Obit - Bruce Cormack, ex-AFA head

15 March 2013

SYDNEY: Bruce Cormack, the former federal director of the Advertising Federation of Australia (AFA) and a representative of Warc in Asia Pacific for nearly two decades, has died at the age of 82.

During a long and distinguished career, Mr Cormack worked first in the agency sector, and then as a leading figure at the AFA, the industry body now part of the Communications Council, which is a Warc content partner.

His agency career included time as a regional general manager of Leo Burnett, with responsibility for six offices across Australia, two in New Zealand, and branches in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Colleagues from the period remembered him as approachable and "a delightful gentleman".

In 1979, Mr Cormack became federal director of the AFA, going on to lead the organisation for 14 years and to provide high-profile contributions to many key debates of the period.

These included changes in the regulation of both tobacco advertising and political marketing.

Margaret Zabel, CEO of the Communications Council, said: "Bruce Cormack was instrumental in unifying the advertising industry and laying the foundations for a strong marketing communications body."

While leading the AFA, Mr Cormack also took part in a pioneering visit by a delegation of Western advertising executives to China in the early 1980s.

Mike Waterson, founder of Warc, paid tribute to Mr Cormack's foresight about the opening up of the Chinese market.

Mr Waterson said: "Quite aside from his long and successful career in advertising, Bruce Cormack was a wonderful friend, a mentor to many, and totally unafraid to defend unpopular causes in which he believed.

"But perhaps his greatest claim to fame was the speed with which he picked up on the great changes that were starting to take place in China, and which have now transformed the world.

"Some 30 years ago, well before the financial world and Western brand owners realised what was happening, Bruce was telling anyone who would listen - often to derision - that China was shrugging off its Communist past and about to emerge as a great capitalist power. Few were as prescient."

Mr Cormack formally began working for Warc in 1994, when it operated as NTC Publications. He initially led a push to attract more Asia Pacific subscribers to the company's print title, Admap.

In 2007, Mr Cormack took on a broader remit across Warc's portfolio, and he continued to work with the company until late 2010, suggesting new partnerships in Asia as Warc expanded its regional customer base and eventually opened an office in Singapore.

In recent years, however, Mr Cormack had suffered from problems with his health, which deteriorated further after the death of his wife, Ngaere, in April 2012. He is survived by his two daughters, Ann and Fiona.

Lesley Brydon, a former federal director of the AFA, added: "He was always a complete gentleman, and never lost his love for the industry and his desire to stay involved."

Data sourced from Warc