Marketing industry salutes 'brilliant misfit' Harlow

LONDON: Tributes poured in from the marketing industry after John Harlow, the co-founder of Naked Communications, died earlier this week.

LONDON: Tributes poured in from the marketing industry after John Harlow, the co-founder of Naked Communications, died earlier this week.

Harlow, who founded Naked in 2000 alongside Jon Wilkins and Will Collin, passed away at age 45 at a hospital near his home on England's south coast.

A pioneer of communications planning, Harlow started Naked after leaving New PHD, where he was MD of Rocket. He later ran Naked New York.

“Without John, we wouldn't all be sitting here now,” Collin told the staff of Hypernaked in an email. “His talents and drive were a huge part of what propelled Naked from being just a name at the top of a company registration form into the agenda-setting business it went on to be – all within the space of just two years.”

"[John] was undoubtedly mad, bad, and dangerous to know, and in that lay his incredible ability to inspire clients and to create massive global publicity for what was at first only a minnow of a company,” he added. “Not to mention a furiously imaginative mind. He played the violin; he drove a classic Citroën DS; he spent his teenage years as a New Romantic in Croydon."

Wilkins told Campaign that “John was one of the most joyful and driven of people.”

“He was such an important part of Naked,” he added. “He had the foot on the gas all the time. We liked to call ourselves the ‘home for brilliant misfits' and John epitomized that."

Jonathan Durden, co-founder of PHD, described Harlow as “one of the most spectacularly talented people I have ever met.”

“He was both inspirational and awesome. Fearless and yet strangely vulnerable. Occasionally he could also be a spectacular pain in the arse. Just like many others who are blessed and cursed with genius, he was complicated,” he added. “That self-destruct button was never far from the surface.”

Harlow's former Naked colleagues also paid tribute. Hannah Measures, Pete Lien, Ben Milligan, Anthony Swede, Gavin May, Matt Hardisty, Juliette Hughes, Sarah Frankham, and Andy Griffin said: “In the early days at Naked, John, Jon and, Will hired a bunch of slightly odd people who wanted to do, and be, something different in the business but didn't really know how to go about it.”

“John was our leader. He showed us that there were no limits to what could be achieved in communications and that you could do it all with wit and irrepressible energy,” they added. “He showed us that work could and should be fun. He taught us that you didn't need to fawn before clients or say what they wanted to hear. Mostly, he told it like it was and asked the same of you.”

Ivan Pollard, who joined Naked in 2005 as its fourth partner and is now VP of global connections at Coca-Cola, said: "I did not know John for anywhere near as long as I would have liked but that did not matter. He made you feel like you knew everything about him from the first strange encounter and yet you knew you knew nothing.”

Naked launched with a minority investment from ad agency Mother. Stef Calcraft, a partner at Mother, said that "it was impossible not to love John Harlow.”

“We first met in January 1997, a few months after he had started Rocket, PHD's agency within an agency,” Calcraft said. “We had started Mother the month before, and I remember John twinkling away on the other side of the table, brimming with creative energy and maverick ideas. Our connection was immediate and profound.”

This article first appeared on the website of Campaign.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in