Obituary: Geoff Payne
We are extremely sad about the sudden death of Geoff Payne, Co-Founder of Thinktank and, before that, the HPI Research Group, and a former chair of AQR.
Geoff was an outstanding qualitative researcher, popular and well respected by clients and colleagues alike. He wore his sharp intellect and perceptive insight into human nature and marketing strategy lightly. He was always modest with a great line in self-deprecating humour and an eye for the absurdities of life and of some research briefs.
Geoff began his long and impressive career in research in 1971 at the Department of the Environment. He went on to work at qualitative specialists CRAM, and at transport planning consultancy MVA, before meeting Ted Hudson and David Iddiols with whom he formed the company that developed into a very successful qual-quant agency: the HPI Research Group.
At HPI, "GP" led the international department, and international and advertising research were his true loves. Passionate about qual, he served as the chair of AQR from 1989 to 1994. Following HPI's acquisition by IPG, Geoff increasingly yearned for the freedom of an independent agency. In 2004 he left to launch international qualitative specialists Thinktank with Sabine Stork where he helped build an impressive roster of global Blue-Chip clients.
Geoff retired fully in 2020 but stayed connected to Thinktank, lending a sympathetic ear and pearls of wisdom to management during the trials of the pandemic.
Those of us who worked with him were constantly impressed at his speed of thought, his ability to get to the nub of a problem, a person, a strategy. He had the rare ability to wrap his thinking up in that killer phrase. As knowledgeable about marketing as he was about research, and a canny businessman to boot, he was also an inspiring, generous teacher and mentor, always keen to spot and encourage talent.
Clients and advertising planners valued his acuity and intellect, his diplomacy when communicating difficult research findings, and his delicate touch when dealing with creative ideas. He pioneered new approaches to creative development research based on his often-quoted principle of "nurturing, not neutering" ideas. He taught all of us never to see qual research as an end in itself, but to contextualise our work in our clients' strategies and "worship at the altar of the brand".
On a personal level, he was energetic, extremely personable and sociable. He enjoyed being around (other) clever people, had great tolerance for human foibles, but disliked selfishness and those who he termed "half-bright", probably the most damning of his coinages or "Geoffisms" as we called them.
Geoff died of a heart attack while on holiday in France with his family. He'll be much missed not only by his wife Gwenno, and his sons Sion who has followed into his footsteps as a qual researcher, and Dylan who works in an ad agency, but also by scores of former colleagues and genuine friends.
07 September 2022
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