Tributes for ‘direct marketing nobility’ Ivor Samuels

ivor samuelsFriends and colleagues have paid tribute to former WWAV, IDM and BBDO chief Ivor Samuels, who has passed away following a long and spirited battle with cancer.

Born in London in 1936, Ivor served his National Service in the British Army between 1954 and 1956.

Having graduated from Cambridge University, Ivor passed his military service by learning Russian and eventually became an interpreter.

It was during this time that he met his long-time partner, Gerry, and their relationship blossomed during the days when they could both have been jailed.

In 1959, Ivor joined ad agency Benton & Bowles, where he became assistant managing director before co-founding his own agency, Samuels Jones Isaacson Page, in 1974 as an offshoot of Boase Massimi Pollitt (BMP). Soon after, the agency appointed a young copywriter called John Watson to work on one of its key clients, mail order company Scotcade run by Bob Scott.

But by 1976, Watson had quit to join forces with Glenmore Trenear-Harvey and Drayton Bird and launch Trenear-Harvey Bird & Watson, an agency that specialised mostly in direct mail and press.

However, Watson and Samuels remained friends and in 1982 Ivor, who was then CEO of Omnicom-owned BBDO, was instrumental in encouraging Watson, Chris Albert, Rinalda Ward and Bernie Varndell to set up WWAV.

Watson said: “Ivor was very much the guiding influence during WWAV’s early years as chairman, and as WWAV grew and BBDO shrank, he was always much more interested in the world of response marketing than brand advertising.”

In fact, Ivor also took a leading role in the early days of the IDM, working closely with the late Professor Derek Holder and the academics at Kingston University. He was an early chair as well as a highly respected trustee.

Watson continued: “And when WWAV decided to sell, Ivor was instrumental in setting up the deal with Omnicom through Peter Jones, and he shepherded the whole transaction.

“By then, Rinalda and I had set up mail order company Compton & Woodhouse, and again, Ivor as chairman and an investor kept us very much on the straight and narrow.”

WWAV went on to become a major powerhouse, merging with Rapp Collins, operating offices in Edinburgh, Bristol, Leeds and Amsterdam, and even now as Rapp remains the biggest agency in the global Omnicom Precision Marketing Group.

Watson said: “In advertising terms, Ivor was a rare combination of a creative mind and a very astute financial brain, which made him one of the most successful admen of that generation.

“But above all, Ivor was a true friend, a valued colleague and he will be grievously missed by me and by everyone who knew him. Farewell, Ivor.”

Scotts & Co founder and chief executive Nigel Swabey said that the industry has lost “another of its all-time greats” with Ivor’s passing.

He added: “Ivor was an inspired creative force in direct marketing in the Nineties and Noughties. I shall remember him as a kind, thoughtful, considerate man with a ready smile, always with a joke at the ready.

“If such a thing exists, Ivor was certainly a member of the ‘direct marketing nobility’ of the early years, inspiring many people to enter the sector by his example. He will be missed, but by no one more than Gerald, his long term partner.”

Decision Marketing editor Charlie McKelvey first met Ivor when he was still at school, through his aunt who had known Gerry and Ivor since the late 1950s.

When McKelvey mentioned he was considering a career in adland, Ivor arranged for him to do work experience at Samuels Jones Isaacson Page in the mid-Seventies.

McKelvey recalled: “I was just a wide-eyed spotty oik, but Ivor took me under his wing and made sure I was shown the ropes. To be fair, I was only 15 and it all looked a bit too much like hard work, so I opted for a different career path.

“Little did I realise that just over a decade later I would be working in the marketing press and writing about Ivor, John Watson and the glorious world of direct marketing – and still am.

“Ivor was a true character, very passionate, highly engaging and had a great sense of humour. He will be sorely missed.”

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