Tributes pour in for ad legend and 'proper inspiration' Paul Silburn

Silburn: created some of industry's most memorable campaigns
Silburn: created some of industry's most memorable campaigns

Silburn passed away last week.

Tributes have poured in for industry legend Paul Silburn, a senior creative director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, who passed away last week.

Silburn developed some of adland's most celebrated – and decorated – campaigns, including "Bear" for John West (an early viral internet hit), "The Lynx effect" for Lynx and "No nonsense" starring Peter Kay for John Smith’s.

He worked at some of the best-known agencies in the UK, beginning his career in the 1990s at Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson, where he was a partner with Tiger Savage on the Nike account. Silburn later worked at Lowe Lintas, BBH, Leo Burnett, Leith London, TBWA\London and Saatchi & Saatchi, where he spent eight years before rejoining BBH in 2016.

"Everyone at BBH is devastated at the news of Paul's passing," Jon Peppiatt, chairman and partner at BBH, told Campaign.

"He was without doubt one of the great writers and creative leaders of his generation, but more importantly than that, he was a truly lovely, funny human being, whose generosity and warmth rubbed off on all who had the pleasure of working with him. All our thoughts are with his family."

Saatchi & Saatchi produced a showreel of Silburn's work in his honour. "In memory of our dear friend and colleague Paul Silburn," the agency said in a Tweet. Kate Stanners, chairwoman and global chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi – his former creative partner at the shop – told Campaign she felt privileged to have worked with him.

"Paul was one of the great creatives of our generation. He was the most incisive thinker, and possessed a razor sharp wit that resulted in an incredible body of work," she said. "There was also a side to Paul that not everyone saw. Yes, he was brilliantly funny, but also thoughtful, kind and sensitive. A very special man. I feel so  privileged to have worked with him."

Jon Burton, international marketing director at John West Food said the company would be "forever grateful" to Silburn for creating the infamous "Bear" campaign. 

"Everyone at John West would like to pay our deepest respects to the sad passing of Paul. Whilst many of us didn't know him personally he was part of the team who created the famous 'bear' advert and in doing so he created a John West legacy," Burton told Campaign. 

"The advert today remains as loved as it was when it first appeared nearly 20 years ago. Thirty seconds of art that perfectly captures both the sense of humour and "whatever it takes" spirit of the brand and for which we remain forever grateful. The thoughts of the entire John West crew go out to Paul's family and friends."

Tributes from industry figures poured in on Twitter. Writing on the platform, Savage paid tribute and shared one of their early campaigns for Nike.

"So very sad that Paul Silburn, my first partner in advertising, has been taken from us so unacceptably early," she wrote. "I was lucky enough to spend some great times with him. He went on to have an awesome career. My heart goes out to his family and friends."

Advertising veteran and BMB co-founder Trevor Beattie also paid tribute online. He tweeted: "Today we lost Paul Silburn. A man I’m honoured and flattered to call my friend. A writing talent far too good for Adland. Farewell, buddy. It’s raining in my heart."

Ben Mooge, chief creative officer at Publicis Groupe UK, called Silburn "a giant of a writer, a proper inspiration and a lovely, lovely guy. Thank you for the best work this industry has ever made."

Grey Europe chief creative officer Javier Campopiano wrote that Silburn was "one of the best writers in the history of our business, and a true gentleman, very sad news."

David Kolbusz, chief creative officer at Droga5 London, tweeted: "Just heard of Paul Silburn’s passing. Dreadful. An enormous talent taken from us too soon."

"So sad to hear about Paul Silburn, one of my favorite people in the business," writer and director Steve Reeves wrote. "He helped so much with my career and was a charming, generous and, above all, funny guy. My thoughts are with his family. I will miss him."

Kerry Chilvers, brand director at Direct Line Group, praised Silburn for creating the brand's Winston Wolf character. 

She told Campaign: "The moment of magic, when Paul likened Direct Line to Winston Wolf, showed Paul as the true creative genius that he was. 'The fixer' campaign was born. Bold, passionate and a real craftsman, it was a privilege to work with Paul."

Silburn died of natural causes. 

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