Friends, colleagues and leading industry figures have paid tribute to FCB Global chief Nigel Jones – former junior chess champion, “mix-tape” lover and one of the most respected figures in the business – who has passed away, aged 62.
Jones started his career at BMP DDB in 1984, after studying maths at Oxford University. It was here where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Stuart Archibald and Arthur Parshotam, ultimately becoming head of account planning.
After 14 years, he quit to join forces with Simon Antenen, Steve Barton and Ed Mason to form Jones Mason Barton Antenen, which subsequently merged with Claydon Heeley. Jones and Ed Mason were joint chief executives, although Mason left soon after.
The agency, whose staff viewed themselves as the “Sex Pistols of the agency world”, was the stomping ground of many of the industry’s “faces”, including Xavier Rees, Richard Madden, Jonathan Harman, Mike Cullis, Chris Martin, and Steve Grout. After years of success, it went through a number of management changes before being merged and then, much like the punk band, it disappeared.
Jones left the company to join FCB in November 2005, where he eventually became president when it was merged with Draft a year later, before switching to Publicis to be UK group chairman and chief executive. He quit in 2013 to return to DraftFCB in a global strategy role.
In a message to FCB staff, global chair and chief creative officer Susan Credle and global CEO Tyler Turnbull described Jones as an “advertising industry legend”, “dear friend” and “a remarkably special human” whose “sage advice and wise counsel helped us weather many storms”.
The message added: “He played a critical role in delivering our shared ambition of restoring FCB’s creative reputation and ambition to become the number one creative agency network in the world, a role for which this agency owes him eternal gratitude.”
Former Claydon Heeley colleague Jonathan Harman, who went on to be Royal Mail Group managing director of media, said: “It’s widely understood that Nigel was hugely intelligent, passionate, empathetic and inspiring. He’d use all these attributes and more as he transformed client businesses, careers, agencies and global networks. And, of course, he won far more than his share of awards and accolades for this throughout his career.
“But there was more to Nigel than work. Much more. Quite aside from being a brilliant and unswervingly loyal friend, at his core, Nigel was all about his family.
“The way he so totally adored and cherished his wife and children, and they him, mean that, as I remember him, his achievements in our industry will serve as a mere footnote to his achievements as a family man.
“He was an irreplaceable one-off and I’ll miss him terribly.”
Stuart Archibald added: “A wry smile. A calm, considered and curious gentleman. My first memory of our meeting at BMP. I quickly realised why Nigel was the head of planning at the home of planning.”
Meanwhile, tributes on LinkedIn have been led by Mike Welsh, a close friend of Nigel’s, who worked with him at both Claydon Heeley and Publicis. He said: “He was the smartest, funniest and nicest person to work with and will be sorely missed by anyone who knew him.”
Former Claydon Heeley head of data planning Liam Reynolds, who now runs the event Silicon Milkroundabout, added: “Nigel has always been my favourite introvert in adland. And will always be remembered as being the smartest person in the room. I still remember his masterly handling of the Egg pitch and curve ball they threw in at the last minute. I’ve also got his 100 songs from 100 years CD somewhere too, I will have to dig out.”
TMW Unlimited chief strategy officer Dan Bowers commented: “So very sad. I was very lucky to own one of his brilliant reggae and ska CD complications. I hope I’ve still got it !? Big love to his family.”
Meanwhile, Christine Jones, global ECD at Ridley Scott Creative Group, added: “So very sad. I remember at Publicis, Nigel heard my son made it into the London chess final so he invited him in to teach him some moves, what I thought would be an hour game turned into five hours together. I chatted to him in Suffolk about 2 months ago. It’s so very very sad.”
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