One of the advertising industry's most respected figures passed away suddenly on Saturday at the age of 75. David Abbott was a founding member of the London-based Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, an agency which has created countless award-winning campaigns for clients as diverse as Sainsbury's, Ikea, Volvo and the RSPCA. He helped launch the agency, which was to become the largest in the country, in 1978, and retired as chairman and creative director 20 years later, in November 1998, handing the reins to Peter Souter.
David Abbott passed away suddenly on Saturday at the age of 75
Abbott began his career in advertising as a gifted copywriter at Mather & Crowther, before joining DDB. He founded French Gold Abbott in 1971, before teaming up with Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers to create AMV 7 years later. David and his co-founders came to stand for something pure and just in the advertising world; refusing to accept work from tobacco clients or toy manufacturers, because they believed children were unable to properly filter advertising from reality. They also tried to stick to a stringent “No redundancies” policy when economic times were tough. The man himself said he liked to believe that “When staff or clients move on from AMV, they take with them a conviction that advertising is an honourable and effective trade, that hard work can be exhilarating, that a good idea deserves reverence, and that talent grows best in the sunshine of security and encouragement.” He was officially inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Hall of Fame in 2011.
Those in the industry who had worked with David, and had known him as both colleague and friend, were eager to speak out regarding what their departed ally brought to the industry. Peter Mead, the man with whom David founded the company in the late 70's said that David meant more to him than he could possibly express in words. He said “David transformed my life from the moment I met him some 45 years ago, when he joined (fellow co-founder) Adrian Vickers and me in our little agency. He describes David joining the agency as being akin to “Lionel Messi joining Millwall,” and says that David's talent “Catapulted AMV into the advertising stratosphere.”
“When staff or clients move on from AMV, they take with them a conviction that advertising is an honourable and effective trade, and that talent grows best in the sunshine of security and encouragement.” David Abbott
Former AMV account executive, and now global chief executive at BBDO (who acquired a majority stake in AMV back in 1991) recalled his time working with David. He remembered David as “A gentleman. Polite and principled, generous and witty,” and said that “Just being around him made you feel better.” He believes it was David's incredibly work that truly set him apart though, and feels that there “Has never been a copywriter whose work has had more impact.” Some of the iconic campaigns David was a significant part of at AMV, include the beloved 'JR Hartley' TV ad for the Yellow Pages, the infamous (and iconic) “I never read the Economist” ads, and peerless work for brands such as Sainsbury's, Volvo and BT that were truly ahead of their time.
David also recently penned a novel titled 'The Upright Piano Player', which was published in 2010 and is expected to be honoured at the upcoming D&AD awards ceremony with a special tribute.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician who downloaded The Upright Piano Player to his Kindle, moments after finishing this article.