Gruff, brilliant, funny: industry remembers retail pioneer David Mattingly

One of the few true legends of Australian advertising, David Mattingly, who changed the way retailers spoke to consumers, has died.

david mattinglyMattingly passed away yesterday leaving a global legacy due to his vision that retailers could connect with consumers as brands, transforming the industry and building some of Australia’s most influential retail brands.

The adman, who began his career in TV at GTV 9 in Melbourne luring brands to the nascient world of TV with shows such as Graham Kennedy’s In Melbourne Tonight, was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal on Australia Day this year for his contributions to the industry.

After Nine he joined ad agency Monahan Dayman Adams where he set up a retail specialist division, Mattingly MDA, convincing Myer to take its advertising account out of house for the very first time – creating a revolution in the industry.

Other brands such as Safeway (Woolworths) quickly followed Myer’s lead, joining the specialist division as Mattingly taught them to market on more than price and range, to invest in the brands themselves.

Geoff Ingall, one of Mattingly’s closest friends and colleague at Y&R, said the impact he had on Australian advertising could not be underestimated.

“He was one of the most creative people I ever met,” Ingall told Mumbrella.

“He was always looking for another way of doing things – he was incredibly innovative.”


Ashleigh Lauren Bradley’s award winning picture of David Mattingly

Ingall said Mattingly brought a sharp sense of humour to the job, forever playing with language to keep people on their toes and was always restless, wanting to get things done.

“RFN! he would say, right fucking now, when he wanted something,” Ingall said.

“He would rejoice in getting up early in the morning, reading up on everything and then he would be into me – ‘what about this, what about that?’.”

Mattingly grew the MDA business to become the second largest in Melbourne before joining with Japan’s global giant Dentsu, which ultimately linked the business with Dentsu’s Young & Rubicam.

Y&R rated his his retail vision so highly it employed him around the globe to help lift its business.

The exposure he had to overseas retailers revealed that Mattingly was well ahead of the curve, driven by a constant desire to innovate that Ingall said set him apart.

That vision  saw him become the only Australian to be inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.

Grant Booker, who was at MDA when Matttingly joined, said he was a larger than life figure who filled a room with his personality.

“What he was so good at, was he could pick up the phone and talk to anyone at any time of the day, politicians, businessmen. You name it.”

Alex Hamill, former CEO and chairman of George Patterson Bates before it joined with Y&R, said he had sought Mattingly’s counsel before starting the retail specialist AdTown.

“He said to me: ‘a lot of agencies think its about the ads. It’s not about the ads, its about the results. When I meet with clients I don’t talk about ads, I talk about results and that is how I have survived in retail’,” Hamill recalled.

“He was a very pragmatic and focused person.”

Gawen Rudder, who also worked with Mattingly at MDA, said his gruff exterior hid a very canny operator.

“When he got Myer he knew that any new management would try to bring the business back inside and other agencies would be chasing it,” Rudder said.

“He embedded the whole retail process in such a way there was no way it could ever be replicated.”

Rudder said Mattingly was also willing to laugh at himself, returning from an extensive trip to the US where he visited retailers around the country photographing how they were innovating, he then admitted he had forgotten to take the lens cap off the camera for the entire trip, wasting thousands of dollars of research time.

“He is also one of the funniest people I ever met and he loved impersonating people and would sit in a bar in Las Vegas pretending to be a racing car driver, surrounding himself with women – just for the fun of it.”

Mattingly ”retired” in 1998, but friends said he railed against the notion, noting that he continued to advise Dentsu for the following 18 years, with Ingall revealing that just one week ago he continued to make contributions to boards and to prod people to find a better way of doing things.

Ingall said perhaps Mattingly’s greatest legacy was the friendships he forged.

“I think that the measure of his contribution is that most of his clients he became close friends with,” Ingall said.

Mattingly is survived by his wife, Ann, and sons Stephen and Andrew.

A service is understood to be being planned for next Wednesday, September 21.


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