Matthew Miller
Jun 18, 2020

Obituary: Mike Fromowitz, beloved APAC adman

Fromowitz, as a leader at The Ball Partnership and Batey Ads, was a creative force in Hong Kong and Asia starting in the 1980s.

Mike Fromowitz
Mike Fromowitz

Mike Fromowitz, a respected and beloved gentleman of advertising who contributed to a surge of Hong Kong creativity starting in the 1980s, died in Canada on June 8.

Fromowitz, along with Michael Ball and Mike Chu (both members of our Hall of Fame), formed The Ball Partnership in 1986, and as Fromowitz himself wrote for Campaign Asia-Pacific's 40-year anniversary celebration in 2013, the agency quickly achieved great things: 

Two years later, the company was winning awards around the globe, adding major new business and being declared by its peers as 'one of the world’s most creative agency brands'. In 1989, the Hong Kong office was named Advertising Age’s International Agency of the Year (runner up)—a first for Asia. It brought the agency more recognition worldwide. That, along with great creative work being done in Singapore and several other regional offices under the leadership of Neil French, made The Ball Partnership one of Asia’s legendary ad agencies.

Fromowitz later led a renaissance at Bates and then moved to Batey Ads, both in Hong Kong, before taking a regional role with TBWA in Singapore. He later left the region to join BBDO in New York and then returned to his native Toronto, where he spent several years with Mantra Partners and then Enthnicity Matters before retiring.

Fromowitz (left) with Michael Ball and Mike Chu of The Ball Partnership

Fromowitz continued to contribute to Campaign Asia-Pacific for many years after leaving Asia, penning a great many no-nonsense opinions that championed the importance of creativity—and bemoaned those who would fail to recognise and honour its power. To this day, a post he wrote in 2013 about cultural blunders persistently hovers in the upper reaches of our traffic reports.

As with all good leaders, Fromowitz's greatest legacy will be those he inspired and mentored, as well as the generations of creatives that those people will inspire and mentor in turn. One such person is Chris Kyme, a longtime Hong Kong adman himself. Kyme has written a fine and detailed tribute to Fromowitz in his regular column for Campaign Brief Asia (which is not related to Campaign Asia-Pacific). In the piece, Kyme quotes many of the other people Fromowitz touched and shows some of his work. I highly recommend reading it.

Personal note: I only knew Mike virtually, as the editor of his missives starting when I joined Campaign Asia-Pacific in 2012. The silliness of the notion that I, as a complete newbie to the ad industry at the time, was critiquing the copy and wisdom of such a legend did not escape me. But Mike was never anything but perfectly gracious and collaborative. As Kyme's piece makes clear, that was Mike's way with everyone. I'll remember him fondly, and will only regret that I never got the chance to have a drink with him in person. RIP, Mike.

Fromowitz in Hong Kong in 1989

Matthew MIller is Campaign Asia-Pacific's managing editor.

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