Farewell Bruce Matthews

August 15, 2009

A few days ago I attended the funeral of Bruce Matthews, one of the first people to work in direct marketing in the UK. Bruce was the Managing Director of Wunderman in the early 1970’s when direct marketing was in its infancy and we were all learning new skills fast.

I first met Bruce when I called on the agency as a salesman for direct mail lists and mailing house services. He must have liked me because after selling to him for several months, he offered me a job as an Account Exec. Their office was in Radnor Walk just off the groovy Kings Road in Chelsea, then the centre of the universe and a magnet for very pretty girls in extremely short skirts. I accepted his offer without hesitation.

Bruce had been born and brought up in Australia and had moved to England several years earlier. It became his home for the rest of his life, but he was a proud Aussie through and through.

I learned a lot from Bruce. He was always in the office, as he used to say, ‘at sparrows fart’, and got stuck into work fast. I realised that if I was going to keep up with him I’d better be an early starter too, a trait that has stayed with me to this day.

Bruce was also one of the first green direct marketer’s. He cycled to most of his client meetings around London with one leg of his jeans tucked into a sock to stop the chain oil from soiling them. I borrowed the bike to go to client meetings, but there was a drawback in that if two of us had to attend a meeting we had to go by cab. So for twenty quid he allowed us to buy a second-hand tandem. I steered to meetings while the media department representative peddled furiously behind.

The agency was full of young, talented people, many of whom went on to start or run successful direct marketing businesses. Alec Hamilton was a copywriter who later joined Christian Brann in his agency in Cirencester before starting his agency Hamilton Wright. Danny Phillips, the Production Manager, still runs his direct marketing agency, Young Phillips in Bournemouth, and remains one of my closest friends today.

Bruce introduced us all to Fosters lager; it didn’t go on general sale in this country until many years later. He imported it from Australia himself and told us that his home was besieged with expat Australian dentists on Saturday evenings anxious to get their hands on a case of the amber nectar.

Bruce, we’re all raising a tinny in your memory.

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