Martin Agency leader Mike Hughes dies after 15-year cancer battle

He was a beloved man at one of the industry’s top advertising agencies who blogged openly about his life and illness.

Mike Hughes, who helped establish and run The Martin Agency and the VCU Brandcenter, passed away Sunday morning after surviving lung cancer for 15 years.

Hughes worked as a journalist at the Richmond News Leader and the Richmond-Times Dispatch from 1965 to 1971. In July, Hughes took part in a Q&A on his life and cancer with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Hughes joined the Martin Agency as an associate creative director in 1978. Years later, he was promoted to agency president, during which the ad agency met financial and creative success.

He served as chairman of the VCU Brandcenter Board of Directors since the program began in 1995. It has since become one of the most revered advertising schools in the country.

Hughes was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame this past April. In 2010, the Brandcenter building was named Mike Hughes Hall.

Hughes was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998 despite being a life-long non-smoker. He entered Stage IV Lung Cancer in 2005 and was told his life expectancy was eight months.

In late 2012, Hughes began regularly posting on his blog Unfinished Thinking after doctors told him he had only two weeks to live. Hughes pre-wrote his own obituary, which ran on the site on Sunday.

Here’s an abstract:

I’m proud to have been one of the hundreds of people who put The Martin Agency on the map. We owe a lot to our clients and stockholders, of course, but no one gets in this line in front of the men and women who earned their paychecks doing things a little group in Richmond, Virginia, wasn’t supposed to be able to do. I can’t begin to list the account, planning, media, design, tech, administration, finance and business partners who have done the work for which I’ve been given so much credit. I hope they know how much I’ve needed them and how much I’ve loved them. I can’t remember the first time I said “I do work I love with people I love,” but I know I’ve said it thousands of times. Every word is true.

photo by VCU Brandcenter

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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