Fearsome, charismatic Kiwi adman dies at 92

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Adman Fred Dobbs – a key figure in the development of ad agencies in New Zealand – died in Cambridge last week, aged 92.

Dobbs was a classic adman from an earlier era, and something of a pre-digital recluse. Which is probably why the news of his death has taken so long to surface. There’s very little information or imagery about him on the Web (he has a Linkedin page, but there’s no photo and just a blank page).

He was a founder of NZ agency Dobbs Wiggins Goldberg, which he established in Wellington in the 1950s. Some time in the early ’60s, he forged a groundbreaking deal with giant US agency McCann-Erickson to form Dobbs-Wiggins McCann-Erickson NZ, and opening a big branch in Auckland.

Fred Dobbs was a noted National Party supporter, and enjoyed a strong relationship with PM Robert Muldoon – a relationship reflected in his agency’s virtual stranglehold on government business (including Railways, Broadcasting, Civil Aviation, Agriculture, and the Public Trust).

The tributes
He is remembered by Robert Munro, former GM of NewsWorks (the NAB) now successfully (“and happily”) selling real estate at Ray White Ponsonby:

“I remember meeting a rather fearsome Fred Dobbs in my first proper job working at New Zealand Railways,” Munro told M+AD.

“His agency, Dobbs-Wiggins McCann-Erickson, which seemed to have every government account at the time, had shot a TVC for us.

“He wasn’t happy with the edit and was tearing a strip off the creative team and he wasn’t even the client!”

Hall of Famer
“Years later I met him again, funnily enough when I was working for McCann-Erickson. From memory he was being inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

“And what a charming and lovely man he was – I didn’t mention our first meeting. He was one of the great post-war New Zealand advertising power brokers who forged a very successful early alliance with a multinational advertising network.”

Ex Carlton Carruthers du Chateau
Another Auckland agency man with Dobbs connections is David Burke-Kennedy (www.dbk.media), a journalist/broadcaster/PR man/novelist, who began his ad career at Dobbs Wiggins Goldberg.

“Fred worked at Carlton Carruthers du Chateau in his youth – with my mother,” Burke-Kennedy said.

“He was a charismatic figure with quite a presence that left an impression on teenage me starting out back in the ’60s.”

Fred Dobbs’ son Randall is also well-known in the NZ ad industry. Currently, he owns and runs Framework Marketing Auckland.


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