I first met Dale Wrightson in 1964, he was just 20 and I was 24. I was selling my car, a sporty Renault; beautiful looking with metallic paint, but in reality was mechanically shot to bits. I advertised the Renault and got a positive response from a chap called Dale Wrightson.
|Dale Wrightson (above) and John McCready (below) 1960's|
Forward a few years later to 1969; I’m now Sales Manager for Phonogram Records and manage the marketing and advertising budget.
|THE CORVAIRS, Left to right, George Watson (back), David Leith (front), Andy Anderson, Dale Wrightson, Alex Neill.|
|THE CORVAIRS, Left to right; Dale Wrightson, Andy Anderson, Dave Leith, George Watson|
When I was appointed Manager of Phonogram and started the 20 SOLID GOLD HITS series of albums it was Dale and his new company I called on for creative help. It was originally proposed it be named 20 GOLD HITS, but at a meeting with Dale and our Marketing Manager, Brian Pitts, I said I didn’t like the title, finding it “not solid enough”. “Why don’t we call it 20 SOLID GOLD HITS then”, said Dale. And so it was.
Our TV Marketing rivals K-Tel were also being quite creative and coming up with good concepts and selling lots of albums. One day K-Tel hit the market with a compilation LP called 20 TOWN AND COUNTRY HITS, which was well received. Bugger them I thought, we have better songs in our catalogue so let’s release our own version. I briefed Brian Pitts on what sort of songs and artists I wanted on the album and Dale on the TV advert, album sleeve and title, 20 COUNTRY AND TOWN HITS.
We had the album promoted on TV and in record shops within a week and outsold the K-Tel album. Good stuff. NO, not so good: K-Tel takes out an injunction to stop us producing and selling on the basis of market confusion and “passing off”. I meet with our lawyers and on hearing my view we decide to defend the action in court.
So off to court we go. Dale and myself are Phonogram’s defence witnesses and I’m confident we will win. Waiting in the court lobby for our case to be called our lawyer casually says to Dale, “On what basis did you design the album cover? To me it does look a lot like theirs”. Dale says, “Well John said to get as close to their one as we could, so I did”. Oops. Off our lawyer went to find K-Tel’s and after a quick conversation a settlement was agreed. Lesson learned.
|Dale and his brother Craig Walsh-Wrightson|
In 1972, alerted to her talent by TV producer Chris Bourne, I signed Shona Laing to a recording and song-writing contract with Phonogram. Shona’s talent was huge, both as a writer and a singer. Whilst Shona and I got on well I realised to her, the idealistic songwriter, I was a “suit” and that I needed to put her together with a producer she could musically respect. Dale, with his incredible musical ability and commercial advertising success was the right person to give me the hit records I wanted.
|Dale at work|
|Shona and Dale|
During my three years away Dale and Craig join forces with fellow advertising gurus Terry Christie and Tony Preston and form a full-service advertising agency, CAMPAIGN. In 1976 Campaign open an office in Auckland and Dale travels between Wellington, Auckland and Sydney for the production of adverts. Dale is still looking after my old company Phonogram and when they relocate to Auckland in 1977, Dale, with his family, moves too and he continues to create Phonogram’s advertising.
Our first likely hit artist at CBS was Meatloaf with his BAT OUT OF HELL album. I thought it had huge potential but we just couldn’t get any radio station to play it. In fact the Programme Director at Radio Hauraki said to me “If this is the type of rubbish CBS are going to release the company is doomed here.”
About the same time as we finally tasted success with Michael Jackson we received an album from our UK company; WAR OF THE WORLDS, Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the H G Wells novel. I thought it just unbelievably good and excited with the albums’ sales prospects I wanted it to have a special marketing campaign.
Dale, over the years for Phonogram and CBS, had produced many successful audio-visual product presentations. We decided to make an audio-visual presentation to introduce WAR OF THE WORLDS. The only problem was that we had little reference material, so I just left it to Dale to “figure it out”.
Dale’s presentation was an overwhelming success. Jeff Wayne gave Dale the compliment of saying it was the best launch from any of the CBS companies worldwide. Dale Wrightson had created a winner once again.
Dale continued to produce great adverts and album covers for us, teaming up with graphic designer supreme, Peter Burt. Included were sleeve designs for our local artists Sharon O’Neill, John Stevens and Citizen Band.
For many years Dale had also looked after advertising for Warner Movies and similar to his work with music he was able to make movie advertising that touched a chord with the public. In 1978 Warner had a disaster movie featuring killer bees. THE SWARM was not doing well worldwide, despite the inclusion of some major stars, including Michael Caine. Warner’s New Zealand Manager, Brian Jamieson, thought the movie was awful, but a winner. Dale produced an advertising campaign to promote the movie with the catch phrase “THE SWARM IS THE BUZZ’. It certainly created a buzz, with queues down Queen Street and turned this killer bees movie into a box office hit.
In this era there were some great industry parties and none better than the ones hosted by Gillian and Dale Wrightson at their Arney Crescent home.
|Rock 'N Roll at The Wrightsons. L to R; Brian Pitts Virgin Records, John McCready CBS Records, Brian Jamieson Warner Movies, Glyn Tucker Mandrill Recording Studio, Stuart Rubin Phonogram Records and Gillian Wrightson|
Whilst producing great advertising for his clients, Dale was, at this time, simultaneously involved in a major corporate manoeuvre. Leading advertising agency Dormer Beck Stuart Wearn were wanting the creative input of the “guns” at Campaign, the management skill of Campaign Chairman Terry Christie, plus Campaigns advertisers, which included Todd Motors, NZ Breweries, The Dairy Board and maybe even little CBS Records.
|Dale Wrightson at the Campaign office Parnell, 1978|
A re-union of the original CAMPAIGN team that merged with Dormer Beck Stuart Wearn
L to R; Craig Walsh-Wrightson, Peter Burt, Terry Christie, Tony Preston, Phil Fiebig, Dale Wrightson
Setting up again as a small agency, CALYPSO, it was not long before new success was Dale’s. CALYPSO picked up the international representation for Murray Ball (Footrot Flats) and Murray Thom’s series of music CD sets. Major Australian movie DVD distributor CEL wanted to establish a New Zealand business and Dale was the man chosen to establish this for them.
The other guys, for genuine conflict of interest reasons, pulled out of the venture but Dale and I proceeded. In no time at all Dale has signed a lease, registered a company and designed a logo. MR VIDEO was born. We held the business for several years and our children, all of them now working in media, received a film education and made good pocket money working shifts. We only sold our little hobby when a developer wanted our shop’s lease to redevelop the site.
In 1989 Dale worked with the new TV3 on their adverts and marketing. Ironically at that time I was appointed to TVNZ as the manager responsible for promoting and marketing TVNZ’s programming to counter the new channel TV3.
|Celebrating at Harbourside Restaurant 1993; Dale and Gillian Wrightson, John McCready and JT Taylor|
Music TV had become popular worldwide and Dale had a driving passion to start a New Zealand music TV channel. In 1993, Dale with partners, set up MAX TV, a venture that had genuine street credibility.
Early in 1997 Dale helped the original Maori TV set up their transmission, housing them next to JUICE. Also in 1997, Murray Thom had won the rights to set up Personalised Plates in New Zealand and Dale created their launch advertising.
|Dale and Stuart Rubin|
Another of Dale’s successes for Stuart and BMG was a concept album idea that Dale created. Jonah Lomu was our star All Black and was always seen before big rugby games relaxing by listening to music on headphones. Dale’s idea was, THE MUSIC THAT MOVES THE MAN and with Jonah’s involvement and support the album went GOLD.
Dale Wrightson retired from day-to-day business in 2007, with Gillian and he leaving JUICE TV in the capable hands of Daniel and Katie. After a two year battle with illness, Dale passed away on January 26th 2016.
Dale Wrightson: a wonderful career in advertising and music, leaving a legacy, particularly his contribution to New Zealand popular music
|The Wrightson Family; Gillian, Katie, Daniel and Dale|