Marklin Advertising (美靈廣告)

York Lo: Marklin Advertising (美靈廣告)

Marklin Advertising Image 1 York Lo

Left: Chinese New Year ad of Marklin Singapore in 1958(Singapore Free Press, 1958-2-16); Middle: BOAC “Visit Hong Kong” poster in 1960 designed by Marklin; Right: Marklin founder Derek Nurse (HK Album, 1967)

From the 1950s to the 1970s, Marklin was one of the leading ad agencies in the Far East with branches in Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Jakarta.

According to Mary Nurse, the daughter of Marklin chief Derek Nurse, the firm was founded in Singapore (likely by a Swiss national) and was run by Ken Palmer who served as president of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies (also known as 4As) of Malaya in the 1960s. One of its earliest employees was Loo Teck-hai (呂德海) who joined in 1952 who was eventually promoted to director in 1974 after 22 years of service.

In 1953, the firm recruited her father Derek Jeffrey Nurse (1922-2004), a London native who was working forDuncan Roberts in Singapore to move to Hong Kong to open a branch there although as a firm Marklin Advertising Ltd was not incorporated in HK until 1960. Eventually Nurse bought the firm and the head office was shifted from Singapore to Hong Kong.

In 1950s, Marklin operated out of Printing House on Duddell Street in Central and by the end of the decade, it already had 35 staff members in HK covering the HK, Macao, Taiwan and Saigon markets. In terms of headcount, it was already the third largest ad agency in HK behind Cathay (200) and Paramount (48) but ahead of more established firms such as APB (30) and China Commercial Advertising (26) and Grant (18). (A Directory of Foreign Advertising Agencies and Marketing Research Organizations for the United States International Business Community, 1959)

In the 1960s, the firm moved to the 11th floor of Shell House in Central and counted British American Tobacco (BAT) as its largest client with annual billings of over HK$2 million. Other clients included the British airline BOAC, Watsons and Sunkist oranges. At its peak, Marklin was the second largest ad agency in HK with over 100 staff members.

The majority of the senior executives at Marklin in its early years were either British or Australians. In February 1960, the firm hired a Shanghai-born painter of Western descent who had studied in Germany and the US and had painted watercolor and oil painting and designed gardens for public and private buildings in HK in its arts department. (KSDN, 1960-2-2)In 1962, the firm recruited Roy Valentine Fordham (1927-2016), a London native who founded the first PR and ad agency in Thailand as Group Accounts Director in Hong Kong. He later moved back to Bangkok in 1965 to head up Marklin’s office there before striking out on his own in 1968 with Adplan Ltd which became Thailand’s leading independent ad agency which operated until 1999 during the Asian financial crisis.

As part of its growth strategy, Marklin became an affiliate of Advertising & Marketing International Network, a network of 38 independent ad agencies in the US, Canada, Australasia and Southeast Asia in 1963 and became an associate agency of the Japanese advertising giant Dentsu in the Singapore market in the 1960s to work with Japanese clients.

In 1964, Derek Nurse went back to the UK for 4 months with his wife, son and two daughters. At the time the firm handled ads for Star Ferry, Kowloon Motor Bus, Tram, Peak Tram and Kowloon Canton Railway. (KSDN, 1964-6-30)

Marklin Advertising Image 2 York Lo

Pictures of two new recruits for Marklin HK in 1965 – the fellow on the left Robert Shelton who joined as ad manager came from Australia while the fellow on the right David Clinton who joined as deputy art director studied art and worked in London (KSDN, 1965-11-23)

In December 1966, Bill Lee, a former officer in the Royal Navy and public relations executive in England was hired as the new managing director of Marklin HK while Nurse spent more time looking after the Singapore and Kuala Lumpur operations of Marklin. (KSDN, 1966-12-6) In May 1967, Robert Buckley who just took over as general manager of Marklin’s Singapore office from Ken Palmer two months before was found hanging in his flat in Singapore. A veteran of the advertising industry in HK and Japan, he was only joined days before by his Japanese wife Yoko and their two-year-old daughter from Osaka. (Straits Times, 1967-5-19)

Marklin Advertising Image 3 York Lo

Left: article from 1966 announcing two HKU graduates joining Marklin in 1966 as researchers (WKYP, 1966-6-28) 

In July 1968, Derek Nurse accepted on behalf of Marklin’s Taipei branch the best design award in “Free China” at the 6th Asian Advertising Congress in Singapore. (WKYP, 1968-7-6) Later in the same month, Marklin’s Bangkok branch won the best design award from its peers of art directors of different ad agencies for its design of a special menu featuring 18th century French designs for the French Festival sponsored by Air France and Bangkok Hilton. (KSEN, 1968-7-31)

Marklin Advertising Image 4 York Lo

New stamps in Singapore designed by Marklin Singapore’s design chief in 1970 featuring Chinese instruments. (KSEN, 1970-1-15)

In 1970, Nurse was still in charge of the firm as managing director but chairman of the firm was V.W. Shriro (chairman of Shriro China) and its other directors included I.E. Dobrenky (general manager of Shriro), and H.W. Hagedorn while James C.K. Tsai was Chinese manager who started at the firm in 1958. (Hong Kong Dollar Directory, 1970) Mary Shih Wong, a notable Chinese executive of the firm, acquired APB from its founder Betty Church (see article) in 1971.

Marklin Advertising Image 5 York Lo

Marklin executive presenting to Newman Wu of Reliance Trading the promotion of Sunkist oranges in HK through a new guessing competition with prizes worth over $27000. (KSEN, 1970-6-19)

Marklin Advertising Image 6 York Lo

Hiring announcement of two expat staff members in Marklin HK in 1970. The hire on the left had worked for Leo Burnett in Sydney and Hudson Grey in London and was hired for TV production. The hire on the right was a New Yorker worked for J. Walter Thompson and Grey Advertising in the US handling accounts such as General Mills and Lorillard was hired as a copywriter. (KSDN, 1970-2-14; WKYP, 1970-10-15)

In June 1972, Derek Nurse was re-elected chairman of the International Advertising Association at its annual meeting in Munich. (KSDN, 1972-6-29). The next year, the firm celebrated its 20th anniversary in HK with souvenirs given to  staff as shown in the picture below.

Marklin Advertising Image 7 York Lo

Derek Nurse (third from left) and long time Chinese staff such as James C.K. Tsai (third from right) at Marklin HK’s 20th anniversary party in 1973. (WKYP, 1973-10-10)

Marklin Advertising Image 8 York Lo

Left: announcement of Marklin Singapore’s appointment of long time staffer Loo Teck-hai as director in 1974 (Straits Times, 1974-7-25)Right:  logo of Marklin in the late 1970s (Straits Times, 1976-5-2)

In mid-1976, Marklin closed its Singapore and Malaysia office after the local electronic media monopoly RTS introduced new regulations which required bank guarantee equivalent to two months bills before any bookings. (New Nation, 1976-9-1) After the dissolution of Marklin’sSingapore and Malaysia operations, Dentsu shifted to AMC in Malaysia.

In the late 1970s, Derek Nurse decided to retire and eventually sold his shares in Marklin to D’Arcy McManus Benton & Bowles (DMB&B) which had also acquired APB covered earlier. As a firm, Marklin Advertising Ltd was dissolved in 2003. Derek

Sources (other than those cited above):china

Global Advertising Practice in a Borderless World, 2017

This article was first posted on 23rd August 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Advertising & Publicity Bureau (湯臣廣告公司)
  2. Cheng Hong (鄭航) and Victory Advertising (勝利廣告)
  3. Y.D. Yao (姚玉棣) and Allied Advertising Agency (中雍廣告公司)
  4. China Neonlight Advertising Company, Mongkok, makers of neon lights – vanishing Hong Kong trades
  5. Paramount: Ad Agency and Interior Decorator



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *