But times have changed, and MI6 is now advertising itself on ITV, in an attempt to attract more women and minorities into its ranks.
Commercial TV has been around for more than 60 years now, so one might ask, what took them so long? But apparently, it was the activity in Salisbury, following the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, that has piqued the interest of young people – so they are striking while the iron is hot.
The new adverts, we are told by the female head of HR, whose name is a secret, are designed to subvert the James Bond image and emphasise instead what she calls the “soft” skills required by today’s agents.
The nature of these skills is also a secret, but surely it was the imagined Bond lifestyle that was the attraction? Otherwise, agents are civil servants by any other name.