Vale Michael Ball, a major force in both the Asian and Australian advertising industries

Michael-Ball.jpgThe advertising industry throughout the Asia-Pacific region will be truly saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Ball, the former chairman of The Ball Partnership (since morphed into WCRS, Euro, and now Havas), who passed away last night, aged 81.

Ball was single-minded and described by some as a 'let's kick 'em in the guts' character. Also he was key to the establishment of the Asian ad industry, picking and cultivating the best creative talent, and forming a formidable partnership with Neil French. Those who worked for him went on to do great things in their own right -- that much alone is testament to his stature. The Ball Partnership Singapore set the standard for creativity in Asia.

Good friend and former colleague Jim Aitchison, author of Cutting Edge Advertising, summed up Ball's contribution to the industry in both Asia and Australia back in 2003.
Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 12.14.06 PM.pngSays Aitchison: "Ball has witnessed more change than most. He joined the fledgling Ogilvy & Mather New York in 1960, when there were fewer than 100 on the staff.

"Twenty-five years later in Asia, he founded one of the world's most creative agency brands, The Ball Partnership. David Ogilvy is still his advertising hero. 'David was, to my mind, the most important advertising person in the 20th century. Like most people in advertising, he was egocentric, but he had something that no other agency had, or has now - a culture, which was written down and taught by gentlemen with brains. I was grateful to have spent 25 years of my life with a guy who was the true genius of the advertising industry.'

"Since Ball left the business, media departments have unbundled and conglomerates have grown bigger. Advertising heroes are thin on the ground. 'Everybody has their heroes. Martin Sorrell isn't one of mine, because he did it through finance. I don't think Martin's place in advertising will ever be what Bill Bernbach's or David Ogilvy's is.'"

Ball was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in January this year, adding to a previously awarded AM honour.

Ball moved to the Southern Highlands of NSW in 1986 with his wife Daria and became an active member of the local community.

For several years, he advocated cricket through the roles of chairman and director of the Bradman Foundation. He is now an honorary life member of the foundation.

Ball was essential in the establishment of the International Cricket Hall of Fame at the Bradman Centre, Bowral.

5 Comments

David Fox said:

When I arrived as CEO of Ogilvy Australia Michael made the point of reaching out to me and taking me to Lucio's for lunch. He did so every few months after that including his legendary long lunch. He made me welcome when he was a long time out of Ogilvy however I suppose it was always in his veins due to his admiration of David Ogilvy. His 80th birthday a few weeks back was attended by many names that shaped Australia - John Howard, Dick Smith, Singo to name a few. It was of course held at Lucio's and was a great afternoon celebrating the long life of an Australian character. RIP mate.

Patsy Peacock said:

Michael never tread lightly, whatever he did, he did it with 150% commitment. He contributed enormously to the advertising industry here and throughout Asia. He was in awe of great creative people in advertising and the arts, and became a great supporter of them. We'll miss you Michael, and send our sympathy to his boys and Daria.

Vale Michael said:

With the creation of the Ball partnership, Michael Ball created Australia's first truly international network. He saw the potential of Asia and an Asian network long before most of his contemporaries. Once, when listening to a very talented, but very frustrated Neil French list a number of problems facing the agency, Michael told Neil "he shouldn't view these things as problems, but rather see them as opportunities"; to which Neil paused before replying, "Well, if that's the case, I'm working in an agency full of insurmountable opportunities!". Vale Michael.

Andrew Nairn said:

My first real job in advertising was at Ogilvy & Mather just when Michael was made
in charge of the agency worldwide.He would make a point of every visit to Sydney and he would visit a couple of times a year coming into my office and talk advertising I thought I was special until I realised I was not the only one.I believe he ran the world the same way. RIP Michael.

Thanks for one of the best jobs of my career. said:

I was lucky enough to work at The Ball Partnership as a young writer in the late 80's.
I've still got one of the books that the Ball Partnership self-published, all those decades ago, as a promotional piece.
It was given to clients, potential clients, and anyone who started at the agency.
It was smart, insightful and written with utter clarity. Yep, it had the unmistakable touch of Neil French.
It explained to anyone who could read who the agency was, how they thought, and why they did what they did.
I drank that cool-aid, 'cos it just made such perfect sense.
There was a tangible culture at The Ball Partnership. As an agency, they could describe it, sell it, and print collectible little books about it.
Try to find that nowadays...it's even rarer now.
All this was due to the man with his name on the door.
And hats off to Michael for figuring out we were part of Asia WAY before anyone else did.
The industry needs men and women with the nerves of Michael Ball now more than ever. Rest in peace. And thank you.

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