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Bob Brooks was an American film director, photographer and advertising creative. He created numerous advertising campaigns, directed several thousand TV commercials in the UK, US and Europe, and directed two feature films. Brooks was a founding partner of BFCS, an influential British film production company, and one of the founders of Design and Art Direction (D&AD). He was acclaimed within his lifetime, with numerous international awards.

Early life[]

After graduating Penn State University in 1950, Brooks arrived in New York in 1953 as an Efficiency Expert for the US Government. He soon realized that this was not his life’s work and he competed for and was awarded a scholarship at Cooper Union School of Art, one of the last bastions of the Bauhaus design tradition.

In 1955 Brooks started Cooper Union night classes and at the same time he was hired by Ogilvy and Mather, as the low man in the art department… the matte boy. At that time David Ogilvy was still actively writing. "It was a very exciting place, with Ogilvy's style representing (along with Doyle Dane Bernbach) the very essence of fifties advertising." In that job, he said he learned all the principles of advertising photography, typography and layout.

In 1957 Brooks joined Benton & Bowles (B&B), as an art director on a small proprietary drug account. B&B had just launched Crest fluoride toothpaste and after a short burst its market share began to drop rapidly and Procter & Gamble, one of B&B's major clients, put heavy pressure on the agency to save the product. The situation was so serious that the entire creative staff was asked to find a new campaign idea, and it was Brooks who found it.

Going against the current photographic trend, Brooks hired the famous illustrator Norman Rockwell, to draw a series of children holding up a dental report stating that there were no new cavities and a headline that said "Look Mom, No Cavities!" The product recovered its market share and gained much more; the phrase and the ads became icons of the late 1950s and Brooks rose swiftly to Creative Group Head.

In the late 1950s Brooks decided that he wanted to live and work in Europe and he was sent to the London office of Benton & Bowles, as head of the art department. After a short while he was joined by Bob Gross, a copywriter Brooks had worked with at B&B NY. Together they became Joint Creative Directors of the London agency.

D&AD[]

London advertising in the early 1960s was, for the most part, boring and uninteresting except for the work coming out of the newly formed Collett Dickenson & Pierce Agency, where Colin Millward was beginning to make creative waves. Brooks was not happy with the existing London advertising award competition, The Layton Awards, where he felt that the advertising creatives were not being credited for their work. He contacted Millward to see if they could start a London Art Directors Club, similar to the NY club. They were joined by art directors Malcolm Hart and Bob Geers and began planning the new organization. At that point Brooks was contacted by Alan Fletcher who was also trying to form a similar organization with London’s graphic designers. Ultimately the two groups merged their efforts and Design and Art Direction (D&AD) was founded in 1962 with 30 members, and held its first awards exhibition the following year. In 1984 Brooks received the D&AD President’s Award.

Bob Brooks Photography[]

In 1964 Brooks decided to leave Benton & Bowles and opened his own photographic studio, specializing in food and advertising still life photography. He bought a used 8 x 10 view camera from Len Fulford and with the help of Polaroid film taught himself how to take large format photographs. His main influences were Irving Penn, Howard Zieff and Norman Rockwell. His initial client was IBM but soon he had a roster including some of the best agencies in London, especially CDP

The opening of his studio coincided with the inauguration of the weekend color supplements, and besides his advertising work, Brooks produced work for The Sunday Times, The Observer and The Guardian color supplements.

BFCS[]

In 1967 he co-founded the film production company Brooks Baker Fulford with Len Fulford and Jim Baker. After various personnel changes the company was finally named BFCS. Initially Brooks was directing table top product commercials but in 1969 Colin Millward asked him to direct a spot for Senior Service Extra cigarettes. It was a gentle funny commercial with three excellent actors and a New York sense of comedy. Brooks later said, “It was one of the most charming commercials I did and straight off the bat it won a gold at Venice.” That first Cannes/Venice Lion d'Or came in 1970 and from that point onwards his reputation was for comedic story-telling commercials. His last Cannes Advertising gold was in 1990 for Schweppes Tonic Water: Subliminal Advertising with John Cleese, making a total of 23 Lion d’Or

Many of his commercials became icons of British advertising of the 70s and 80s. The most famous was the 1974 BMP commercial for Cadbury’s Smash Instant Potatoes: Martians. It proved so successful that the campaign ran for years and was voted Number 1 in Campaign's Hall of Fame: The best British Ads of the Century, 1999.

Brooks left BFCS in 1993 along with Len Fulford. The company closed in 2001.[1]

Episodes Bob Brooks worked on[]

The Taybor, The Immunity Syndrome

Notes[]

  1. Thewre seems to be some uncertainty over the date. The wikipedia entry states Brooks died in September, while the IMDB entry says October.

Sources[]

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