Billy Richards

27 November 2012

Australia's first ad agency was Weston Advertising, founded by Harry Weston. Close behind it was The Thomas A Miller Agency, founded in 1902. In 1904, Billy Richards left the Miller agency and purchased Weston Company.

He remained as proprietor and managing director of the agency until the age of 92. On his retirement in 1970 the agency was still handling accounts that he had acquired more than 60 years earlier when an agency submission often consisted of knocking on doors and oratorically convincing the prospective advertiser that he needed your services.

Known to most people as The Chief, William Oliver Richards was a tireless worker committed to improving the advertising business as a whole. In the days when agents received anything between five and 15 percent commission from newspapers, he was pushing for a standard commission rate and the accreditation of agencies. He called for newspapers “to marginalise troublesome canvassers by accrediting the professional service agencies”.

Similarly, he called for newspaper publishers to “frankly state the quantity of their circulation” and have their newspaper circulations independently audited. Billy Richards published the first book on advertising in Australia and also produced the Australasian Advertisers' Annual and Newspaper Directory. The Weston Company was the first agency to receive accreditation from the NSW Country Press Association and the first agency to be fully acredited.

However, wrote Bill De Vere in AdNews' 50th anniversary edition, “none of these things convey the quality of the man – his complete integrity, his generosity and good humour, and perhaps the most engaging characteristic – an attitude which thought the best of everyone and very situation”. O

utliving all his contemporaries by a convincing margin, he was indeed the last of the firsts.