RIP David Innes: My memories of a consummate AdMan

The industry lost a widely respected member of the community last weekend with the passing of David Innes (1943-2022) after a brave fight with Motor Neurone Disease.

My memories of David go back to the late 80’s when a group of media directors, disgruntled about the way television networks were hiking rates year-on-year, got together in an informal fashion (restaurants, bars) to form a united industry front. Being outside of the industry body at that time, the ‘Gang of Five’ as it was known, was quite effective in getting media owners to listen to industry concerns. 

When David came into the 3A’s (renamed as CAANZ and now the Comms Council) as Executive Director, he immediately recognized the need to ‘reign-in’ these characters and formalise the arrangement as the 3A’s Media Committee. “Guys” he would say… “Guys… we need to tone things down and play nicely with the media. Why not a lunch to sort things out?”… and we did… often!

David was passionate about the communications industry and was a strong defender of ‘if its legal to sell, it’s legal to advertise.’ He was a key figure in convincing the governments of the time that self-regulation would always work more effectively that government-mandated rules around the industry. He was at the helm overseeing the first media awards staged by the industry, a ‘Media Week’ where international speakers were brought into Auckland for a series of events which were live streamed into Wellington and Christchurch 3A’s members.

But he will be remembered by those still around as a quiet but effective negotiator in the halls of power, someone passionate about the health of the industry, particularly as it moved away from the freewheeling days of the 70’s and 80’s into the harder edge of advertising as the 90’s drew to a close where margins came under attack. 

But his work at the industry body was in reality, the sum total of a long and recognised career in ad agencies. He ran his own agency… Innes Irwin with Jeremy Irwin, who eventually became David’s ‘competitor’ when he ran ANZA, representing advertisers… many a good-natured and sometimes not-so-good debate was had between them on industry issues!

He was probably better known for his account management career spanning Ogilvy & Mather, Colenso and the Rialto agency in the 80’s which merged into HKM (Hutcheson, Knowles Marinkovich).

 His ‘twilight’ career at the 3A’s was followed by his appointment as CEO of the Radio Broadcasters Association where his love of research saw him actively involved in the evolution of radio audience research.

 A consummate ‘AdMan’ who lived through the ‘MadMen’ years with style, a penchant for the long lunch with friends and colleagues, and who possessed a great sense of humour and professional acumen.

Former colleague Mike Hutcheson, who first met David in the mid 80s, “when advertising was really fun” reflects on his life dedicated to the craft.

“David was running Rialto and we were all  part of the Clemenger Group. He was a gentleman, smart, straight and sincere. His approach was more academic than aggressive and you knew what he said was considered and fair. I really enjoyed being around him, more particularly when we were clocked off and indulging in his second favourite activity – sailing on his Lotus. Writing this from Fiji I feel frustrated that I can’t be there to say a proper goodbye. He was a very good man. We’ll be  worse off without his wisdom and wit.”

He might be long gone from our industry but not forgotten.

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Barry Williamson is a Senior Consultant at Marsden Inch Recruitment.

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