The advertising creative behind the Kevin 07 election campaign, Neil Lawrence, has died suddenly while on holiday in the Maldives.
Mr Lawrence, 60, was reportedly on a surfing holiday there when he passed away from unknown causes.
He was the founder of Lawrence Creative and was known for his advertising work for the Australian Labor Party.
Kevin Rudd described Mr Lawrence’s death as terrible news.
“Our hearts go out to Caroline, Anna and Tom. I am stunned and deeply saddened by news of Neil’s death,” he said in a statement.
“This guy was a wonderful human being first and foremost. He was passionate to the core about progressive causes in which he believed.
“He also had about him a creativity that was unique.
“I will always be indebted to him for his creativity in the 2007 election campaign where he was one of the few who was truly at the core of that campaign.
“Neil Lawrence will be remembered as a truly good man.”
News of the death of Neil Lawrence is devastating. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, including all in Labor that worked with him
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) July 15, 2015
Mr Rudd’s adviser Lachlan Harris said Mr Lawrence was the mastermind behind the successful 2007 Kevin 07 campaign.
“He was a very, very high level political strategist as well, so he made all of the ads but he did much more than just make the ads, he really helped shape the voice and the brand of the whole campaign,” Mr Harris said.
“The term Kevin 07 came from Neil as well. “You really can’t underestimate how important he was in giving that campaign that magic, youthful, human sort of touch that people remember. Neil was the driving force behind that magic.”
Tragic news about Neil Lawrence dying while surfing in the Maldives – a creative, brilliant and passionate man — Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) July 15, 2015
Griffith University political analyst Dr Paul Williams said Kevin 07 revolutionised how Australian politicians campaigned.
“Kevin 07 is usually regarded as the first genuine social media campaign, it was a completely new way of talking to the public because social media was in its infancy,” he said.
“Politicians just weren’t using social media before that, but Kevin 07 changed the approach to everything.”
Mr Harris said Mr Lawrence was the preeminent political ad maker of our time.
“It is a very, very sad day, he was also an incredibly nice, humble man, quick with a smile,” he said.
“And just a really, really top bloke so it really is a very, very sad day for Neil’s family and for all his friends.”
Mr Lawrence was responsible for other high-profile Labor campaigns – including Anna Bligh’s 2009 Queensland state election campaign, and Jay Weatherill’s Let’s Keep Building South Australia 2014 state election campaign.
Lawrence Creative was also behind the successful campaign against the mining tax, and the Recognise brand, which lobbied for acknowledgement of Indigenous Australians in the constitution.
Mr Lawrence was the executive producer of the documentary Ka-Ching! The Rise and Rise of the Pokies, which was scheduled to air on ABC in 2015.
Mr Lawrence is survived by his wife, Caroline, his son, Tom and daughter Anna.