I am writing my latest, irregular column on the train between Tangible’s eccentric and characterful London HQ and our sleek, modern hub in leafy Cheltenham Spa. The skies are heavy with as yet unfallen rain as is my heart at the news of the death of Jeremy Shaw.
It seems only yesterday that I was lamenting the departure of George Smith from our sorry Vale Of Tears in this very publication – and now, far too soon and at far too young an age, it is time for Jeremy to pay the eternal ferryman his inevitable toll for the one-way journey we all must take across the Styx.
I would like to tell two Jeremy stories; one that others may already have mentioned; and another, for the which, I was the only witness. They both speak to his unique character and, perhaps, offer insights we could all benefit from.
Who can forget the Great Storm of 1987?
A cost of at least £2 billion to the UK insurance industry – and a career defining moment for Michael Fish.
But what I remember it for is Jeremy Shaw.
At the time, Jeremy was living in Kent. As many will know, Jeremy had a forces background. So when the storm broke – and the nation stayed at home the following day – Jeremy decided to drive to work. Naturally, being the kind of gentleman that he was, Jeremy drove a Bristol. So Jeremy simply loaded his chainsaw into the Bristol’s capacious boot and drove to London. Whenever Jeremy encountered a tree across the road, he applied the chainsaw. By the time he had reached the North Western corner of Kent, Jeremy had acquired a convoy of some twenty-seven motorists all following him as he methodically removed the various obstructions from the road.
I think of this whenever work is less than enjoyable: this ‘work’ is something that Mr Shaw was prepared to use his chainsaw to get to.
My second Jeremy Shaw story is even more instructive.
It would have been spring of 1988 and as the new, ‘thrusting’, FS-literate Smith Bundy copywriter, I was selected to pitch with Jeremy for the Sears store card business. For reasons lost in the mists of time, Peter Minta, the SAD, was unable to attend, so off Jeremy and I trolled to an enormous boardroom (possibly even the Selfridges boardroom) somewhere north of Oxford Street.
We presented board after board of exquisitely designed direct mail packs displaying work, which in 1988, was state-of-the-art in terms of segmentation, personalisation and appropriateness. The assembled client group (50% humourless US executives, 50% terrified UK employees) remained obdurately silent throughout the presentation, not even cracking the frostiest of smiles.
Jeremy concluded with some chairmanly remarks and opened the floor to discussion.
Silence. Low hum of traffic. Rustling of paper. Silence.
“Right!” said Jeremy.
He pushed back his chair and placed one foot upon it and the other upon the table.
He then proceeded to ‘soft-shoe-shuffle’ his way up the highly-polished, mahogany board room table to within a few steps of the head client and then ‘soft-shoe-shuffled’ his way back again, stepped down onto his chair, and thence the floor and said…
“You will remember Smith Bundy.”
We gathered our boards and left.
We did not win the business.
But I learnt a valuable lesson in how to behave with difficult clients.
His like will not be seen again.
Jeremy Shaw, I salute you.
Jonathan Spooner is executive creative director at Tangible