History of advertising: No 193: The Campaign Diary

Gail Amber: Campaign Diary editor in the 1970s and 80s
Gail Amber: Campaign Diary editor in the 1970s and 80s

Campaign has never been afraid of biting the ad industry's sustaining hand. Critics who complained the magazine had its favourites were always told they were wrong.

Campaign hated everybody, equally. This helped ad folk to accept it as a trade title with attitude. And no section of the magazine reflected this better than its Diary pages.

Initially a doublepage spread at the centre of the magazine, this was the place where reputations counted for nothing, pomposity was pricked and dirty little secrets were secret no longer.

Mirroring a business that loved gossiping almost as much as creating, the Diary section could be seen as the modern equivalent of the stocks or the ducking stool. It was an era when Campaign’s hefty pagination was a direct result of the UK ad industry’s golden age. In today’s leaner times, it’s hard to imagine the luxury of a dedicated diary editor.

Probably the most famous of them all – and the one who most obviously manifested the industry’s flamboyance at the time – was Gail Amber (pictured). Always larger than life, often eccentric and seldom seen without her trademark cigarette holder and a glass of Champagne, Amber knew most of the leading agency figures of the period and how to get them talking.

In July 2008, two months after her death aged 62, Diary reported that a number of her old industry friends had honoured her memory at a Soho wine bar.

Veteran media man John Ayling remembered how Amber had reported that he was setting up on his own. "Blimey," former Campaign editor Bernard Barnett remarked, "it must have been the only media story she ever wrote!"

Things you need to know

  • In 2000, Diary recalled Vanessa Feltz’s less than illustrious start in media as a Campaign reporter. Bernard Barnett, her then editor, said she was crap: "She claims that I fired her. That may be right."
  • One of the most famous spats reported by Diary followed a 2001 Private View by BMP DDB’s creative chief Larry Barker, who likened a BT Internet ad by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to "You’ve Been Framed without the laughs". Peter Souter, his AMV counterpart, retorted that Barker "wouldn’t know a good ad if it bit him on his ample arse".
  • Three years later, Diary awarded its medal for courage under fire to an unnamed agency that reportedly sang part of its pitch to lovable pensioners’ friend Philip Green.

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