Friends and former colleagues have paid tribute to Tod Norman, a highly respected industry figure and recognised authority on business strategy and direct marketing, who passed away earlier this week.
A passionate socialist, family man and Harley-Davidson “hog boy”, Norman grew up in the States but dropped out of university when his drive for equality reached its peak in 1978. Initially he joined a kibbutz in Israel, where, legend has it, his first job was to artificially inseminate thousands of turkeys.
In one interview he joked: “Yes, I admit it. My first job was that of a professional turkey f****er!”
Norman moved to the UK in the early Eighties, and took his first job as a research executive at Research International. He started his planning career at GGK Advertising, before joining Craton Lodge Knight. In 1996, Norman switched to Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray (now Proximity) as planning director, and was a major force in the agency’s meteoric rise from start-up to one of the biggest DM businesses in the country.
In 1999, he switched to WWAV Rapp Collins (now Rapp) as brand planning director at Zalpha, the consultancy offshoot designed to bridge the gap between management consultancies and communications agencies.
But when his former boss, and WWAV co-founder, John Watson left to set up a new agency with creative director Maria Phillips in 2003, Norman was lured away as co-founder. Contractual issues meant the agency was initially called Watson Phillips “Other” before reverting to Watson Phillips Norman a few months later.
After eight years, Norman has stepped down from the agency in 2011, to become a consultant.
Watson said: “We’re all deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Tod Norman. He was one of the brightest planners working in DM, a star whose light has gone out far too early. We will all miss him.”
Rapp global chief executive Marco Scognamiglio, who was managing director of the London agency when Norman was there, insisted that the industry has not only lost one of the best strategists but a true family man who was loved by all.
Scognamiglio added: “Tod was always a ball of energy in the office with never ending thoughts and ideas on what clients should do to be more successful. His real strength was insight, he just had that ability to see the insight about an audience that no-one else would see, which became the magic to produce great work.
“Moreover, he was just fun to be with and one of the good, decent people in our industry who will be missed by many.”
Jonathan Spooner, a former WWAV Rapp Collins creative director who now runs Spoon Creative, has been a close friend of Norman since they worked together at the agency. He said: “When I sat listening to Tod Norman, ‘The Sage Of West Finchley’, laughing, bitching and sharing his acute intelligence with me on his sunny terrace a week ago, I knew he was unwell – but I did not expect to hear the very sad news of his death so horribly soon.
“Tod was a brilliant, cantankerous, charming and supremely articulate man who ‘got’ creative people and was the direct inspiration for some of the best advertising campaigns I have worked on or seen. He was also touchingly devoted to Roma his lovely wife and to his three brilliant sons. I am very, very sad and shall miss him terribly.”
Barclaycard director of marketing communications Paul Alexander worked closely with Norman twice, once as colleagues at WWAV Rapp Collins and then later when he hired Norman to work at Barclaycard as a consultant. Alexander said: “Tod was an absolutely amazing man. He was one of those people who energised and inspired everyone around them, never afraid of taking on battle when he felt something was wrong or ill-thought through – he would stand up to anyone and always put his point across eloquently and powerfully.
Alexander said that “Tod had passion coursing through his veins”. He added: “He stood up for the right things and the right people – he was a very good man with a big heart, I knew him to be a devoted father, husband and a good friend. The world is lesser place today without you Tod, we will miss you down here, I hope you are causing havoc up there with your Harley in the sky.”
As well as his consultancy work, in 2014 Norman joined Royal Mail MarketReach as communication planner and content lead, crafting research and planning publications for the postal company’s clients and prospects.
MarketReach managing director Jonathan Harman, who also worked at WWAV Rapp Collins, said: “It was a feather in our cap to hire Tod. More than just an industry name, he had a reputation as a very smart planner who could do direct and so much more.
“In the time Tod worked with us, he more than lived up to that reputation. Like all the best planners there was a complex side to his character but ultimately he was driven to do the best possible job for our customers. We all respected, valued and needed that because he helped us settle for more.
“There was much more to Tod than his work and I would sometimes chat to him about his road trips on his Harley and he would occasionally bring his wife or son into work to say hi to his colleagues. It is a huge understatement to say that he will be sorely missed.”
Decision Marketing will publish details of funeral plans as soon as they are available.
Tod Norman steps down at WPN