Mark Denton Esq.



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Mark Denton Esq.

Mark Denton is an ad man.... A multiple award winning creative with a fearless reputation for producing eye catching, nostalgically driven work. Mark Denton is a brand. His tracksuits are emblazoned with his name and the “£” symbol that has become synonymous with his witty, cheeky personality. Mark Denton is fearless. He introduces himself by handing me his business card upon which I see him crouching down, bare bottom exposed after seemingly laying a golden egg. We sat down for a chat after Mark had given a talk about his life and work to Sky’s in house creative agency, 'Sky Creative’. This big personality explains how the industry has shifted, the importance of self initiated work, and championing new talent ...

What change have you seen over the course of your career?

The main change is that people want to talk about doing creative things but don’t want to get on and do them. There’s a lot of chat and then at the end of the process there seems to be a watered down vanilla outcome. There’s not much exciting work out there at the moment. It has a lot to do with globalisation, increasing numbers of broadcasters, keeping shareholders happy and of course the agencies making money by filling in timesheets. They need to keep the ‘creative' process going on for as long as possible, which inevitably means a lot of meetings and chat about what they will do.

(left) Mark's business card (right) Mark Denton

There is a nostalgia to your work, where does that come from?

I’m still living out my childhood. I’m not a deep thinker. I draw a stupid picture and think.. “wouldn’t that be funny if …. “. If I’m paying for something then I naturally have the final say and I’d rather do something funny and colourful with a nostalgic nod to it. That’s my flavour, and that’s what I like. I’ve never regretted making something. If I’m working for a client then of course I have to look at it from a different angle, as the work has to reflect the nature of the message and/or the brand. A good example of this was the Wrangler ads we did in the late 80’s. I’d met a young photographer called Malcolm Venville who had contacted me trying to build up his portfolio, and I saw an opportunity for us to make this campaign together. At the time the result was very contemporary and quite left-field because that was exactly what the client needed.

Do you think people like laughing anymore, or is society more concerned with showcasing material possessions and achievements?

My observation is that there are lots of people laughing in ads, yet nothing funny has happened. I don’t get it. I’d rather someone make me laugh! That’s engagement - getting someone to actually like your ad is what makes it memorable. Where’s all the humour gone? Nothing’s funny anymore. If you watch Family Guy or South Park you’ll probably like a lot of my work but the fact of the matter is that, those shows will get a lot of letters of complaint. Clients don’t want that these days, and it’s easier than ever for people to state their opinion about something. 

2 of the Wrangler ads from the 80's, shot by Malcolm Venville

Is there anything you’re working on at the moment which is injecting your brand of humour back into the industry?

I met an artist at a party and he started to tell me a story. He was at a bus stop one day, where he met a girl. A conversation ensued and before you know it she was back at his studio getting her anus cast. He then started a chocolate company called ‘The Edible Anus Company’. I took them on because it amused me and we self-funded the creation of these giant anus casts so we could photograph them creating an ad and print campaign. Advertising directors don’t get paid half as much as we used to. Back in the day when I was a young creative, there’d always be a posh car parked outside. But I would rather put on a Mexican wrestling show or work with the Edible Anus Company than have a flash car. I’ve got my senior rail pass, that’s a lot more fun! 

A Mexican wrestling show? 

At the time I was a 50/50 partner in a production company called Therapy films. My partner Malcolm Venville who was the photographer I gave those Wrangler ads to at the very start of his career, was shooting in the States and started to photograph these Mexican wrestlers. I thought it was a great opportunity to create a book, but sadly the publisher pulled out at the last minute. We decided to publish it ourselves and bought ad space in fight and photography magazines. We then created an ad campaign with Dave Dye, and it turned out to be one of the biggest award winning print campaigns of that season. We thought, “if we’re going to launch this book properly, we should bring some Mexican wrestlers to London and host the UK’s first Mexican wrestling championship”. So that’s what we did, at Cafe De Paris in London. In the end we made no money, but it was a bloody good night!

One of the print ads for 'Lucha Loco' by Malcolm Venville

What does creativity mean to you?

If you’re creative, you just can’t help it. I’d rather do it than not. There’s more opportunity to shine nowadays than ever before. I’ve always got my radar turned on, looking out for an opportunity. I was in Soho, London the other day and walked past a new restaurant and saw a great opportunity to create a campaign for them. They don’t know it yet but shortly they’ll be getting a phone call from me and I’ll start that conversation with them, bring them an idea and hopefully create something really great. It’s as much about seeking out work for me than it is the actual creation. And as the budgets continue to get stretched across the industry, it’s increasingly a younger person’s game. But here I am, often the only 60-plus person in the room. I believe that’s down to the fact that I still self generate work and regularly create a body of personal work. If you put that work out into the world, other amazing things start and continue to happen. If you’ve got great ideas, people come to you.

A gallery of work by Mark Denton

So as long as you get a reaction, good or bad, then you’ve done your job?

Yeah exactly. You shouldn’t worry about being liked. Clients get wound up by the desire to be "liked”. 100,000 likes mean nothing compared to 6 million people who might watch your ad on TV.

Finally, best part of the job? 

Meeting people!


Special thanks to Andy Smith 

  • Mark was interviewed by Samuel John Weeks
Further Reading:

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