Senior figures, friends and colleagues from the data and direct marketing industry have paid tribute to former DMA chair, Opt-4 co-founder and data protection expert Rosemary Smith, who passed away last week.
The tributes have been led by Opt-4 co-founder Jenny Moseley, who first met Rosemary in the late Eighties. She said: “Rosemary was my best friend. Supplier, colleague, mentor and all-round fun person. I admired her so much and consider her to be one of the cleverest people I have ever known.
“We got into all sorts of scrapes together; climbing over a swimming pool wall at a Jersey conference, eating Raclette in Montreux, giggling over the oompah band in Lederhosen… Her wit at such times was legendary.”
A few years ago, the duo conducted a data protection tour of South Africa, or, as Moseley joked, “perhaps I should say it was more like a wine tour. We teased each other on the podium and threw difficult questions at one another to liven up the event”.
Moseley added: “We have done that double act many times but we never had a cross word. This past year whilst Rosemary was ill has been difficult to say the least, but I will always remember her kindness, generosity and fighting spirit.”
Judith Donovan CBE also recalls that Rosemary excelled at everything she touched. Donovan explained: “Whether that was drinking all night at Wembley…and in Montreux…and in America…or launching the DMA Foundation or getting cut-through to all of us that GDPR was looming. All this was done with equal gusto, enthusiasm, commitment and kindness.
“Of many people you can say ‘once seen never forgotten’, but of far fewer is it said ‘once seen, wouldn’t want to be forgotten, would want to have as bezzy mate, mother of my children (if the cap fits!), soul mate, mentor, counsellor, drinking accomplice..and all round good egg’.
“They broke the mould when they made Rosemary..let’s hope she’s in the biggest bar she’s ever seen!”
Zina Manda first met Rosemary when she joined Mardev in the early Nineties. She recalled: “I had the very great honour to work for Rosemary in a company that I ultimately inherited. She was my mentor, she was also my friend. I joined Mardev as a temp and stayed and stayed some more. What I loved best about Rosemary was her humour …when we met for supper a month ago, she was frail, she could barely walk but her humour and her fierce intellect were entirely in tact. I loved her very much…I will miss my friend.”
DMA group chief executive Chris Combemale paid tribute to Rosemary’s contribution to the industry body, when as chair she laid the foundations for the modern DMA that exists today, especially her transformation of governance that created a more agile and dynamic board structure.
Combemale added: “Rosemary’s drive and passion for our industry was infectious, her presence will be missed by all the people whose lives she has touched.
“She continued to be a leader of the industry through her stellar work on GDPR implementation at Opt-4 and Data Protection Network. The GDPR guidance created by the DPN aided hundreds of businesses to implement significant transformations as they adapted to the new regulations. Rosemary will be missed by all of us.”
For REaD Group Insights managing director Scott Logie, Rosemary was an inspiration. “From an industry perspective, she championed compliance well ahead of GDPR and led the way in ensuring our industry understood its responsibilities. For me personally, from a career point of view, the change that she led at the DMA allowed those of us who followed her as chair to keep that going and create a creditable industry body.
“And, finally, from a personal point of view, she was just lovely. Sitting sharing a drink (always rosé for Rosemary) was always the best way to end any industry do. She will be hugely missed.”
Another former DMA chair Charles Ping, who recently stood down from Fuel Data to set up his own consultancy, said: “I’ve had the singular pleasure of knowing Rosemary for must be 25 years and three phrases come to mind when I think of the past quarter of a century: wise counsel; ruthlessly straightforward; and enormous fun. Rosemary was all of these, and more.
“Wise counsel: Working with her at the DMA both as a committee member, as my deputy and then as chair, the words ‘wise counsel’ resonate. Seeing an issue from all sides, understanding the forces, interests and trajectories made her an ideal colleague when navigating the trade body landscape. Her advice was always measured, her support unwavering, her approach collaborative.
“I couldn’t have chosen a better person to have at my side. It was this very same skill that made Opt-4, the business she founded with Jenny, both foresighted and hugely successful. Assimilating a complex and changing regulatory environment and turning it into practical advice was a brilliant move and one ideally suited to Rosemary’s sharp brain, great use of written language and exemplary verbal communications.
“Ruthlessly straightforward: In the world of marketing, a bullshit free colleague is one to be treasured. Rosemary was never a disciple of Machiavelli, she preferred to be clear and honest, but never, ever, blunt or rude – she had far too much charm for that. Being straightforward was simply her values being realised through her work. If she thought I was wrong, either as a colleague, a client or a friend, she’d say. And you’d take that on board, because it was Rosemary.
“Enormous fun: I’m sure that others will attest to her enjoyment of the social side of life and perhaps the futures market for rosé wine dipped with the sad news. However, the fun you could have spending time with Rosemary was the product of that most valuable of assets, a well-stocked mind. Widely read (how many of us have Stendhal, in French) and thoughtful in conversation, an hour spent with Rosemary would frequently drift into two because it was so dammed enjoyable. Only last November, during one of those treasured periods when chemotherapy gets it ‘right’, she was near me in Suffolk for a break. Rosemary, her much loved sister Caroline, and I had a delightful lunch in my local, this time forsaking wine for Adnams bitter. To remember ‘Smithy’, in proper, fine form is a treasured memory.”
REaD Group chairman Mark Roy added: “Industries are built on the foundations laid by a few determined, persuasive and (almost always) charming people. The direct marketing industry simply would not be what it is today without the utter determination and charm that Rosemary brought to our humble beginnings.
“For me, she epitomised what is great about the DM industry. The razor sharp mind – get the job done, cut the bullshit – and the now we’ve done a deal let’s go and have a bottle of wine (or 4!! Not joking!). She was always unflinchingly honest in her assessment of your last sentence but had the rare ability to do it a way which kept you coming back for more.
“Her irrepressible energy and cutting wit will be sorely missed by so many, the heavens have a bright new star in them tonight, I hope for their sake they have a wine cellar! Cheers Rosemary.”
As well as her industry roles, Rosemary also sat on the advisory board of Royal Mail Market Reach. Former managing director Jonathan Harman said: “Rosemary was warmly encouraging and brought sharp insight to the table whenever we met. Before anyone in Europe had uttered the acronym GDPR, Rosemary could see the impact on brands of both a new legislative era and, crucially, the way that consumer attitudes towards personal data were changing. She helped us and many others to practically navigate into this new world.
“Of course, we will remember Rosemary for her expertise. Perhaps more than that, we’ll remember Rosemary for her human qualities. As well as being fantastic company over lunch, a coffee or maybe something stronger, she was one of our industry’s genuinely lovely people.”
There have also been numerous tributes on LinkedIn. Lloyd James said: “To a great friend and colleague, I send you love and peace for your final journey. How many glasses of wine we have shared, how many laughs in the bars and restaurants and how many inappropriate things we have talked about together. You my darling were a diamond and, as the immortal Bassey once sang ‘Diamonds are forever’, may you rest in peace beautiful lady and may I say that it was a privilege to have known you and laughed with you. God bless you and your amazing sister.”
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Rosemary Smith, DM industry champion, passes away