Monday, April 02, 2007

MO HAS LEFT THE BUILDING


In control to the very last, Australian advertising legend Alan Morris (Mo) died last night after a year-long battle with cancer. He was in his early 60s.
Mo, along with Allan Johnston (Jo), was responsible for many of Australia's best loved and most effective ad campaigns, known as much by the public as the industry. The larrikin spirit of his work provided public anthems for the re-birth of Australian pride, particularly in the 1980’s and 90’s.
He and Jo wrote seven of the best Australian TV commercials of all time, as judged by industry leaders in a recent poll. You can probably list the memorable lines without prompting: “Come on Aussie”, “You oughta be congratulated”, “Times are Tough”, “Shrimp on the Barbie”, “I feel like a Tooheys”. All can still be sung by taxi drivers, cricket crowds and just about anyone over 40. “Come on Aussie” was actually a Top 40 hit.
While not the author of every Mojo classic, he was certainly the mentor of many. “I’m as Australian as Ampol”, “Hit ‘em with the Old Pea Beau”, “Everybody loves Speedo”, “I can Feel a Fourex Coming on”, “Every Amco tells a Story” and “I Still Call Australia Home” would not have met the public without his feisty support and salesmanship. The song book he and Jo put together would rival Elton John’s. Their
Australian sentiment would strike a chord with Banjo or Lawson.
Mo was not the easiest task master. A sometimes despotic creative director
known to scrap and remake an entire campaign hours before the meeting. Returning from lunch he would order all the type reset on a campaign he had signed-off only hours before. His restless dissatisfaction with the merely good drove those around him to discover untapped talent.
Mo was the son of Carl Morris, a founder of USP Needham and the brother of Don,
later to become his partner at Mojo. A suit-wearing, upright young man, Mo suddenly went troppo in the 60’s and bummed his way around the US before finding his calling as a copywriter in a Canadian agency.
Returning to Australia he joined Rogers Holland and Everingham, the hot shop of its day. A place where the young and exuberant produced spunky campaigns in a market dominated by boring formulas. The young writer grew in reputation with a fresh visual vocabulary for the still new medium of TV.
Next stop, a share in his own shop as Creative Director of Mullins Clarke and Ralph.
With accounts like Leyland, Jaguar and the ALP, Mo was set for life. But instead he threw it all in and went home to Paddington to spend his mornings freelancing and his afternoons lunching.
Fortunately, at the other end of the bar of the Royal in Paddington sat another copywriter disaffected by big agency bullshit and a couple of seasons working on Coke. They circled each other like sumos for a number of weeks exchanging lines and whines while secretly reeling each other in.
So it was that Mo traded in his Jag, bought a Moke and started MoJo with Allan Johnston (Jo) in a small Paddington terrace. There was just the two of them and a hot tub to start. The first brief was for a Qantas campaign but it took a call from Kerry Packer to really get the Mojo working.
World Series Cricket was a dud. It launched with day/night games at the Sydney Cricket Ground and a massive ad campaign extolling cricket under lights. Unfortunately nobody came.
This is where Mo showed his life-long strength as a strategist and forsook the glamour of the illuminations and gave the international competition its own spotlight. 'Come on Aussie' was the anthem and the stadium filled for the first time.
The agency grew to 65 people and $65 Million in billings, a lot in those days. Appearances on TV shows, the acquisition of Australian Airlines, Bond Brewing and accounts all over the country made it the best-known agency in the country. You just had to say “Mojo” at Sydney airport and every cabbie knew where it was.
After a merger with Monaghan Dayman Adams, Mojo/MDA aquired offices in London, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore and affiliates throughout Asia. It was something no other Australian agency has ever done, before or since. In 1988 it was named International Advertising Agency of the Year by Advertising Age in America. Once again an Australian first.
Mo didn’t like travelling too far from his desk in Paddington so an international merger with US hotshop Chiat/Day was never going to work. Shortly after the deal was struck Mo moved on again. This time to work with John Singleton as Creative Director of Singleton Ogilvy & Mather, helping to make it the most successful start-up since Mojo.
This lengthy scoreboard only goes part way to capture the accomplishments of Alan Morris. The clients who respected his counsel, the people he inspired to be leaders of the industry today and the people who remember his work will miss him.
In the last few weeks he organised his own funeral and made sure that the wake will be unforgettable. Just like him. - Doug Watson

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lasting memory of Mo...

Fire alarm sounded at SOM offices one afternoon, 25 floors up. It wasn't a drill. The fire warden stuck on the stupid fuckin hat and went round offices, evacuating everyone. They all downed tools and took the stairs. Except Mo.

Warden went back to Mo, sitting in silence at his desk, writing. "Uh, excuse me Mo - it's not a drill. You have to leave."

Without looking up, Mo answered "Fuck off." So the warden did.

PS It did turn out ot be a false alarm.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was once told a story about Mo and Jo pitching for the coke account, whereby they had the Marketing heavies out from the U.S and hired Soundset to perform the new jingle. The coke guys loved it and asked the question, "who do you see as the major demographic that this will appeal to?"

Mo replied "Any c*nt with a mouth."

They lost the pitch

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Any c*nt with a mouth" - brilliant! Keep these stories coming

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a legend. I would LOVE to hear some stories about his dealings with KP...

4:12 PM  
Anonymous v.laws said...

Rest in Peace Al you big flirt.

The girls are going to miss you.

veronika

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A nice tribute and reminder - thanks Doug.

chris d

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not many people know that the failed Coke pitch hit the bottom draw only be recycled as very successful campaign for a litle known beer XXXX. I can feel a XXXX coming on. What would the seppos know anyway . . .

I'll miss you mate.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't remember much of Mo those days when I'd play guitar on countless versions of "C'mon Aussie" or "You orta be congratulated" for Jimmy Sloggett.

My enduring memory is of you Jo, generally on the verge of the shakes with endearing nervousness (never liked his own voice I'm told!) as you poured out that perfect lookin-youse-in-the-eye dinky-di poetry while I kept myself honest on the acoustic guitar.

Mo if he appeared at all would bowl in, cock an ear at the proceedings and grunt a few things to Jo and or Jimmy and get out.

At the paddington Mojo he seemed to be the centre of energy and focus for the whole place. Everything I saw or heard about him pointed to a straight talking bloke with a nose for the thing that put the heart of the campaign into ideas you couldn't ignore, and no need to do anything but focus on that.

and Jo would have you singing the song inspite of yourself.

My condolences to those Mo has left behind and a big toast to a very talented and 'colourful' bloke wherever you are now. (Are there any decent pubs in Heaven?)

Cheers,

Ken Francis

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Asher Morris said...

Mo was my dad and my hero!

Thank you everyone for your support.

He may be gone but his legacy will live on forever.

Thank you for writing this Doug.

Regards

Asher Morris
Mo Jnr

7:12 PM  

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