Remembering Devo—UPDATED

Though advertising legend Dave Walden passed away this weekend, he will live on forever in the stories of those who shared moments with him during his 66 years. In this series of tributes, we invite friends (and foes) to share their stories, anecdotes and thoughts on the life of ‘The Great Waldo’.      

  • This is an ongoing series of tributes that will be updated as they arrive. If you have a stories, anecdotes or a few thoughts to share, please email them through to [email protected].
  • Check out Vincent Heeringa’s interview with the big man from 2012 here

Devo’s Lifetime Achievement Award video from Axis 2013. 

Michael Goldthorpe, director of Hunch

They say that working under Devo is ‘the best job in advertising’. Well, to be fair, Devo always said that working under Devo is ‘the best job in advertising’. Thing is, he was right.

It wasn’t an easy job. Devo made sure of that. It was far from being a normal job. Devo made sure of that. But for me, working under Devo really was ‘the best job in advertising’. And Devo certainly made sure of that.

He loved the work. He loved the challenge and the fight. He loved audacity and bravado and “doing it to them before they do it to us”. But mostly he loved people. He intuitively understood exactly how people ticked. That was his magic.

Looking after people was how Devo made things happen for our clients. It was how he made products and offers make sense to their customers and it’s how he gathered around him some of the most incredible people you could ever hope to meet.

TBWA\ wasn’t really an agency. It was a cult. But for me, and for many of us. It was family. It still is. That’s Devo’s legacy. Thank you.

Roger MacDonnell, co-founder of Colenso and director at ICG

Farewell Devo, old friend.

Although I didn’t ever work with Devo, I knew him well. Indeed, everyone who worked in advertising knew him well. He was that kind of guy. Everyone is going to say that Devo was ‘larger than life’. And that’s because he was. Big, loud and lovable. I can see him now, making a grand entrance through the restaurant doors. Ready for a long lunch and maybe the odd wine or three (bottles that is).

Devo took lunching to another level. And it was always enjoyable, with good food, wine and conversation, plenty of joking and sometimes some singing. He had a wonderful voice.

I loved Devo’s company and over the years admired his agency. He was one of the few admen who understood the importance of creative, culture and campaigns. The industry is much the poorer without him – and certainly not as interesting.

Paul Head, chief executive of CAANZ

Along with the entire industry, we’re deeply saddened by the passing over the weekend of former CAANZ president, David Walden

There will be many tributes over the next few days to Devo by people far more eloquent than me, but Devo always took his leadership role within the industry seriously. He gave a tremendous amount back to the business and cared about it passionately. As he once said “This is the best f****** job you can have.”

He always had a view, often controversial, but always because he cared.

The world will be a less interesting place without him.

Kelly Bennett, ex-head of Eleven PR and managing director at One Plus One

With his charisma, quick wit and street smarts, David Walden (Devo) was a boss like no other.

He was similar to the great film maker Orson Welles: wide of girth, ready with a smile, kept the people he liked close to him and always got the best out of them.

I worked with TBWA\ and Devo for seven years – the longest period I’ve ever spent with any company or employer – and helping him with the profile and reputation of the agency was always influenced by his encouragement or expectation.

Devo recognised the value of public relations long before it became commonplace to develop the offer within New Zealand advertising agencies, and he always courted the media to great effect.

He was the best spokesperson I’ve ever worked with and had a rare ability to cut to the point about an industry issue with a pithy sound bite or deliberately provocative remark. 

When times were tough he’d often say “pressure makes diamonds”. Now that he’s gone, his legacy and influence will no doubt shine on in just the same way.  

Peter Cullinane, ex-worldwide COO of Saatchi & Saatchi and co-founder of Assignment Group and Lewis Road Creamery

Devo has departed the scene.

Way too young.

The last of the Mad Men?

Probably. Certainly there’s no contender from ‘our’ generation in terms of anyone who lived the life of advertising to the full the way David did.

I met David for the first time when Roy Meares, who knew him better than most, arranged an interview with him in Melbourne. Terry King and I met him.

Devo breezed into the Ansett lounge, it was his client, and he held court as was his style.

He had retained links to New Zealand with his bach on Kawau and was considering a return.

Return he did and he became the life and soul of Saatchi’s in Auckland.

He was a classic suit. It wasn’t so much about the depth of the strategy as the width of his contacts. He could work a room and work his clients like no other.

I think one image that always comes to mind was an Axis awards night. David had bought a London taxi for the Auckland office, suitably emblazoned with Saatchi & Saatchi in gilt. Unfortunately the cab was anything but reliable. The plan had been to have pre Axis drinks at the Regent, the Saatchi team lording it over the hoi-polloi, then into the awaiting cab to be taken in style to the awards. But as the moment came to leave the hotel, the cab quit. Not a problem. David instructed us to pile in regardless, close the door, then exit immediately through the opposite door!

David was a man of grand appearances.

His disappearance from life leaves us all a little reduced and much saddened.

Barbara Chapman, ASB chief executive

Devo was the master. Funny, witty, wicked – one of the sharpest advertising minds on the planet.

Through ‘Goldstein’ Devo pushed aside the traditional and boring and created a character who made New Zealanders see that ASB was different.  “We don’t want belly laughs,” he would say. “We want charm.”

We had our moments too. Unbelievably, we would sometimes be in production without a script. And at other times we’d have a fight because the script had no mention of the product or the bank. We would get lost, drenched, stand in freezing rivers to check on some ridiculous light reflection …  and get into mischief in general. But, as Devo often said: “Pressure does indeed make diamonds.” They were the greatest of days.

Devo will always be part of the ASB family. With one hand in the lolly jar and another holding a wine glass I salute you my dear friend. Vale. May you now be having the longest lunch.

Mike Hutcheson, co-founder of Colenso, managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi and executive director at ICG

I don’t know anyone who can work a crowd like Devo.

Each time I see him at a function the immortal words from “My Fair Lady” come to mind … “Oozing charm from every pore, he oils his way across the floor…” And I don’t know anyone who can resist the approach when he turns his ‘Charmometer’ up to full power. The party will never be dull when Walden, D. is in the room.

At his instigation I once arranged a lunch at Andiamo (where else?) to introduce him to Dave Atkins, who he was keen to meet. Dave, likewise had heard plenty about Devo, but he had never met the legend.

On our way to lunch Dave asked for a heads up on what he could expect.

I said: “He’ll be about twenty minutes late and will explode into the restaurant, beaming with arms outspread saying “HUULLO!! I’m here! Now the party can start!”

We duly sat down at the appointed time and precisely 20 minutes later, Devo exploded into the restaurant, beaming, with arms outspread saying, “HUULLO!! I’m here! Now the party can start!”

We had a terrific time; talked a lot, ate well, drank better as Devo ordered some of the most expensive wines from the cellar—and when we’d finished left us to pay the bill ($891). For Dave, a Westie boy who only drank Steinlager this was somewhat of a revelation.

But somehow you could never be mad when you’d had lunch with ‘The Great Waldo’ – the story was always worth the price of the meal.

Angela Griffen and family

David Walden (Devo), legendary advertising man, creative thinker, mentor to many, philanthropist, commentator, much-loved father, husband and friend died peacefully this morning.

He was the driving force behind some of the most memorable advertising campaigns and work including the game changing  ‘Goldstein’ campaign for ASB and was the leader of successful agencies including Whybin\TBWA and Saatchi & Saatchi.

But most importantly, to those who knew him well, he loved to see talent grow and thrive or make a difference where it most mattered.

But it wasn’t just about the industry. David touched the hearts and minds of many beyond his family whom he was fiercely loyal to. He has legions of friends who give testimony to his wisdom and generosity.

As one of his young protégées said: “He was an amazing person who did things his own way.”

Everyone who knows and loves him would say “absolutely!”

His family, Annie his wife and Joanna and Michael his children celebrate an extraordinary life.

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