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Ad industry mourns leader

PERTH’S most popular ad man has died at the age of fifty-seven.

John Davis began his career in advertising forty years ago and rapidly gained a reputation for his jovial, fun-loving nature and passion for the industry.

He led John Davis Advertising to become one of WA’s top creative agencies and was described by his staff as “the heart and soul of JDA”.

JDA senior group account director, and close friend of Mr Davis, Julian Donaldson has stepped in as managing director.

Mr Donaldson said Mr Davis’ careful planning, selflessness and personal sacrifice created an environment conducive to the best creative work in the industry.

“There was nothing that disturbed John more than seeing young talent suffocating in an environment that didn’t encourage growth,” Mr Donaldson said.

“He was constantly in awe of the work young minds produced when nurtured and encouraged in a positive environment.

“Job applications at JDA are numerous, but John attended to them himself, treating young hopefuls with the respect and patience they deserved, being careful not to dampen their spirit,” he said.

The company’s success at the Cannes Advertising Festival was a source of great pride to Mr Davis.

Comments from creatives such as “we don’t know how lucky we are” and “no-one’s doing it like we’re doing it” were repeated within the agency for weeks after their return from the event.

Mr Donaldson said Mr Davis’ lack of materialism enabled the real issues to be addressed.

“John’s long involvement with the industry means he saw it all, experienced the good with the not so good and instinctively knew what worked and what didn’t in order for a culture to survive,” Mr Donaldson said.

“He thought outside the square and never let pride or ego get in the way of a decision. He was always willing to give advice.”

JDA staff have enthused about Mr Davis’ great sense of humour for many years, indicating he was a joy to work for.

“His endorsement of fun and his ability to generate spontaneous laughter made for a workplace environment rarely seen,” Mr Donaldson said.

At the recent Perth Art Directors Club Awards, JDA staff raised their glasses in a brief toast, pledging to continue having fun “in the spirit John would have wanted”.

“Friends were important to John – ‘olden friends are golden friends’ is a credo he lived by,” Mr Donaldson said.

“He never forgot or overlooked any person who reached out to help in the formative days of JDA or made him laugh.

“He wanted people to fly, dance or sing. Whatever your dream, he offered you the freedom to achieve it. His joy came from seeing others achieve.”

Mr Donaldson said an appropriate summation of the esteem in which JDA staff held Mr Davis was expressed in a testimonial by Jason Schragger:

“When I started at JDA, someone told me that if you don’t hear a boisterous laugh by 10:00am – something’s up,” Mr Schragger said.

“JDA is a very different place to work. In fact, John hated it when you call it work.

“His attitudes were infectious and you soon started thinking you can do anything – nothing is unachievable.

“When I first started at the agency, I couldn’t sing to save myself.

“Well, after a year of intensive training, dancing on the boardroom table and some encouraging words from John, I still can’t sing. The difference is, I believe I can.”

Marketforce chairman Howard Read said no-one in the advertising industry was as loved for his sense of fun and fierce but friendly competitive spirit.

“A man of great integrity and passion – a very sad and premature loss,” Mr Read said.

Perth City Council Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass said Mr Davis, who handled the Perth City Council’s advertising account, was a truly great man.

“John enjoyed widespread respect within the City of Perth for his professional marketing expertise and knowledge – which was always complemented by an outgoing, friendly sense of humour,” Dr Nattrass said.

Mr Davis passed away suddenly on 31 May.

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