Creative Neil Lawrence dies suddenly during surfing holiday

Neil Lawrence

Neil Lawrence

One of Australia’s most respected creatives Neil Lawrence has died during a surfing holiday in the Maldives.

Lawrence was responsible for a slew of high profile and respected creative work including campaigns like Kevin 07, the Minerals Council of Australia’s successful campaign opposing the resources super tax to ‘Keep Mining Strong’ and Qantas’ recent “Feels like home” brand campaign.

He was the principal of Lawrence Creative Strategy and executive creative director of STW, Australia’s largest communications group.

STW CEO Michael Connaghan said in a brief statement he was “incredibly saddened” by the news, but declined to comment further “out of respect to his family”.

Lawrence, 61, made his name at Young and Rubicam in Adelaide in the early 90s before moving to Sydney as executive creative director at Y&R in the mid-90s. He then went on to launch Whybin Lawrence TBWA with Scott Whybin.

That led him to found Lawrence Creative Strategy, and to his work on the Kevin 07 federal election campaign which helped Kevin Rudd win the 2007 federal election.

GRUEN-NATION neil lawrenceIn the years after he was a regular panelist on the Gruen series on the ABC.

He remained strongly involved in politics and activism, working for campaigns including the 2013 South Australia election campaign for Jay Weatherill. He also did work for the Recognise campaign to have Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders recognised in the constitution.

A documentary he helped produced called Ka Ching charting the making and marketing of pokie machines in Australia was due to be launched soon.

At Lawrence Creative Strategy he also provided communications advice to many blue chip companies, including Qantas in 2011 during its industrial relations dispute, and managed merger and shareholder communications for firms including Wesfarmers, BHP Billiton and Alinta Energy.

Campaign Brief is reporting Lawrence died while on a surfing holiday in the Maldives.

He is survived by his wife Caroline, son Tom and daughter Anna. Friends and former colleagues have paid tribute to him, with former Y&R executive Lynda Gray telling Mumbrella: “Neil made an amazing contribution on so many levels.

“He was a great doer and I know he will be really sadly missed.”

Fellow Labor ad strategist Dee Madigan paid tribute to Lawrence noting that he while did not often work on the same campaigns he would often send her notes of congratulations or support.

“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,” said Madigan.

“He was extremely talented and just really lovely to deal. I remember I got a text from a text from him at 6am after the last Queensland state election saying ‘I hope you have a hell of a hangover you deserve it’.

“He was just such a lovely lovely man.”

Labor national secretary, George Wright, said in a statement: “All of us here at the ALP National Secretariat are shocked and saddened by the news of Neil Lawrence’s passing.

“Working with then ALP National Secretary and Campaign Director, Tim Gartrell, Neil and his team played a pivotal role in the Party’s successful and historic 2007 Kevin ’07 federal election campaign.

“All of our thoughts are with Neil’s family and friends at this very, very sad time.”

Current Labor leader Bill Shorten is among those leading the tributes on Twitter:  

He captured the moment. Gone far too soon. — bruce hawker (@brucehawker2010) July 15, 2015




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