Industry says goodbye to ad legend Bob Rightford
Tribute by Matthew Bull
When John Pace, Ian Calvert and I opened Bull Calvert Pace in 1996, we were thrilled to hear the fax machine going off at 10am on our first morning. We rushed to see who it was from. Bob Rightford. Wishing us well. But, at the same time, warning us we were in for the ride of our lives. He said he’d always be there if we needed him.
And he was. All three of us had been together at Rightford’s, or O&M:RST&M*, John for most of his career, and Ian for a significant part of it. Bob’s integrity, his tenacity, his principles, left an indelible mark on the three of us as we built our business.
He was a formidable man. Formidable. Yet always approachable. He truly had the gift of great leadership.
As I transitioned from a creative leader into an agency leader, I would occasionally ask Bob for a sit down, for his guidance and his opinions. He was true to his fax; he was always there. And he gave me one piece of advice that to this day I’ve never forgotten. I had decided to do something (can’t even remember what it was) which he advised against. I fell silent. So did he. Then he smiled and said, “Bull, the truth is, you are your own man. And I can give you all the advice in the world. But the best advice you’ll get, the best lessons you’ll learn, are the mistakes you make yourself.” Never a truer word spoken.
Bob didn’t just lead his agency; he led this country into the world advertising arena. Ogilvy’s jewel in the crown, AdAge international advertising agency of the year, the man who wouldn’t let Sorrell be king. Formidable. He was an account guy who championed the product — who believed in the power of creativity. He never sold out; he never put company profits before the people or the product. He, together with his partners, created a legendary culture that still resonates and influences around South Africa and, indeed, the world.
And, of course, he continued to give back in the form of The Red & Yellow School that he, Brian Searle-Tripp and Roger Makin started.
I confess my heart aches for his wonderful family but also for our industry. Something has come to an end, something that cannot return. I hope, though, that his legacy will forever be remembered and that his actions and accomplishments will continue to inspire today’s, and tomorrow’s, leaders. They — we — have a lot to live up to.
Bob Rightford, a Lion of a man.
*Ogilvy & Mather: Rightford Searle-Tripp & Makin.
Industry reaction on social media
— Gisèle WertheimAymés (@giselewaymes) January 23, 2018
Today, we say goodbye to a legend, powerhouse, inspiration & friend. A sad farewell to 1 of our founding fathers, #BobRightford. Thank you for all you did in building the foundation of who we are today. We commit to honouring your legacy & will never forget you. Goodbye Bob. pic.twitter.com/f7TNUbNW3M
— Red & Yellow School (@RedAndYellowEd) January 23, 2018
So sad to hear of the passing of Bob Rightford. He was a legend. Not only did he influence the ad industry but all business in South Africa. Bye bye Bob, Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/FqIDRRjUsd
— Lynn Madeley (@LynnMadeley) January 23, 2018
A Tribute to Bob Rightford by Roger Makin: https://t.co/606i9nVbiR
— Ogilvy & Mather SA (@OgilvySA) January 23, 2018
Rest In Peace Bob Rightford. Legend of SA Ad industry @OgilvyCT
— Andrew Brand (@99cbrand) January 23, 2018
— Ncedo Ndlela (@Ncedo) January 23, 2018
Very sad to learn THE giant of the South African Ad Industry #BobRightford has passed. Without question, Bob had the greatest influence on my career and remained a mentor and true friend. The magic of Rightford, Searle-Tripp & Makin lives in many, many of us ✏️ R.I.P Bob ?❤️ pic.twitter.com/Z5fPl5UkDi
— Mike Abel (@abelmike) January 23, 2018
Two South African icons passed away today. #HughMasakela and #BobRightford. Both communicated in their own unique way, and helped build the foundations of South Africa's Music and Advertising industry. RIP Hugh & Bob. pic.twitter.com/WqmG6saeAD
— Alex Goldberg (@TrollusMaximus) January 23, 2018
Sad to say goodbye to my father in law, Bob Rightford, who sadly passed away this morning. He was an immense force in the SA advertising industry & an equally immense and loving influence in our family. Hope he meets Hugh Masekela on his way. He’d love that. @RightfordChris pic.twitter.com/Vz4jhuYwGh
— Gillian Rightford (@grightford) January 23, 2018
Condolences to Bob’s friends and family from the team at MarkLives.