In Conversation with John Skaro

How did you get into the advertising industry – was it by accident or design?

It was by accident, and yet with the right intentions, I guess…. 

I wanted to be a sports writer (cricket journo, to be precise – and thank Christ that didn’t come to pass… “elite” cricketers have never been my favourite people, ever since an Australian Test player made me carry his colossal cricket bag from the Punt Rd nets to the Hilton Hotel – in exchange for the privilege of his telling me how good he was for 15 minutes, when I was 15yo).

I got an article published in “Cricketer” magazine when I was 15 and eventually turned to Aussie Rules writing – much more productive, as it turned out.

I had a column in The Footscray Mail when I was 17, writing about my beloved Doggies.

And it just so happened the Vice-President at the club, Noel Delbridge, was also the National Creative Director of ad agency, DMB&B.

The rest is history, re-told boringly and often by me over the years to various unfortunate and unsuspecting lunch companions….

So far, what’s been the biggest challenge of your career?

That’s easy,  

Insecurity and self-doubt.

Name a person (people) in Advertising you’ve truly admired.

It’s a selfish business, so the people I’ve admired most – in general – have been the ones that have made me more confident, by telling me how good I was/could be etc…

James Woollett is one of them – he made me believe, even when we initially agreed to disagree.

Terry Bunton – who eventually became a best friend, and is like the cool, literate version of my late Dad – and Terry was nice enough to direct commercials for me when he was the best in the business.

Geoff Ingall – in charge of the best 10 years of my career – during which, at one stage, I was lucky to be part of the best creative department in Australia

Charles Doxat – the best suit I’ve ever worked with, and my best friend in London nowadays at aged 80-plus, whose beautiful Georgian home I am lucky enough to stay in on my visits to Ireland, via England.

Sarah Barclay – I only met Sarah once at the Sebel Townhouse (where else?) for lunch… and I loved all of her work. Back when I was fumbling about in the creative darkness, she was a superstar, consecutively, at the two best agencies in the country.

Steve McKenzie – the best creative I’ve ever met and a great friend – his dedication and devotion to doing great advertising is exhausting to be around at times, and I could never match it… but it is admirable. And fun.

Roger Nance and Phil van Bruchem, who along with Steve McKenzie, have made me look good over the years.

Claire Worthington(RIP) & /Esther Clerehan – who champion(ed), follow(ed) and support(ed) the progress of idiots like me.

Rob Imhoff & Geoff Morrow – as two great examples of fine, professional, dedicated, upstanding gentlemen: examples often hard to come by.

Pete Cherry (RIP) – he cheered me up and made me feel important when I was down and working on a job with him in NYC.

What do you think you might have done if you hadn’t taken this role?

Journalism or backpacker, who occasionally checks into a proper hotel – for things like German Beer festivals.

Name three essential things someone starting out in Advertising should know from day one.

Advertising is important.

Advertising is NOT important.

Advertising is about selling things, preferably by finding truthful insights about humans.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Just about everything.

So I might save that for my memoirs, which may well be entitled “What might have been.”

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