn’t in a million years have been able to afford our services, had we been with a large agency. And one of these was my mum.”
His mum owned a chippie called Barnacles, up in north Wales, and had taken the odd ad in the local paper. “So how could she not accept an offer of an original, bespoke ad campaign, covering all the advertising bases, for funny money?”
The result — press ads, bus shelter posters, bus sides and even a cinema ad. The original slogan was ‘Other Chip Shops Don’t Give a Fork’. “The ASA even got a complaint from a local resident who had been offended by our bus side ad – which was when we knew we’d arrived,” added Cheetham.
Nowadays a poster campaign might need a minimum run of 50 posters, the lads cheekily printed up a couple. Ditto the bus sides – their budget stretched to two. But as Cheetham pointed out, there were only a couple of bus routes that went by Barnacles anyway. Flying by the seat of their pants wasn’t in it – Cheetham sold his house and sunk the £14,000 profit into the project, along with all his freelance earnings. And in the middle of all this, his car got pinched and the insurers refused to pay out for months.
"I was reduced to going around to business meetings on my bicycle, with artwork strapped to the rear mudguard," Cheetham recalled.
But their luck was about to change. They entered the Barnacles campaign for every award going. So strapped were Cheetham and Veasey, the eve of the 1991 Roses Advertising Awards, they almost missed their moment of glory. "We couldn’t even afford a seat, never mind a table. We snuck in,” said Cheetham.
Not only did Cheetham and Veasey win no less than eight awards for their Barnacles campaign, but the agency which had so recently made Cheetham redundant won four awards for work which he had executed prior to his departure. "They approached me and asked me to go up and collect the awards on their behalf, it was one helluva night.”
Cheetham can well understand why some of the agencies were less than thrilled as he and Veasey swept the boards that evening."Most of them then – as now – had to create their submitted work under various restrictions. And then there was snobbery. I don’t suppose some of them would have been quite so pissed off if we’d cleaned up with a campaign for a car or an airline. But a chippie?”
By the end of that evening, Cheetham ‘rolled up’ all his awards trophies in a linen tablecloth and headed off into the night. But the story didn’t end there. The Barnacles campaign won a few more coveted awards, including two entries in the D&AD book.
So how does Cheetham feel about Chip Shop work today? "It’s been going on forever – creatives doing great ads for small, strapped companies, and getting noticed where it matters. Advertising’s a tough old game. This isn’t like manufacturing, where you endlessly turn out a product, it’s a pure thought-based business. Without these ideas, you’re nothing."
Andy Cheetham’s story serves as a reminder that you cannot keep a good idea down.