‘It felt like either I’d gone mad, or everyone else had gone mad’: why Paul Pateman had to give up his life in advertising

Paul ‘Pâté’ Pateman left advertising to become a graphic illustrator after a bout of pneumonia forced him to rethink his career path. But years before, as a creative director at TBWA, he had felt the first pull away from the industry.

“I don’t think that I ever wanted to become a creative director,” he admitted to The Drum, as part of the title’s Why I Left Advertising series. “You used to be paid a lot of money for doing great ads and that was enough. But… now you have to be a creative director.

“Writing great ads is a really selfish thing, and being a creative director is an altruistic thing; you have to get great ads out of other people. And just because you can do the former, doesn’t mean you can do the latter.”

Despite his longing to keep drawing and stop managing, Pateman’s career saw him advance through the ranks of AMV BBDO. But frustration with the industry and its idiosyncrasies came to a head while in a meeting at his last agency, TBWA. He decided to leave when he realised he began thinking “either like I had gone mad, or everyone else had gone mad”.

Pateman and his long term creative partner Mike Nicholson left to go it alone; their shop was named Loaf & Egg after their respective hairstyles. Business carried on relatively well – until Pateman contracted pneumonia.

“I just thought: ‘I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to work for somebody, I don’t want to talk to marketing people, I don’t want to be in those meetings where you’re endlessly talking instead of doing. I’ve just got to get out’.”

Looking back, Pateman is oddly grateful for his week laid out and unable to move on a hospital bed. “I saw people in my ward of varying ages, but mostly the old people affected me Just how so many were neglected or didn’t have families, some of them hadn’t looked after themselves.

“I was just wondering about their lives and comparing it to my own and thinking: ‘You’ve just got to spend as much time doing things that you love as possible’.

“I love drawing, so I’m going to try and do that.”

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Katie Deighton

Katie Deighton is The Drum’s senior reporter - creative and video based in London. She produces, films, presents and edits the title’s editorial video output, including series such as On The Scene, Ad Breakers and Why I Left Advertising, and manages its coverage of the creative sector. She also reports on the intersection between politics and marketing, as well as the third sector and fashion.

All by Katie