‘A brilliant mind and a very big heart’: politics and adland pays tribute to Neil Lawrence

Neil LawrenceTributes have flowed for adman Neil Lawrence, with prominent figures in the advertising industry and the political world recognising his contribution in both spheres.

It was announced today that Lawrence died aged 61 during a surfing holiday in the Maldives.

Among those paying tribute to him are former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and also former Queensland premier Anna Bligh, who told Mumbrella: “Neil was the advertising director for my election victory in 2009 and I give him a very large piece of the credit for winning that campaign.

“He devised a brilliant media strategy. He executed it with devastating effect. He kept the team on track and on strategy when daily polling threatened to dissemble everybody,” she said. 

Bligh’s comments have been echoed by fellow Labor ad strategist Dee Madigan who said: “Neil wrote some of the best political advertisements.

“His work on the 2009 Lawrence Springborg ad is one of the very few election ads which actually changed the result.”

Asked about those ads Bligh said: “He crafted ads that drew those differences very large for the electorate.

“Neil had a brilliant mind and a very big heart. Election campaigns are very very intense – they are high stakes because there is a lot at risk – Neil had not only the temperament to stick to the strategy through the ups and downs but brought an absolute clarity of the differences between myself and my opponent.”

Veteran adman and former Coalition campaign strategist Ted Horton also praised Lawrence’s abilities in the world of political advertising.

Horton told Mumbrella: “Neil had already had a very successful career here and overseas, but his experience with the Kevin 07 campaign propelled him to new heights, and helped him create a unique and successful agency like no other in Australia.

“I don’t think anybody could deny that he was at the peak of his career. There was no sign of his success diminishing.

“It is very said. He was far too young. He will be remembered respectfully by a lot of people. My thoughts are with his family.”

kevin07 campaign sloganFormer prime minister Kevin Rudd paid tribute, to the man who created the Kevin07 slogan, in a statement saying:

“Our hearts go out to Caroline, Anna and Tom. I am stunned and deeply saddened by news of Neil’s death.”

“This guy was a wonderful human being first and foremost. He was passionate to the core about progressive causes in which he believed.

“He also had about him a creativity that was unique. I will always be indebted to him for his creativity in the 2007 election campaign where he was one of the few who was truly at the core of that campaign.

“Neil Lawrence will be remembered as a truly good man.”

Numerous other Labor politicians have also paid tribute include federal leader Bill Shorten, front bencher Anthony Albanese and SA premier Jay Weatherill who tweeted:


An image of the tattoo

Last year Lawrence made headlines after promising Weatherill he would tattoo the time – 4.46pm – on his backside should Labor claim victory in the 2013 state election.

Following Weatherill’s surprise victory Lawrence followed through on the promise, but took a tongue in cheek jibe at a piece in the Australian Financial Review’s Rear Window which claimed he had it tattooed on his backside, tweeting:

Bligh described Lawrence on the human level as: “One of the warmest, funniest, happiest guys I have ever worked with. He had a towering ability to understand people and what drives them.”

“Neil Lawrence was also a man of deep conviction and his recent documentary on gambling is a good example of a man of conviction using his talents to pursue his own values.

“I would say of Neil brilliant mind and a huge heart.”

Lawrence’s documentary on the pokie machine industry Ka Ching was due to premiere tonight.

Neil Lawrence was also the creative mind behind the current ‘Feels like home’ advertising campaign and advised the airline during its 2011 fleeting grounding crisis.

“Neil is one of the best storytellers this country has ever produced,” said Alan Joyce CEO of Qantas. “He had an incredible understanding of human nature and the Australian mindset, and he was able to express it in a way that no one else could.

“His passing is a tragic loss for his family and a deep, deep sadness for everyone who ever had the pleasure of knowing him.”

Nic Christensen and Tim Burrowes 


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