Kind, decent and fun: a tribute to Dave Buchanan
A view from Paul Burke

Kind, decent and fun: a tribute to Dave Buchanan

The sad passing of creative director Dave Buchanan, whose career spanned Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, BMP and TBWA, serves to remind us of the importance of friendship in the ad industry.

There are only two kinds of people in the world.  Those who adored Dave Buchanan and those who never met him.

Like a sizeable chunk of the advertising industry, I’m one of the former and we’re all devastated.  Dave died at the weekend.  He’d been diagnosed with cancer in the summer and – typical Dave – didn’t want anyone to know.

He met his creative partner, Mike Hannett, at primary school and together they shared a long and brilliant career,  producing award-winning work wherever they went. At TBWA, BMP DDB and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. They were the best-loved, most-enduring, most-symbiotic…actually, scrub that; they were quite simply the best creative team I have ever known. 

I spent 15 years with them at BMP and a further five at AMV and it wasn’t just their creative talent that was held in such high regard; it was their kindness, decency and sense of humour.  When hiring anyone for anything, there should only be two questions: 1) Are you a nice person? 2) Are you any good? And I’ve never met two people who’d score more highly in both criteria than Mike and Dave.   

Dave was the more outgoing of the two. At any industry event or agency jolly, I always needed to see him there otherwise it wasn’t a proper party. Fortunately, his penchant for parties meant that I was seldom disappointed. Dave was the embodiment of life, which is why it’s impossible to imagine life without him. He never had a bad word for anyone, so no-one had a bad word for him. And at the end of any life, isn’t that the most magnificent legacy?

As you can appreciate, he’s been foremost in my thoughts all week and, as I’ve played and re-played the internal DVD marked “Buchanan”, I’ve also remembered countless others who've shared our good times and I’ve thought how astonishingly fortunate I’ve been to work in advertising.

This is how I met Dave, Mike and most of the people who’ve truly enriched my life. And with all the criticism and misery being heaped upon our industry at the moment, it’s important to remember this. Ad agencies’ open and random selection process always threw up a diverse and fascinating cast of characters, many of whom – and I’m definitely one of them – could never have flourished anywhere else.

Now is the time to cherish that. Covid-19 has made us unnaturally accustomed to not seeing the people we love, which makes it more vital to value the friendships we forged in advertising. For many of you reading this, your friendship with Dave was one you particularly treasured. 

With Christmas coming and lockdown loosened, I was going to text him, Mike and a couple of others to organise one of our little outings.  Recent ones have included a trip to see the Don McCullin exhibition at Tate Britain, followed by pie and chips at the Regency Café. Another took us to the Hammersmith Apollo to see our friend Craig Cash in Early Doors Live.

Our friendships have endured long after we all stopped working together. Ask anyone who works in advertising what they like most about their work and almost all will say “the People” because they – you –  are the industry’s greatest perk. 

I really love the people I’ve met in advertising and see them as often as I can. Not just former colleagues but directors, producers, sound designers, actors and agents. They’re interesting, funny and often downright strange. What other line of work regularly brings you into contact with people like that?

Countless lifelong relationships have begun in advertising agencies and Dave’s was a perfect example. He met his wife Karen at BMP when he was a senior creative and she was the star account director.  Their two boys – and many other human beings – only exist because of the lovely, sociable nature of our business. 

Happiness is gratitude, so be eternally grateful for the friendships you’ve struck up in advertising. Yes, 2020 has made those friendships a lot harder to maintain. But on the other hand, hasn’t it made us appreciate them even more?

Dave Buchanan has left a hole in many lives that nobody else can fill.  Without him, Christmas will never be quite as merry. However, I’m sure you all have your own Dave Buchanans, so clasp them to your hearts and give them a virtual hug. Actually, if no-one’s looking, give them a real one.

Because – and you know what I’m going to say – who knows if you’ll ever get that chance again? 

Paul Burke is a freelance copywriter and novelist