The Mini Mag

Volume 1 Number 7 September 1999.

Nairn worked for BMC in the 60’s. Here is another article from his memorabilia.

The “Creative” Director.

The sound of metal on metal when cars hit each other can become distinctly monotonous. Back in about 1968, when I was attached to BMC's PR department in Sydney, I was given the task of arranging six white Mini De Luxes for a television commercial. Persil or Rinso or one of those washing powder companies who promote their products as being whiter than bright, was running a national competition. Housewives, as home-maker person people were called in those days, could win one of six Minis. The ad agency wanted to have an early morning shot of the cars with six gorgeous girls driving the 'prizes' to give the campaign a touch of glamour. Dutifully, I arranged for six Snow White De Luxes to be plucked from the stock yard, de-waxed and polished, and then loaded onto a transporter for delivery to the film company in French's Forest, a northern Sydney suburb. The six glistening Minis were delivered safely the night before the shoot. So far so good.

The scene was to take place on a football oval not far from the studios, just as the sun was coming up. The director of the whole thing thought the girls could drive the cars the short distance from the studio to the footy ground (without trade-plates), so off they went in convoy. Meanwhile, I who have a Sixth Sense about these things, thought it would be a good idea to make sure our products were being shown at their best. The flashing tow-truck lights I could see before I got there was the first indication that things were Not Quite Right. The drive entailed a right-turn off the road onto the ground, five cars making it safely. The sixth did her turn in front of a brand new HK Kingswood. The whole left hand rear quarter panel was stove in, but the Mini was just drivable; the Holden wasn't. I don't remember being particularly sympathetic to the hapless beauty who was more than a little shaken up. The HK driver was extremely irritable. One down, five to go.......

The commercial was being shot from a moving truck with a cherry picker on it with a camera guy and the director aloft. The idea was to have the cars driving along in arrow formation with the girls waving out the drivers' windows. Off they went, waving away for the full length of the field. On the run back, the director thought it would be a Great Idea if the girls could poke their heads out of the window too as they waved. Driving into the rising sun, they tootled off, waving and smiling beautifully for the camera in the five good cars with the sixth bringing up the rear. What everyone forgot was that there is an awful lot of morning dew on football ovals.......

I was still sorting out disgruntled Holden owners and assisting the NSW constabulary with their enquires as to why there was an unregistered car on the road, when we heard the now familiar sound of another multiple pile-up. The sympathetic copper told me that I had more problems than he did, and I never heard from him again. The carnage on the oval was horrific. Footballers would be picking shards of broken head and tail-light glass from their knees for weeks. Evidently, the truck had stopped suddenly, probably to avoid the fence, and of course the cars all cannoned into each other. With their heads out the windows, there was more than dislodged false eyelashes and dishevelled bee-hive hairdos. Some of the girls were quite bruised; I distinctly recall saying I didn't give a bugger about them (we're allowed to say that, thanks to Toyota), my cars were looking slightly second-hand.

By the time the mess was sorted out and the cars transported back to Zetland, the word had spread (remember this is before mobiles). The assembled PR and Advertising department were there to welcome me home with my shop-soiled Minis. Usually after one of these things, the cars would be re-waxed and returned to stock, but not when they get damaged. For a while it seemed that all executives, including Evan Green would have to give up their Austin 1800s and cram their families into white De Luxes, but the cars were repaired and sold off to BMC employees. The washing powder commercial featured a still taken from the footage, as they never got anything moving. While it wasn't my fault, I definitely wasn't flavour of the month.

There must be something about 'creative directors' as another incident will testify. BMC were very proud of their range of safe cars, so our own ad agency thought it would be grand if we had a press ad of the three major family cars coming down a highway together, side-by-side. The new expressway near the Roseville Bridge had just been completed, so our creative man thought he could photograph the cars from a footbridge going over the expressway. It would be better if the cars could be stationary, taking up each lane. Three cars, a Mini De Luxe, a Morris 1100 and an Austin 1800 were used. I was in the centre car, the 1800, and I was to get the other two cars on either side to stop while the pics were being taken.

Eeeeeeeeasy.........try doing it on the Story Bridge and see what happens. The howling tyres, burnt rubber and obscenities were just the beginning. The director was frothing at the mouth later on at me when I told him the crass stupidity of the whole exercise; after all, wasn't safety the name of the game? He reported to my boss, Ian Milbank, that I was 'uncooperative', but Ian saw the funny side. (Ian had masterminded the Mini Births announcement among other brilliant campaigns.) The ad later appeared with the cars side-by-side where they had been taken from an upper window in a building and the background whited out.......

Back when Morris 1100s had an 'M' on the hubcaps, the agency was taking some shots, and I arrived to find the car nicely positioned, but being jacked up on one side, by a young agency bloke. When I asked if it had a flat tyre, he replied that he wanted to get the 'M's straight. He had already done three, and this was the last one. I didn't feel like pointing out that it's just a little bit easier when you remove a cap and put it back on the right way.

They WERE fun days.
Nairn Hindhaugh