Remembering Mike Hughes: A Timeline

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Mike Hughes
Mike Hughes

Yesterday, the ad industry lost one of its finest when The Martin Agency President Mike Hughes passed away from lung cancer. But even in his final days, his life was full enthusiasm, vitality, caring and contemplation. He shared his moving reflections about living and dying on a blog Unfinished Thinking -- and made his final post, posthumously in an autobiographical obituary.

Here, we take a look back at Mr. Hughes' great moments of life --from the personal to the professional at the Martin Agency.


Mike attends Benedictine Catholic Military High School in Richmond, VA.


Mike attends Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, where he writes one of his student papers on Martin & Woltz, the new ad agency back home.


Mike takes his first job post-college as a journalist for The Richmond News Leader.


Mike gets his foot in the door for an interview with David Martin at Martin & Woltz. Martin doesn't hire him. He also interviews with Harry Jacobs at Cargill, Wilson & Acree. Harry doesn't hire him either.


Mike takes his first job in advertising at Clinton Frank, Inc., a Chicago-based ad agency. He is hired to work on Reynolds Metals and works at this agency for approximately 18 months. (He says everything in the '70s came and went in 18-month periods.) Clinton Frank is sold to Campbell-Ewald of Detroit in 1976.


Persistence (and a little agency experience) pays off. Mike is offered a job at Martin & Woltz as a writer.

Mike Hughes

Lawler Ballard Little hires Mike as co-creative director to work on the Kings Dominion account. (Hughes led the pitch for Kings Dominion at Martin, but Lawler Ballard won the account.) More importantly, this is also the year Mike meets his wife, Ginny, while working together at Lawler Ballard.


Mike leaves Lawler Ballard for a period of freelancing. In April, Mike and Ginny tie the knot.

Mike Hughes

Mike declines Dave Martin's invitation to return to what is now called "The Martin Agency" as a creative director. Mike co-founds a small creative firm called Hughes-Wynne that partners with ad agencies without a creative arm. He spends another 18 months or so there before moving on. Also in 1976, Mike and Ginny's son Jason is born.


Harry Jacobs (hired as ECD by Dave Martin in 1977) recruits Mike, and he's re-hired as a writer/co-creative director. He's been at Martin ever since.


Upon returning to Martin, Mike works on accounts including Virginia Division of Tourism, Vepco, Bank of Virginia and Kings Dominion (added to Martin's roster in 1978). Here was one of his favorites.


Don Just, formerly Martin's Bank of Virginia client, joins the agency as president. Mike is promoted to CD and Jacobs becomes CCO.


Martin begins a winning streak. The agency brings in the locomotive division of General Motors (EMD) in 1982, followed by Barnett Banks of Florida and FMC Farm Chemicals in 1983. (Here is one of the ads Mike wrote for FMC and EMD. Art director: Harry Jacobs.)

Mike Hughes

Richmond Ad Club names Mike Hughes Advertising Person of the Year.


The Martin Agency staff in 1985 is shown here, including David Martin, Harry Jacobs, Mike Hughes and retired COO, Paul McKee.


The agency names Mike Hughes vice chairman, creative director. Harper's Magazine invites some of the nation's top creative directors to produce ads for the Seven Deadly Sins. Mike's assignment: Greed. (Art direction by Hal Tench.)


The Martin Agency wins the Wrangler account, Ethyl Corporation and Marriott Corporation's Residence Inn. One of Mike's ads is shown here, at right. (Residence Inn writer and art director: Ken Hines/Cliff Sorah.)

Also that year, Winners magazine features Mike and his son Jason on the cover of the November issue [also shown at right].


Martin creates a campaign for Bernie's Tattooing, a parlor in Bristol, PA. This ad is one of Mike's favorites. (Copywriter: Raymond McKinney, Art Director: Jelly Helm.)


Martin wins the Healthtex account. Here is one of Mike's favorite pieces. (Written and art directed by Joe Alexander and Jelly Helm.)


The One Club for Art & Copy names Mike to the Board of Directors.

Also that year, Martin wins Mercedes-Benz. Don Just leaves the agency to pursue other opportunities and John Adams becomes President.

Then, Mike is inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame.


Mike Hughes with Martin's Bill Westbrook.


The Martin Agency moves into its new home in Shockoe Slip, an area of downtown Richmond.

Also in 1997:

• Martin wins Saab.

• USA Today features Mike as Martin becomes a major player on the national advertising scene.

• Mike is featured in The Wall Street Journal's Leadership Series.


This is one of Mike's favorites from the agency's campaign. (CD: Joe Alexander, Mike Hughes; Copywriter: Jamie Mahoney and Art Director: Marc Deschenes).


The Virginia General Assembly names Mike Hughes and John Adams the Outstanding Industrialists of the Year.

Mike Hughes

After winning UPS, Martin creates what would become the most well-known tagline in the company's history: What Can Brown Do for You?


In this campaign for the NAA, called How to Write a Newspaper Ad, Martin taps several famous creative directors to illustrate their own ads. Shown here is the ad Mike created.


Martin makes Advertising Age's Agency A-List for the first time, and for many years thereafter (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011)


Martin defeats the hottest competitors in the business for the opportunity to work with Vice President Al Gore on The Alliance for Climate Protection.

Also in 2007:

• The agency publishes a book based on one of Mike's speeches, discussing his approach to a work/life balance. Every new employee at Martin receives a copy of this book. • Martin wins Walmart. Later that year, the world's largest retailer launches a new brand identity and tagline, Save money. Live better.


The American Cancer Society hires The Martin Agency. Also, Mike's first grandchild, Ella Hughes, is born.


Martin wins Pizza Hut. Also that year, Martin and The JFK Library create one of the most award-winning campaigns of 2009,


The Martin Agency follows up its "We Choose the Moon" campaign with another stirring effort, "Clouds Over Cuba," which goes on to become the most celebrated interactive campaign of 2013 -- winning top awards at industry shows and even an Emmy. The agency also continues to produce buzzed about work, including an uplifting, musical brand campaign for Oreos and the viral hit "Hump Day" for Geico.


The ad industry loses one of his finest when Mike Hughes passes away. He sends a final goodbye, posthumously, on his blog Unfinished Thinking.

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