Bob Brooks

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Bob Brooks
Born Bob Brooks
(1927-12-26)December 26, 1927
Died September 2014 (aged 86)
Occupation Film director, photographer,

Bob Brooks (26 December 1927 – September 2012[1]) was an American film director, photographer and advertising creative.[2] He directed several thousand TV commercials in the UK, US and Europe and created many notable advertising campaigns, as well as directing several feature films . Brooks was a founding partner of BFCS, the extremely influential late 20th century British commercial film production company and he was also one of the original founders of Design and Art Direction (D&AD). Brooks directed two feature films, The Knowledge (1979) and Tattoo (1981) and several episodes of Space 1999 (1976). He is the recipient of many international awards including the Cannes/Venice Advertising Festival Lion d'Or; NY One Show Gold Award; NY Art Directors Club; Directors Guild of America, BAFTA Best Single TV Play nomination and the D&AD President's Award. He was also famous for his "fiery outbursts".[3]

Agency years[edit]

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.[4]

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.[5][6]

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.


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.[7] In 1984 Brooks received the D&AD President’s Award.

Bob Brooks Photography[edit]

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.


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”[5] 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. BFCS finally closed in 2001

TV and cinema films[edit]

  • 1976 Two episodes –The Taybor and The Immunity Syndrome – for the British TV series Space 1999.
  • 1977 The Knowledge for Thames Television. A highly successful TV film written by Jack Rosenthal from an idea by Brooks, about the trials and tribulations of trying to become a London cabby. Nigel Hawthorne headed a superlative cast and gave what has proved an unforgettable performance as the Knowledge Boy's examiner, the Vampire.[8] BAFTA Nomination for Best TV Play
  • 1981 Tattoo for Joseph Levine Presents released by Twentieth Century Fox. Bruce Dern plays a tattoo artist obsessed with a fashion model, Maude Adams who he eventually kidnaps and tattoos. According to Roger Ebert, "Tattoo opens so promisingly that its crucial scenes are doubly disappointing. Because the film's first hour makes it clear that Tattoo is not intended as just another creepy horror film, the failure of the conclusion is all the more disappointing."[9] On the other hand it was Ebert's partner, Gene Siskel's choice for a winner that lost at the box office.[10]


  • New York Art Directors Club Award of Distinctive Merit 1961
  • Cannes/Venice Advertising Film Festival 1970-1990 23 Lion d'Or
  • New York One Show Gold Pencil Award 1975
  • D&AD 1970-1984 6 Silver Awards
  • The 1984 D&AD President's Award
  • Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement/Commercials 1983
  • BAFTA Nomination for Best TV Play 1979


  1. ^ Marcus Williamson (15 October 2012). "Bob Brooks: Director and photographer behind noted TV ads - Obituaries - News". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  2. ^ Sam Delaney (3 October 2012). "Bob Brooks: the man who reinvented advertising | Culture". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  3. ^ Delaney, Theo BFCS Back After A Break Commercials Magazine, February 1988 Issue No.4 pages 20-22
  4. ^ Hedges, Martin Brooks: Adman on the trail of film perfection Campaign Film Production Supplement 7/7/1979, pages 8-10
  5. ^ a b Hedges, Martin Brooks: Adman on the trail of film perfectioncampaign Film Production Supplement 7/7/1979, pages 8-10
  6. ^ Delaney, Sam Get Smashed 2007 Hodder & Stoughton, London, England ISBN 978-0-340-922507 pages 36-41
  7. ^ McAlhone, Beryl Twenty one years ago, D&AD was a gleam in Bob Brooks' eye, Design & Art Direction, June 1983, pages 10-17
  8. ^ Rosenthal, Jack Three Screenplays, Faber and Faber, 1986 ISBN 978-0-571-14517-1 pages xii-xiv
  9. ^ "Tattoo :: :: Reviews". 17 November 1981. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  10. ^ At The Movies: Season 1, Episode 18 Winners That Were Losers (22 Jan. 1983)