“The One We Came For” – A Tribute from a Colleague

John Evans was one of three original founders of AMS Media, one of the very first independent agencies, back in 1975. Then trading as All Media Services, he partnered with Barry Post and Ian Forbes to form what quickly became known by the acronym, AMS.

He left the relative security of established full-service agencies, including Leo Burnett and Allen Brady & Marsh, to co-create a whole new sector of media specialisation.

He was never afraid of a challenge.

AMS was almost 10 years old when we first met. It was the first time they had attempted to recruit at a junior level. Let’s just say that my job application was a little on the “alternative” side and it was John who was brave enough to take the chance and hire me.

So began a relationship which has traversed many forms – from Boss to Employee, from Mentor to Mentee and, subsequently, Friends for Life.

So, on that basis, I feel well qualified to write this tribute and share my thoughts about a man that it was impossible not to like.

The Work

As a strategist, John was always less obsessed with the media question and more interested in the business challenge any client was facing.

In order to get under the skin of a brief, John would invariably ask a lot of questions. Trying to truly unearth what had led the client to need our help. Frequently, clients wouldn’t have all the answers but were very keen for John to help find them. He would structure a plan to do so and increase his personal value to them as a business advisor in the process.

He was great at spotting illogical errors and anomalies within data and would set about unearthing the root cause with a passion.

Couple this with his reputation as a keen negotiator, where he would always find a way to make a deal work for all parties – client, media owner and agency. It may involve some convoluted elements to get there but get there he would. That said, there was more than one significant deal settled via a toss of a coin or game of ‘spoof’.

The Agency

Throughout my 20-year working relationship with John, I can honestly say that he was the driving force of the agency. He led from the front and was always trying to find ways to improve and develop our business, our services, and our horizons.

He never seemed stressed or fazed by anything (when he probably should have been), which brought a calmness and stability to the business, even when things were stacked against us.

Equally, he wasn’t shackled by being a media specialist. Always prepared to venture outside his comfort zone.

Whilst there was a willingness to take risks, there was also an acceptance of the responsibility which comes with that. To such a degree that I know he used his personal finances to help see the agency through a particularly rocky period in the 90’s.

John didn’t distinguish between clients and media owners. To him, they were all partners in a joint venture to achieve a shared goal. This created a culture of trust, mutual respect, and enduring relationships which still exists at AMS today.

The Man

Now, you could be forgiven, at this point, for thinking John was some kind of squeaky-clean, entrepreneurial Guru. Well, he was certainly entrepreneurial, but never squeaky-clean!

He began his advertising career in the 60’s and then ‘grew-up’ in the 70’s. The “Mad Men” era. He epitomised every aspect of the phrase “work hard, play hard” and embraced all that the industry had to offer. Especially drawn to the many colourful personalities, the long lunches and, put simply, the ‘Fun’.

In true Evans style, he didn’t make having fun mutually exclusive. He shared the benefit with all he worked with. He wanted everyone to feel included.

To have “the one we came for” is a phrase the current AMS cohort still use in the pub to this day, 18 years after its “author” last used it in earnest.

It was this inclusivity which gave John his “loved by all” status. His zest for life was infectious and he was never happier than when toasting a successful day with the team.

In an industry that sometimes takes itself way too seriously, and can be awash with egos, John was never one for hierarchy. He just, genuinely, wanted everyone to do well and enjoy being part of this small independent agency with a big personality. If they didn’t, no problem, he’d wish them well anyway.

He cared deeply about everyone and, if they needed support, he would willingly give it. Even after retiring, he was regularly in touch to check in on those he knew.

So, rest in peace John Evans.

An innovative media man who was true to his word and led by example.

Thank you for the opportunity to take on your legacy – I’m still trying to make sure I don’t cock it up!

You squeezed a lot into those 75 years.

You lived life to the full, in every sense, and made so many people smile.

I’d smile now if I thought we could have the ‘one we came for’ one last time.



Paul Phelps 31-05-22


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