R.I.P. David Abbott
For six wonderful months David Abbott was my boss.
He was just coming up to his retirement and had already handed the day-to-day reins of AMV’s creative department to Peter Souter. But there he still was, sitting in his beautifully tasteful office (the one at the back of the agency, by the way; not one of the big ones overlooking Marylebone Road), sifting through our so-so attempts at continuing his classic Economist campaign.
Although he was never anything but lovely, it was hard not to be intimidated by the reputation, the body of work and the Godlike crown of white hair. I sometimes found myself in the lift with him, or queueing behind him at breakfast, or plucking up the courage to approach him at the Summer Party. On those occasions I was always tongue-tied, feeling some kind of pressure to speak only brilliant words to this legendary genius. Twice I started conversations with him only to have someone else pop over and briefly interrupt us. I would then lose my nerve and dash off, thinking that David would much prefer to spend his time with this other person. However, watching hidden from across the room, I would then see David finish his conversation then look around for me, puzzled at my disappearance.
I can’t adequately convey the contribution David made to the industry (but I’ll quickly mention his refusal to take on tobacco or toy advertising), so instead I’ll point out that he also wrote a brilliant novel. I enjoyed it very much, and wrote to David to tell him. A couple of days later my phone rang; it was David inviting me round to his Chelsea office for a chat, novelist to novelist. Twelve years after leaving AMV he was just as kind and warm, if a little less intimidating. We talked about how we went about our writing then he asked to read my book and wrote soon afterwards to tell me how much he liked it (although I’m fairly certain it wasn’t exactly his cup of tea).
Bye-bye, David, and thanks for making me, and the rest of the world, a little better than we would have been without you.
(Older posts including a David interview here, and his remarkable leaving speech here.)
Because you didn’t conform to adman equals ass.
Because you cried during your retirement speech when recalling the time you had to leave your young family for a few hours in a foreign city.
Because you spoke to everybody in that huge agency of yours, no matter what job they did.
Because you said ‘that’s lovely’ about some copy I once wrote for Volvo.
Because you refused to take on a toy or tobacco account when so many others did.
Because you were probably the best copywriter…like, ever. (Sorry).
Because you will continue to inspire generations of creatives to come.
Because if you don’t deserve to be remembered for the talented gentleman you were, then who does?
Very sad news. A body of work and achievements that will stand for ever.
I never met David Abbott, but I once saw him in an airport, at the baggage carousel. While my wife and I jointly grappled our luggage, I saw him remove two suitcases and take them tenderly to his wife, who was positioned out of the scrum, with their trolley.
In his every gesture he seemed the perfect gentleman.
you’re very lucky to have known him ben. I only met him once and he left a deep impression on me. just a class act through and through.
Three days after I left school, he gave me my first job. Therefore, he gave me everything. He’s the reason I’m writing this now. He’s the reason I ever wrote anything. Very sad loss.
That was a lovely tribute, Antonia.
I was in a restaurant when I heard a man at the table behind me gently explaining to the waiter that the bill was wrong. They had forgotten to charge him for the wine. I turned and looked at this honest soul – it was David
Truly sad news.
Wonder what he’d make of the arse up that is now advertising.
[…] obituary in The Independent hereFormer colleague Ben Kay remembers David Abbott on his blog here and has a transcript of Abbott's AMV leaving speech hereMike Dempsey wrote a lovely appreciation of […]
I was not good enough to work for David Abbott, but that didn’t stop me from trying and trying. David remained patient, encouraging and generous. It’s amazing how someone I never worked with could have been so imspiring. I don’t live in England but David was kind enough to reply my letters. R.I.P Mr Abbott.
[…] co-worker Ben Kay remembers David Abbott on his blog here and has a twin of Abbott’s AMV leaving debate […]
Deeply saddened & shocked when I heard the news on Sunday. I had the pleasure of working at AMV between 1988-1994. I started out as a PA working for various account teams which included working for Jeremy Miles. I was once asked by Jeremy to take dictation for David as his PA was on leave that particular day. My nerves kicked in as I travelled to the 8th floor and tapped on David’s door to take a letter. When he spoke my nerves disappeared and wanted him to write/dictate more letters so I could just listen. The day I left the Agency, I wrote all three (David Abbott, Peter Mead & Adrian Vickers) a letter to say how much I’d enjoyed my 6 years there, and they all replied. David’s smile lit up a room. He was a legend. My thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues past & present. RIP you wonderful man. Donna Head, MD Scramble. x