Bill Farnsworth

27 November 2012

Bill Farnsworth worked in several roles at J Walter Thompson during its first four years in Australia: 1930-34. After a year in the UK he joined George Patterson in Sydney as a senior account executive aged 25. Within three months he was made a director. He became managing director in 1948, ceo in 1952 and chairman in 1964, retiring in 1971.

While he played a key role in establishing the agency as a dominant force during this time, he also contributed greatly to the advertising industry. He served five terms as president of the agency body, the 4As.

He was the undisputed, highly respected leader of the industry. He took on governments, regulators and recalcitrant agencies alike. And generally won. 'He was a fearsome man, a great man of words, and a strong chairman,' said Keith Cousins. 'A man who led Pattersons through a remarkable period of growth, and also helped our industry gain so much in self esteem. Woe betide anyone who challenged him at a 4As meeting!'

Keith Cousins' father Hedley Cousins, who worked in advertising from 1919 to 1966, said that Farnsworth 'did more for the advertising industry than any other man.'

Like his predecessor, Farnsworth served on the boards of several companies and connected to clients' businesses at the highest levels. More than anyone else he established the Patts mantra that biggest is best. “We seldom approach anybody for business,” he proclaimed. “It mostly comes on recommendation and the fact that most of our clients are market leaders and other people want to become market leaders.”

A tough and formidable character, Farnsworth took great care of his people. He did not understand why staff members were reluctant to approach him, and he was genuinely upset if he heard of situations that he could have helped but wasn't approached.