Neil Lawrence, the Australian 'madman' behind Kevin 07 and the Qantas 'Feels like home' campaigns, has died

Ad man Neil Lawrence. Source: Twitter

Neil Lawrence, one of the finest advertising minds in Australia, has died of an apparent heart attack while on a surfing holiday in the Maldives. He was 60.

The local “madman” produced some of the country’s most effective advertising creatives. Neil was founder of Lawrence Creative Strategy, and executive creative director of STW, Australia’s largest communications group.

Lawrence was the strategic and creative mind behind the ALP’s ‘Kevin 07’ campaign, which won him Australian marketer of the year in 2007, although that brilliance was turned against Labor three years later when he produced the “Keep Mining Strong” against the resources super profits tax for the Minerals Council of Australia and the follow up “This is our Story” campaign. They contributed in part to Rudd’s demise.

He also helped Anna Bligh become Australia’s first elected female president in 2009 with a TV campaign that demolished rival Lawrence Springborg. The ad featured US president Barack Obama, UK PM Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd talking about the GFC “crisis” before cutting to Springborg saying “It’s not like the Depression… it’s not even a recession” before ending with the tagline “He doesn’t have a clue”. It’s widely credited with changing the election result.

Most recently Lawrence created the new Qantas “feels like home” campaign having advised the airline on its media strategy during the 2011 industrial fight that led to the mass grounding of the fleet.

Wesfarmers, AGL, and BHP Billiton were among the many bluechip clients he worked with, as well as social causes such as the Recognise campaign for constitutional recognition for indigenous people.

He was also part of the South Australian premier Jay Weatherill unexpected 2013 election win and as a result, had 4:46 tattooed on his behind last year – a bet he made with Weatherill before the polls closed, which was believed to be a reference to a Biblical passage about working miracles.

Lawrence is survived by his wife Caroline, and children Tom and Anna.

STW Group CEO Michael Connaghan said he was “incredibly saddened” by the news.

Labor leader Bill Shorten paid tribute to Lawrence, saying “Neil made a tremendous contribution to Labor and the 2007 election victory, for which we will always be grateful”.

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