Howe dies at 60 after long fight with cancer

Vernon Howe, the creative-turned-commercials director, best known as one of the originators of the "Heineken refreshes the parts ..." campaign, has died aged 60.

Howe, who was not only associated with some of the most memorable advertising of the late 60s and early 70s, but nurtured a large crop of up-and-coming directing talent, lost his battle with cancer at a Surrey hospice on Thursday.

Tributes poured in for a man who combined an easygoing charm with work that won him two gold Lions at Cannes and a D&AD gold Pencil.

Besides Heineken, Howe's name is synonymous with some of the best remembered TV spots of all time, from Campari's "Luton airport" commercial starring Lorraine Chase to the "Just one Cornetto" film for Walls ice-cream.

Howe began his career as an art director at the then Pritchard Wood agency, where he first worked with his former flatmate, Frank Lowe.

The pair were later contemporaries at Collett Dickenson Pearce during the peak of its creative potency under Colin Millward, working alongside the likes of Charles Saatchi, Alan Parker, David Puttnam and Paul Weiland.

It was at CDP that Howe and his copywriter partner, Terry Lovelock, came up with the Heineken idea. Legend has it that Howe got to direct the first Heineken films after Parker turned down the scripts.

Howe later recalled how he and Lovelock devised the Heineken campaign while on a stills shoot for Ford in Marrakech, having been warned by Lowe not to return until they'd cracked the brief.

After a spell running his own production company, he went on to direct ads in Los Angeles in the 70s, returning to the UK to set up Flying Colours with Barry Aylett, Maggie Manser and Alan Orpin.

In 1996, he founded And Howe, later rechristened Bliss Films, to break new talent. Since then, a number of his proteges have collected awards at Cannes, and one, Jackie Oudney, was named this year's best new director at the Kinsale Festival.

"So many people owe their careers to Vernon and he loved encouraging them," Helen Hadfield, his business partner, said: "As a director, his greatest talent was his uncanny instinct for knowing what would work and why."

Nick Welch, the former J. Walter Thompson joint creative director, who ran a consultancy with Howe, said: "Vernon was very much of the old school.

Script and performance were everything to him and he was never keen on big special effects."

Howe, twice married and the father of four children, had not directed since falling ill a year ago but was still active at Bliss until a fortnight ago.

His funeral is on Monday at 10.30am at St Andrew's Church, Church Road, Ham, Richmond. Anyone who knew him is welcome to attend.

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