(Note: you do NOT have to be in the advertising business nor do you have to have an interest in the Philippines to read this blog!)

Before yesterday, I think the only book I had read in one sitting was “The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas” but yesterday afternoon, I started to read Tony Harris’ book, “Advertising - More Fun In The Philippines” and I didn’t go to bed till I finished it. I look forward to the next instalment of Tony’s autobiography series.

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Tony Harris, CEO of BBDO Guerrero, a very good friend of mine, a very good friend of a lot of people, is an inspiration.
The fact that the Jerusalem Post is predominantly read by people in Israel and the US does not render it an inappropriate arena for the review of this book.

I know that there are people around me, olim who have made Aliyah, who have moved from their comfort zones in the UK, North America etc and who, at times, are questioning that decision to uproot, people who feel a bit like the Oleh equivalent of Quentin Crisp, Sting’s “Englishman in New York”. One minute, Tony was the toast of London’s advertising scene and living very comfortably in London’s N11 (Friern Barnet) suburbs, the next, he was living, alone, in Manila. The aforementioned Olim, perhaps low on inspiration, wondering if they can make it work, read Tony’s book - it’ll give you a lift!

It is a book which is not only destined to be a ‘set text’ for marketing/advertising students, it is not only an autobiography to finally keep David ‘Niv’ Niven’s “The Moon’s A Balloon” company in the esteemed realms of legendary hysterical autobiographies (the difference between the two books being that the episodes recounted in Tony’s book are all real - not that the doubt as to the veracity of the tales in Niv’s autobiography should ever diminish its legendary status), it is not only a book which confirms Tony’s status as a raconteur in the same class as Sir Peter Ustinov but it is a book which inspires people to ‘go for it’, to live life to the max. Besides, any book which incorporates one of my favorite words, ‘churlish’, and the wonderfully expressive idiom, ‘All fur coat and no knickers’, has got my vote. Moreover, the two protagonists, besides Tony, are a married couple, David and Angel, and that did bode well: co-creator and co-executive producer of one of the finest US comedies of all time (in my humble opinion), Frasier, was the late David Angell.

In 2010, Tony was working in a rather exalted position, one he had toiled towards for over 20 years. It had not been all plain sailing, there had been tough periods but Tony being Tony, he jumped the hurdles and kept going. Tony was Deputy Chairman of a large advertising company in London when, without wanting to drop ‘spoilers’ into this review, an opportunity reared its head, an opportunity to throw in his lot and move to Manila….yup, Manila. The challenge was to take over the reins of a relatively small, but lauded, ad agency in Manila, to drive it forward and into the higher echelons of the South East Asia advertising community. I say that that was the challenge but it wasn’t all of the challenge: a big part of the challenge was relocating to the other side of the world, ON HIS OWN. Now, without wanting to appear disparaging, but alluding to an admission by Tony in his book, there was some consternation amongst his friends and family, and no doubt some of his work colleagues, surrounding the decision to move to the Philippines. New York, San Francisco or Chicago might have been understandable but Manila?%$#@! (and I thought, wrongly, that “What do they do in Manila, just make envelopes?” was my own witticism!).

Tony is a Geordie (one of my Newcastle upon Tyne brethren) and as international and cosmopolitan as Newcastle is, Tony being born and bred there, being schooled in Durham, having spent his University years at Lincoln College, Oxford and 20-plus years in London, methinks he was still ill-prepared for life in Manila but off to Manila, after much consideration and soul searching, he went.
Tony’s character, his hardy constitution (the common denominator linking all of us Geordies), his personality, his intellect, his humility, his goodness, his kindness, his motivation, his ability to focus and yet to multitask, his ability, when he falls, to get up, dust himself down and get on with it, his ability to hold a room and an audience, to bring people on board, his immense likeability, it adds a potent force to his armory.

Tony was ‘someone’ in London but, in Manila, besides a few head honchos in South East Asia's advertising world having heard and read about him, I hope Tony doesn’t mind me saying that he was, to all intents and purposes, “Tony who?” How Tony coped with the relocation, both domestically and professionally, is awe-inspiring. The speed and time period within which he went from being “anyone know anything about this new fella, Harris?” to being, literally, a star, one of the most talked about characters and personalities, not only in Manila’s ad industry but in the Philippines generally, how quickly Tony went from being a relatively unknown quantity to rubbing shoulders with the President of the Philippines, it’s nothing short of astounding...it all happened within a few months!

This is a snapshot of a man who makes things happen, who sees opportunities and grabs them, of a man who overcomes difficulties, who makes his own way, a man who was not handed opportunities on a plate, a man who can and does step out of his comfort zone, who challenges himself and is always growing and learning. Tony, as I said at the start of this review/blog, is an inspiration and I wholeheartedly recommend his book, not only to those in the advertising and marketing spheres but also to people who just want to be inspired, who could just do with a lift.

Lord Saatchi, Lord Bell...now, arise the Lord Harris!

“Advertising - It’s More Fun In The Philippines” is available from the publisher, Anvil Publishing, at http://www.anvilpublishing.com

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