End of an era

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I woke up this morning to some sad news from Australia.

Whilst no lives were lost and for once both the weather and the stock market behaved themselves, the news nevertheless left me with a heavy heart as I came to terms with the fact that an important part of my Sydney life had been confined permanently to the archives.

Unfortunately, The Campaign Palace is no more.

For most readers, reactions are likely to range between “So what” to “What?” (or “WTF??!!!” if born after a certain date), but for me and a select group of advertising people, working in Australia in the 80s or 90s, it is a real shame.

To bring the rest of you up to speed, ‘The Palace’ was an Australian advertising agency. Not just any old agency, but for an extended period of time, it was Australia’s best agency.

Maybe it wasn’t the biggest or the most profitable, but it was the place where most people wanted to work. I was attracted by its reputation and ended up staying there for 7 years.

The reasons why? it had a brilliant group of people, produced some of Australia’s most iconic campaigns and regularly cleaned up at the various awards ceremonies. It also knew how to party. Most days.

At the time, advertising was still an enjoyable industry to work in. It was creatively-led rather than being bottom-line led and the work benefitted as a result. Lunch was to be eaten at a restaurant, rather than a desk.

I was fortunate in working there at a perfect time in my career. I was old enough and experienced enough to know what I was doing (most of the time, anyway), but was young enough to  be able to enjoy the associated lifestyle.

It also came to represent for me what Australia was all about at the time – work hard/play hard, take risks, have fun, don’t take life too seriously, drink plenty and make your mark. At times, it could be frustrating and dysfunctional, but overall, I loved it.

Social media has been full of comments today, with many people upset that it has come to this, looking for someone to blame for The Palace’s decline.

Whilst I agree with the sentiment, in truth, sadly the Palace has never been able to recapture its glory days of the 80s and 90s despite many attempts to revive it.

Maybe it shouldn’t have sold out, maybe it could have evolved differently to meet changing market demands, or maybe it was just a creature of its time and it is best to remember it that way.

On reflection, I am tending towards the latter option. Seeing The Palace as one of those glorious icons of its day, a sort of advertising equivalent of James Dean that was destined to die before it got too old. For me, I’m just thankful that our paths crossed when they did.

So, as I continue to adapt to my new life in the UK, I will pause tonight and raise a glass or three to a key part of my old Aussie life.

Unfortunately I am now living too far away to be in Sydney for what should be one hell of a wake, so I’ll just say “Goodbye Palace and thanks for the memories”.


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