Senior figures in direct marketing have paid tribute to Jeremy Shaw, one of the industry’s most respected chiefs and co-founder of Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw, who has passed away just two years after stepping down from the agency.
He started his marketing career in the charity sector, working for Oxfam, before taking up his first agency role at Smith Bundy & Partners in 1984.
Formed by direct marketing legend, the late-George Smith, Jeremy Bundy and Carol Trickey a decade before, the agency was the stamping ground of many of today’s senior executives, including the likes of Terry Hunt, Jonathan Spooner, Chris Barraclough, Wanda Goldwag, and Mel Edwards (formerly Cruickshank).
Shaw spent over 13 years at the agency, eventually becoming chairman but left in 1997 for Carlson (now Aimia); a year later he joined 141 – the Bates-owned agency – and steered the company through a tempestuous merger period which sparked the resignations of nearly all the senior directors of both 141 and Bates.
At the time, the then vice-chairman of Bates UK Graham Green said: “Given all the people we’ve lost to date, I would rather have Jeremy than all the rest of them put together. In spite of all the crap we’ve had going on here, his reaction was great as he saw the job as a huge challenge.”
It was at 141 that Shaw first met Paul Kitcatt, but they both quit when 141 bought the sales promotion agency Communicator and merged its operations.
The duo were reunited when Shaw took on the role of chairman of Burnett Associates and Lion, and brought Kitcatt in as executive creative director of both agencies, after initially backing his venture, Kitcatt & Co.
It was during this time that Kitcatt and Shaw met Marc Nohr and Vonnie Alexander, and they launched Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw in 2002 (pictured) with backing from Mentor, an investment company headed up by sales promotion stalwarts Colin Lloyd and Clive Mishon.
The business went on to be one of the most successful DM agencies of the past decade, eventually being bought by Publicis in March 2011. Shaw was then handed the role of chief operating officer at sister agency Digitas but both he and Nohr left in late 2014, followed by Kitcatt and Alexander last year.
Marc Nohr said: “Jeremy was a gent, a rock and a man with a keen intellect. He was deeply committed to mentoring and educating young talent, a person of absolute integrity, a gifted businessman and a good friend to the charity sector.”
Paul Kitcatt added: “Jeremy was never the public face of our agency. He was our best kept secret. All the people who do the hard work in agencies – cleaners, receptionists, office managers, HR, finance – the least glamorous jobs – reported to Jeremy.
“All of them found him at first a little forbidding. Perhaps even scary. But they all came to love him. Because he was kind, generous, fair, thorough, attentive and never made anyone feel they didn’t matter. He was a true gentleman and a man you could always trust.”
Chris Barraclough, who is now creative director at Orchestra, points out that at Smith Bundy, “we’d never really had anyone ‘proper’ like him before. For a start, he was the only employee who knew how computers worked”.
He added: “Jeremy knew his stuff, too and was instrumental in helping the agency to grow in size and stature. He always worked with a dry humour, grace and a ready smile. Jeremy taught me a lot about how agencies work and about the disciplines of direct, for which I am eternally grateful. It was no surprise to me he went on to achieve even bigger and better things. He, like George Smith, was a huge part of my youth. Rest in peace, Jerrers.”
Paul Williamson, managing director at Realia Marketing, worked for Shaw at Carlson and 141. He said: “I consider myself lucky to have been able to work for and with such a wonderful man. He was an agency man who commanded huge respect. He was my Yoda; guiding and encouraging and giving me the belief in my ability to drive forward. And I’m proud to call him a friend. RIP Jeremy. If there is such a thing as marketing agency sanity, he was it. May his blueprint for life and agency living continue.”
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