ThinkOTB Agency

The forgotten hero of British Adland. Yorkshire’s own Colin Millward.

July 9, 2020

When you work in marketing you hear a lot of the same names celebrated. Names like David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Trevor Beattie and John Hegarty. Then every so often a reappraisal of the history of advertising is done and new old name is dug up and celebrated… such as the Socrates of San Francisco, Howard Gossage.

So, for today’s blog post we thought we’d get in on the act and encourage a reappraisal of the work of one of advertising’s lost greats. Colin Millward was a true Yorkshire marketing legend.

About Colin Millward

It’s a name hardly mentioned at all any more, but who, for two decades, Colin Millward transformed creative marketing through the 60s and 70s. He was Creative Director at Collett Dickenson Pearce. They held such clients as Heineken, Harvey’s Bristol Cream, Bird’s Eye, Hovis, Benson & Hedges and Hamlet cigars.

If that’s not enough to peak your interest in him, there’s more. People such as Alan Parker, Frank Lowe, Brian Duffy, Ridley Scott, Charles Saatchi… say they owe their careers to him. Alan Parker, Frank Lowe, David Puttnam are the people in the picture that you can see on this post).

Colin Charters Millward was born in Sculcoates, which is on the outskirts of Hull, in 1924. He studied at Hull Grammar School before then going to the Leeds College of Art. After serving in WWII, he won a scholarship to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, before then heading to the ‘big smoke’ of London. He joined the creative department of the advertising firm Mather & Crowther and then Coleman Prentis & Varley. There, he met John Pearce, who went on to co-found Collett Dickenson Pearce, which Millward then joined as Creative Director.

“Judgment… that was his talent. Real clarity of mind. You never felt he would be wrong, and had incredible faith in him.”

Alan Parker (Yes the one who went on to Direct the brilliant Mississippi Burning)

Colin’s impact

To understand Millward’s impact, you have to recognise that advertising in the 1960s was pretty terrible. Millward led the charge to bring it up to the standards we see today. The phrase “I suppose you think that is good, do you?” often heard resonating from his office on the fourth floor of CDP’s offices in central London.

We’re probably at that point where we should embed a couple of the adverts he was responsible for creating. We’ve bigged him up so much, so you should see what we’re on about:

“Colin’s achievement was in putting all of our rubbish where it belonged – in the bin!”

Sir Frank Lowe owner of Lowe & Partners Worldwide

Millward made many trips to New York where he was undoubtedly influenced by the work of Bill Bernbach. He became CD of CDP in 1960 he placed creativity at the heart of agency activity.

One of the most famous anecdotes of his tenure as CD concerned an account man who told him that Harveys didn’t like the agency’s latest ads. “Well lad,” Millward replied, “off you go back to Bristol and tell them we do the ads and they make the sherry.”

In 1977 he quit CDP over his disillusionment with advertising and never worked at another advertising agency again. Instead, he continued his love of painting… and by all accounts he was a very fine painter too.

Millward died in 2004 aged 79 in London’s Royal Free Hospital.

Here’s a few more adverts he was responsible for bringing into the world.