A Tribute to David Bernstein, HAT Trustee and advertising creative leader

The whole team at HAT were greatly saddened to learn that their long time trustee and advertising industry legend David Bernstein had passed away on 25 August aged 89.

David joined the McCann-Erickson agency in 1954 as a copywriter after 15 months with R.S. Caplin (Advertising) Ltd, where he worked after graduating from Oxford University. At McCanns he became a founder member of the Television Department and in 1959 was appointed Deputy Creative Director before swiftly being promoted to Creative Director in charge of all agency creative services in 1961.

David Bernstein, 1960

David scripted hundreds of commercials during his career including two which were shown on the opening night of commercial television on 22 September 1955 - for Mary Baker Cake Mix (Shredded Wheat Co) and Esso. In 2012 David was interviewed about his experiences as part of Alison Payne’s PhD research on the Impact of Commercial Television, 1954-1964. The transcripts for these fascinating interviews have been deposited at HAT and in these David explains how he found working during this pioneering period to be an exhilarating experience: ‘I thought it was great. A marvellous time to be alive. Interesting times for young people in advertising – flexibility, versatility, an appetite for change and curiosity’. During his time at McCanns he wrote the longest-running jingle on British television: ‘The Esso sign means happy motoring’. Whilst at the same agency he also met and married Sue Treen, a storyboard artist and admag producer.

Jeremy Bullmore (L) and David Bernstein in Risk & Responsibility

David played a key role in the seminal Risk and Responsibility event for the Creative Circle at the Advertising Association conference in 1966 which highlighted the need for creative risk taking in advertising. Nearly fifty years later, as part of Advertising Week Europe in 2014, HAT presented a workshop event Risk and Responsibility: 1966 and Today to a full house. Chaired by Geoff Russell (the IPA’s former Director of Media Affairs and now HAT Chairman) two of the originators of this event, David Bernstein and Jeremy Bullmore, commented upon a screening of extracts from the original film, now preserved in HAT’s archive collections. The ensuing discussion reaffirmed the continuing relevance of the R&R presentation and the duo’s answers to questions from the floor about their career experiences delighted many young people in the audience who had made the pilgrimage to see David and Jeremy reprise their legendary double act.

Jeremy Bullmore (L) reunited with David Bernstein (R) at AWE 2014

After leaving McCann-Erickson David worked as a creative director for the Garland-Compton and S.H. Benson agencies before founding (1972) his own international product development consultancy The Creative Business Ltd, a total communications company, with former FCB senior manager Laurence Isaacson. TCB’s illustrious client list was described as a ‘who’s who’ of British marketing and included corporate giants such as Guinness, Shell and Unilever. David was awarded the industry’s highest award, the Mackintosh Medal, in 1982 for public and personal services to advertising. The citation described David as one of the most distinguished members of the profession: ‘one of the most internationally-minded amongst the creative leaders of this country…He had an unusually early awareness of the need for British advertising expertise to move into the most important EEC markets and he has actually done something about it’.

David was an active member of many of the industry’s professional bodies and associations. For example he was a president of the Advertising Creative Circle and The Solus Club and last Chairman of the Croydon Advertising Association. David ensured that the archive of the latter organisation was donated to HAT after the association was dissolved in 1995. He served on the HAT Board of Trustees for twenty four years from 1993 having previously undertaken sterling fundraising work for the charity since the 1980s. David also came up with the slogan 'Preserving the past, Capturing the present, Inspiring the future' which perfectly sums up HAT’s work. HAT Chairman Geoff Russell said: ‘David was one of the industry’s true legends. He maintained his interest in HAT to the end of his life and was fundamental in defining HAT’s role and relevance to the industry’.

David retired from TCB in 1992 to run creative workshops with his wife and then became a managing partner of Kelland Communications Management. He was the author of seven books including classic industry texts such as ‘Creative Advertising’, ‘Company Image & Reality’ and ‘Advertising Outdoors’ and also wrote TV plays, one of which was famously interrupted by one of his own commercials. He was a regular author of articles in the industry press and also contributed to the Financial Times and Punch.  Outside the world of advertising David was a chairman of the governors at St Martin’s School of Art and served on the governing board of SHAPE, the charity which provides arts access for disabled artists and aims to build a more representative cultural sector.

September 2017

« All News Articles