'The best raconteur I ever met ... He truly was eclectic'

Winston Fletcher, one of the most influential postwar advertising practitioners, died last week. Some friends and former colleagues pay their tributes.

Tributes pour in for Winston Fletcher
Tributes pour in for Winston Fletcher

David Abbott founder, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

"I first ran into Winston in the 60s; oddly enough, it was on the letters page of World Press News, a less glossy forerunner of this magazine. Winston, his account man hat firmly on his head and his tongue perhaps in his cheek, had pleaded that copywriters and art directors should become more 'eclectic'. Don't just read the D&AD Annuals, he had begged - there's a whole world of opera, ballet and Russian novels out there, let that be your inspiration! That was the gist of it. I didn't keep the letter, but I did reply.

"At the time, I was at DDB and I saw Winston's letter as reactionary, a throwback to the days when JWT had called their creative department the literary department. Times have changed, I wrote. Today, the best creative people study great ads because great ads are great teachers. I may have even stooped to a little juvenile sarcasm ...

'Just what you need to sell a Remington razor, a profound knowledge of the Polish Jesuit poet Casimir Sarbiewski.'

"In truth, neither of us was entirely serious, and we soon met up and started a decades-long friendship, nourished by wit, gossip and fable. He was the best raconteur I ever met, a lovely man with a wonderful line in self-effacing humour. He was an excellent writer and a perceptive critic in many fields. (He truly was eclectic.) On the day he died, we had exchanged e-mails about the lunch we had planned for the next day. His last e-mail to me was timed at 9.50am. At 5.00pm, I rang to cancel the table."

Archie Pitcher deputy chairman, History of Adverting Trust; former president, Ogilvy & Mather London

"A good advertisement should have a tension between the headline and the illustration. Winston was a good advertisement and an excellent advocate for the ad business. He was clever and great to argue with. His book Powers Of Persuasion is a wonderful insider's view of modern advertising. He had the good grace to say he could not have written it without the resources of the History of Advertising Trust's archives.

"He was the voice of advertising and marketing on radio,television and at conferences. He was selfless in giving his time to many organisations and charities."

Jeremy Bullmore

"James Webb Young once wrote: 'Every really good creative person in advertising whom I have known has always had two noticeable characteristics. First, there was no subject under the sun in which he could not easily get interested. Second, he was an extensive browser in all sorts of fields.'

"That was Winston, and in spades. From scurrilous gossip to high political theory, almost everything engaged the Fletcher mind. There aren't many like that these days; but I suspect there never have been.

"You wouldn't think you could get to know somebody well as a result of two lunches a year. But if you have two lunches a year for 40 years, it's quite easy.

"Winston died on 4 September. We were booked in for lunch on 6 September. I've seldom felt so deprived."

Hamish Pringle former director-general, IPA

"Winston Fletcher CBE: FSD. DFD. IPA. AA. ASA. ASBOF. BASBOF. WARC. ISBN. PRO BONO: QED."

Greg Delaney chairman, DLKW Lowe

"I worked with Winston for 14 years. First at the agency we founded with my brother Barry - Delaney Fletcher Delaney - then subsequently, after we sold to Bozell, at Delaney Fletcher Bozell. He was also a non-exec director at DLKW.

"What I most remember is our conversations. Winston was cultured, witty and loved talking about politics, literature, theatre - not to mention advertising. He had opinions about more or less everything.

"Many of our conversations took place at one or other of his favourite restaurants. When we found an old phone of Winston's, after he left the agency, the speed-dials told the story: home, work, Le Caprice, The Ivy, Cecconi's ...

"I only once saw him lost for words - it was in the early days of our first agency. He'd been persuaded to throw in his lot with us because we had a large piece of business: a supermarket called Hillards. Winston fixed to meet them immediately, but when the client came in, it was to announce that they were pulling all their spend and selling to Tesco. 'I hope you don't have this effect on all their clients,' he said to a stunned Winston. Luckily for us, Winston had the opposite effect.

"Throughout my career, whenever I was confronted with a problem, it was to Winston I invariably turned. I knew I could rely on his patience, his experience and wise counsel.

"Winston was one of the best colleagues and most loyal friends anyone could wish for and I will miss him enormously."

Robin Wight president, Engine

"Winston, thank you for giving me my first job. Thank you for tutoring me in the rudiments of copywriting, challenging me to become another David Ogilvy - I'm sorry that I failed you there.

"Thank you for all the time you spent supporting our industry on committees you probably found boring. Thank you for being such a magisterial chronicler of our industry. Thank you for having the courage to criticise our industry in public while remaining a passionate defender of the public benefits of advertising.

"Let's hope your legacy can be a determined scepticism of the modern quackery of adland."

Lord (Chris) Smith chairman, Advertising Standards Authority

"We are saddened by the passing of Winston Fletcher. He was not only a key figure in adland, but also a part of the fabric of the ASA. As the chairman of the Advertising Standards Board of Finance, his energy was a driving force that helped extend the ASA's responsibility into TV and radio advertising. We will remember Winston with a great deal of affection."

Cilla Snowball chairman, Advertising Association

"Winston Fletcher was one of advertising's most eloquent champions. He was an industry leader, chairing the AA from 1993 to 1997, and also holding many other industry roles. His wisdom and knowledge of the industry is unsurpassed and he will be much missed."

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