John Bevins

27 November 2012

In the fields of social marketing and public awareness, no agency has done more to put Australian advertising on the world map than John Bevins. Ground-breaking campaigns for road safety and anti-smoking in the 1980s were widely acclaimed and awarded here and overseas, and adapted for use in other countries, including the US. These campaigns achieved genuine behavioural change with the results demonstrating the potential of advertising as a positive force.

Within two years the Random Breath Testing campaign achieved a 22% decrease in road deaths compared to the six-year average beforehand. Literally thousands were saved from death or injury. With the Quit.For Life campaigns, the decrease in smoking levels saved hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that would otherwise have been spent on public health, not to mention more lives saved and improved health outcomes as a result of fewer people smoking.

From despatch boy to copywriter at McCann-Erickson, he joined Ogilvy & Mather in its first year in Melbourne and later became creative director of the Sydney office at the age of 26.

After O&M he teamed up with art director Brian Slapp to form the consultancy Bevins Slapp, and two years later went out on his own.

The agency John Bevins was established in1982 and attracted some of the country's top advertising talent. It won more awards for public awareness campaigns than any other Australian agency. Its work for more conventional clients such as BT Funds Management and Tourism New Zealand were also ground-breakers and highly awarded.

As a man of strong principle John Bevins resigned from the Advertising Federation of Australia in 1991 over a tobacco issue, but rejoined the next year to drive the development of the AFA's Code of Ethics. He was awarded the inaugural AFA Medal for this work, and for his contribution towards giving "advertising a conscience".

His agency lasted 28 years and remained fiercely independent throughout. In 2009, in a final act of bucking the trend, Bevins decided that rather than sell the agency he would close it down, have a party and look after his loyal employees.