It used to be that there were only two kinds of food: gourmet food and junk food.
For gourmet food you had to dress up as if going to the opera.
Each course was described in forensic detail.
Exactly where each ingredient came from, how it had marinated overnight, what the animals had been fed, it was like taking an exam because you then had to discuss it: which taste announced itself first, which taste lingered, which texture was too soft or too hard, what was overcooked or undercooked?
This wasn’t food for ordinary people, this was special-occasion dining.
It wasn’t supposed to satisfy hunger.
It didn’t really serve a purpose, other than showing-off, it was food to impress people.
And, of course, the people it impressed were people who cared about that sort of food.
So, a very small, closed circle – not food for ordinary people.
I didn’t go to a restaurant like that until I worked in advertising.
Because most advertising people thought, to fit in, you had to know about posh food.
For the rest of the world, the only alternative was junk food.
Which in those days was cafes and burger-joints.
Food cheaply prepared and cooked, and simply for the purpose of filling you up.
So, basically you had a choice: either food as art, or food as fuel.
Then, along came Jamie Oliver and changed the game.
He would cook blue collar food but prepare it in a new, delicious way.
He’d make fish-finger sandwiches, or bacon butties, or burgers, or Yorkshire pudding.
It was working class food that tasted as good as gourmet food.
What Jamie Oliver did for food, John Webster did for advertising.
He took working class humour, but the execution was better than of any of the pretentious, posh advertising.
The production quality: the dialogue, the music, the lighting, the editing, the casting, absolutely every detail.
No wonder the best directors: Alan Parker, Ridley Scott, Hugh Hudson, Bob Brooks, all wanted to work with John.
Even though John’s scripts weren’t for posh people, they were working-class fun.
They had jingles, and straplines, and hard-sell, and yet every single ad won every award.
Meanwhile lesser talents kept thinking there were only two kinds of advertising: rough, trashy, downmarket jingles, or stylish, posh art films.
They thought if an ad had a jingle, and a strapline, and was hard-sell it must automatically be cheap rubbish and not worth their time.
Like gourmet chefs they didn’t cook for ordinary people.
They only cook for food critics, people with discerning palates.
Which, in our case, means advertising awards juries.
Gourmet chefs will cook a single prawn with a thin, artistic line of sauce on a hand-crafted plate, sprinkled with a few flower petals.
This is not real food for real people, this is a decadent art.
Just like advertising done purely to showcase the craftsmanship of the creative team.
This is what made Jamie Oliver and John Webster different.
Working class people can appreciate quality.
They just don’t want something pretentious and posey.
They want something simple, and fun, something they like, but done with supreme skill.
Something for the intelligent working-class.
Of course, most advertising people can’t even understand that, much less do it.