In 1986, Paul Arden and Tim Mellors led the team at Saatchi & Saatchi responsible for creating the campaign for the first broadsheet newspaper launch in the UK for 112 years. The idea had come from a group of journalists, including founder Andreas Whittam-Smith, who were dissatisfied with Fleet Street’s apparent lack of an independent voice. Saatchi’s work would include coming up with the name for this new publishing venture.
“The name that researched the best was The Meridian,” says Mellors, “and I remember the glum faces in the room when the account man Robert Saville (later the founder of Mother), broke the bad news in the funny little office with its settees still wrapped in plastic which Andreas had rented.”
Two of Saatchi’s biggest accounts at the time were with The Times and The Sunday Times so, Mellors explains, much of the work was done on the new broadsheet as ‘a ghost squad’ that floated around various pubs, restaurants and temporary offices.
The creatives’ roles were just as fluid, with Mellors encouraging both the account men, Saville and Peter Russell, to move over to copywriting duties.
Out of this a campaign of sorts emerged – but not in the conventional manner. “The line ‘It is. Are You?’ actually arose out of a bit of body copy in a trade ad for The Meridian where the brief had been to talk about readers having an independent point of view,” says Mellors. “So when Andreas finally got fed up with a name that he knew had researched well but that he personally hated and decided to call it The Independent, we did that agency trick and ‘repurposed’ an old line. The following day I had all the ads, posters and storyboards reworked with the new slogan so it looked like we’d meant it all along.”
The line was then supplemented with a touch of Saatchi surrealism from art directors Digby Atkinson and Chris Gregory. “We briefed Digby to produce posters of non-independent images, and we got Chris to make a film of sheep following each other into a butcher’s van. All very oblique but designed to appeal to the design-conscious, crossword-solving minds we pictured our readers possessing.”