Outpouring of tributes and donations after marketing 'giant' Murray Calder dies

Former whisky marketer and MediaCom strategist's death at age of 51 prompts wave of support for family and charity donations.

Murray Calder: pictured at the 2019 Thinkbox TV Planning Awards judging day
Murray Calder: pictured at the 2019 Thinkbox TV Planning Awards judging day

Friends and admirers of Murray Calder have paid tribute to “a giant of the Scottish marketing industry” after the popular media strategist died from cancer at the age of 51. 

Calder, a fellow of The Marketing Society and former chair of IPA Scotland, took to Twitter last year after his diagnosis to share his experience of having lung cancer and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Known as @ScotStratGuy on Twitter, Calder was born in 1969 and began his career in brand management at whisky brands owner Edrington Group in the early 1990s.

He helped to launch The Macallan in Asia and was at the helm as Highland Park set course to become rated as the Best Whisky in the World. Then, as global marketing director for The Famous Grouse, he helped steer the brand through a global relaunch. 

He then joined MediaCom in 2007 as chief strategy director and helped Britain's biggest media agency to build its first Scottish office in Edinburgh.

The WPP media agency announced this week that its staff felt “numb” in response to Calder’s death.

“We have seen Murray described as a giant of the Scottish marketing industry which is entirely true but to us he was our colleague, our confidant, our mentor, our moral compass and most of all our friend and we will miss him terribly,” the agency said in a LinkedIn post.

As chair of the IPA in Scotland from 2012 to 2014 he championed and led the rejuvenation of effectiveness in the industry and was one of the original members of The Marketing Society Scotland Council.

Calder was self-deprecating. "When he's not wanging on about marketing, Murray mostly plays records," he wrote in a career summary about himself. He was also a keen mountain climber.

Just last week, Fawnbrake Collective co-founders Sera Holland and Amelia Torode and Google senior marketing director Ben Malbon created a Spotify playlist to support Maggie’s Centres, a charity that provides free practical and emotional support for people living with cancer.

Friends said that in his final days, Calder checked the playlist every day and took delight in the records that people had added.

The JustGiving page has already smashed its £1,000 target and had gathered almost £8,900 in donations at the time of this story’s publication.

Torode said of Calder: "Murray is quite possibly the nicest person I've never met. We've been Twitter friends for a long, long time. I think we connected when my mum was ill with terminal cancer and he too had a terminal diagnosis. 

“Through this past year of lockdown and all our worlds closed down, Murray's closed even more, and he used social media and music to connect and engage with planners and strategists around the world. Twitter gets a bad rap sometimes but Murray used it to bring people together.  

“I am so pleased that we started to create a living playlist for Murray whilst he was alive to hear it. Built through donations of tracks and donations of money we had almost 200 people engaged. I am sure that this playlist will grow as will the money for Maggie's Centres. 

“Murray reminded us all to enjoy the moments that matter, and reminded us that in these stressful times, the advertising community can come together to do good in memory of someone very special." 

Calder was married to Emma, a graphic designer with whom he ran The Makery, a handmade jewellery shop in Dunbar, and is survived by a 10-year-old daughter, Sorcha. His sister Lynsey announced his passing on Twitter this week.  

Holland added: “He was a positive force in every sense, and his relentless curiosity and thirst for learning itself led to his committed global following on Twitter, and the outpouring of grief, love and respect on the platform this week is testament to both his character and impact.  

“He inspired confidence, humanity and – there’s that word again – generosity in others through the sharing of his own, and the ripple effects of his vulnerability, dignity and relentless self-definition of his illness in the face of its will to define him will be felt by all who knew him. ‘Music till I die’ he said, and it was in his love of music that you perhaps most viscerally saw the essence of who he was. Music was in his bones, in his soul.  

“Ever exploring, curating, discovering and sharing the feelings it inspired in him and the love it instilled in others. Sail on, Captain."

News of Calder’s death prompted a flurry of tributes from marketers, agency staff and friends of the man many knew on social media as “The Captain”, a sobriquet he chose due to his apparent likeness to Captain Haddock from Tintin.

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