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Douglas McArthur, architect of the RAB, passes away aged 68

16 Jul 2019  |  David Pidgeon 
Douglas McArthur, architect of the RAB, passes away aged 68

Douglas McArthur OBE, the recently retired chairman of UKOM and the architect of the Radio Advertising Bureau, has died following an illness.

A hugely popular figure in the media and advertising sectors, McArthur was nicknamed the 'Dundee Exocet' in recognition of his formidable, yet highly effective nature.

In a career spanning more than 35 years, he launched the Radio Advertising Bureau - now Radiocentre - and effectively created the model to launch further trade and marketing bodies, including Thinkbox, Newsworks and Magnetic.

Although he had no particular desire to work in radio, in 1992 McArthur was presented with a challenge by Jimmy Gordon - now Lord Gordon, and then co-founder and managing director of Clyde Radio - who said he needed the medium's revenues to match its audience.

Facing deep scepticism about the RAB's likely success from the trade press at the time, McArthur was able to turn radio's fortunes around and within a decade share moved from 2% to 7%.

McArthur graduated with a degree in theoretical physics in 1973, but due to financial pressure attended a Unilever recruitment session for graduate trainees. Realising that marketing sat perfectly in the middle of the business, he chose a job in advertising.

He would later take on roles at P&G where his love and aptitude for maths were of huge benefit, and eventually propelled him into agency-side planning roles which he said suited his academic background and where he applied "intellectual rigour and honesty" to empirical evidence.

He also went freelance and worked at Leagas Delaney when the agency produced the famous the ‘Phirrips’ ad.

Towards the end of his career, McArthur became the chairman of UKOM, the body that sets the industry standard for online audience measurement. As he retired at the start of the year, he said he took on the role because he thought digital measurement was "cowboy land", and relished the challenge of fixing it.

McArthur passed away peacefully on Monday night surrounded by his wife, Miranda, and his family.

There will be a family funeral and, later in the year, an opportunity to celebrate the life of this special man.

Read: Dundee Exocet bows out with a parting shot, by Dominic Mills (published March 2019)

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StephenWoodford, CEO, Advertising Association on 17 Jul 2019
“Very sad to hear this news. An inspiring man who did great things for our industry.”
DerekJones, Chairman, Mediatel on 16 Jul 2019
“Very sad to hear of the passing of Douglas today.

I probably spent more time with Douglas (and Justin Sampson) when he led the RAB than any other Mediatel client before or since.

We had been appointed to build the radio trading system J-ET and the development years were tough and often tetchy as not even all the radio companies were completely behind it and it was new ground for all involved.

That it launched and still provides a very significant service to the radio industry today was hugely down to Douglas. He cajoled and persuaded his radio partners, starting with the big guns, kept the agencies on board and was very supportive to us...although sometimes in a rather Scottish way!

Mine was the quote in Dominic's recent column ...that he was both the best and worst client I ever had.

Above all his vision and absolute determination saw this through.

I last saw him a little while back for lunch with Ray Snoddy and Torin Douglas. A very entertaining couple of hours as you'd imagine and despite his health struggles he was as feisty as ever. And as smart.”


08 Jul 2020 

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