Tuesday, October 3, 2006

1972 - How It All Began

Otto Scholz & Leroy Friends. Pictures courtesy of Helmut Scholz/ Champagne Magazine

When Otto Scholz and Leroy Friends first met each other at the DBLKOP&T summer party, they'd never have believed their partnership would result in some of the most ground-breaking advertisng the world had ever seen. In fact, they'd never have believed they'd actually become partners.

"They hated each other at first . That's because they were complete opposites. Conrad was typically German. Or that's what we felt anyway, y'know? Sort of uptight, rigid, very straightforward way of seeing and doing things. Whereas Leroy! What a mensch! He ducked and dived, wheeled and dealed. He'd do sweet FA for weeks and then bang! A first class ad would land on your table. It used to drive Conrad mad."
Charles Mewling. DBKOP&T Head of Client Services 1977-1995

Brought up by strict Lutheran parents in the small town of Holstenschwelgstein Northern Saxony, Otto Scholz was a model arts student, graduating summa cum laude from the Fahren glikeheits geraufderblicks fumfen mussidenn mussidenn zum stadtele hinaus und du mein schat bleibst hier Kunst Schule Dusseldorf.

He began his advertising career with an internship at Scheisse Von Knudelnkopf Frankfurt and then, inexplicably, he upped sticks and moved to the UK and joined DBLKOP&T. Where he met Leroy.

"Leroy learned his skills in the US Army. He used to claim he was in PsyOPS. Writing stuff to wind the commies up. But he told me he was in catering and the only things he wrote were the daily menus for the staff canteen. Mind you, he had the gift of the gab. He could be a real charmer. He must have been. He's the only writer at DBL to get a job without doing the copy test."
Roger Thompson. Photographer and friend of Leroy

Sue Merely, the then creative director at DBLKOP&T, thought it woulkd be a good idea to put the straight young German and crazy American together. The effect was astonishing. It was explosive. 4 ADS golds, 3 Venice gondolas, including the Doge D'or and the Big Minty from the New York Ad Club. It was a fabulous period of creativy, culminating in their mould breaking 'Christmas Dinner for one' commercial for Walrus Frozen Foods.

Mouldbreaking? Without a shadow of a doubt. The Walrus ad swept the board at every awards show that year.

Sadly the architect of the truimph, Sue Merely, didn't live to see what her experiment would achieve next, killed while freebasing at her holiday home in Dunstable. This was a major setback for Otto and Leroy. Their number one supporter had died in a drug related accident and their was nobody left to fight their corner.

"To be honest, it was too dangerous. 'Dead Wife At Christmas' cost us the Walrus Frozen Foods business and in fact brought Walrus down. The public wouldn't touch them, sales collapsed and within a year, Walrus went into recievership. After that, none of our other clients wanted them anywhere near their business. The boys couldn't even get a leaving card through."
Charlie Mewling

It was then that Otto and Leroy decided to go it alone and the uber agency Scholz & Friends was born.

"We went from nothing to £178 million billings in the first eighteen months. Clients were throwing their business at us."
Roddy Fitzherbert. MD of Scholz & Friends 1972 - 1992

They were opening new offices at a rate of one every six months. It was like being strapped to a rocket. Offices in Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm, Brussels, Prague, Madrid, Warsaw, and Budapest to name a few.

The client list was better than that of a hooker at the Herbertstrasse on the Reeperbahn. These were the glory years.

And then, completely out of the blue, Otto and Leroy retired.

"I'd had them round for lunch and we were talking about the business and what they were going to do next. Then Otto says 'We're calling it a day'. Just like that."
Chloe Masterson. Owner of The Bonk!! chain of music stores.

And just like that, Otto and Leroy quit. Otto to run a small second hand bookshop back home in Holstenschwelgstein, and Leroy?

"Yeah well. Leroy's got issues. Running an agency like Scholz & Friends, it took a lot outta the guy. Who knows where he's gone?"

Who knows indeed? And yet the agency he and Otto founded goes from strength to strength. Today Scholz & Friends is a household name around the world and a living testimony to the vision of one man, the drive of another and the genius of both.



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