NEWS18 January 2022

Obituary: Jonathan Shingleton

News People UK

Jonathan Shingleton, who was a senior consultant at the BPRI Group for 21 years and EMEA chair at WPP subsidiary PSB, has died. He was 75. Jonathan had more than 30 years’ experience of applying research-based insights to business strategic development.

Head shot of Jonathan Shingleton

As the son of an Oscar-winning film director, perhaps it was always inevitable that he would become such a creative, innovative and inspiring figure.

After studying geography at Newcastle University, he went on to take a post-graduate diploma in Business Studies at Sheffield.  Following a couple of years at De la Rue, he joined IMR, the UK’s first specialist B2B research agency.  IMR was run by Aubrey Wilson, the doyen of industrial marketing and a big influence on Jonathan’s subsequent career.

He then teamed up with Jeremy Fowler – who’d also been at IMR – to join Business Decisions (BDL), becoming managing director in the early 1980s.  The BDL team featured some leading figures from the MR world, including Derek Simonds, Peter Arnold, Cliff Holmes, Sheila Keegan, Rosie Campbell, Justin Gutmann and Shirley Brent.

Whilst at BDL Jonathan had the harrowing experience of being hijacked on a flight from Paris to Frankfurt, eventually ending up in a very hostile Teheran. All the hostages were eventually released and individually greeted by President Mitterrand as returning heroes when they arrived back in Paris. At a time when hijacking was not uncommon, Jonathan later appeared on television a number of times to talk about his experiences as a hostage.

Following a difference of opinion about the future direction of BDL, Jonathan set up BPRI with a number of colleagues.  It was the best thing that he could have done. BPRI quickly became the ‘go to’ B2B agency and enjoyed great success. The company won a string of awards, including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, only the second research agency to do so. BPRI expanded rapidly and opened offices in Chicago and Sydney to support the ever-growing number of global projects.

Jonathan was the driving force behind BPRI.  He had the vision, drive, desire and decisiveness to create an outstanding and highly respected agency.

Jonathan saw research as an essential business tool that would enable management to make better informed decisions. He had no time for ‘research for the sake of research’ and spoke passionately about the necessity for the MR industry to demonstrate that it really could add value.  He saw himself as a consultant, not a researcher, and felt most at home presenting in the boardroom to CEOs from global corporates.

Jonathan was a highly charismatic and inspiring leader.  He led by example, set the bar very high and challenged his colleagues to raise their game to the highest possible level. They invariably did.

Jonathan’s popularity at BPRI reached an all-time high when he persuaded British Airways to undertake mystery shopping to help in the redesign of the Concorde service proposition and cabin configuration. As news of this project spread, it was no surprise that a growing number of volunteer mystery shoppers queued outside his office to offer their services.

He commanded strong loyalty amongst the BPRI staff.  On another mystery shopping project – this time for Eurostar – one of the shoppers was questioned by the UK immigration authorities because of suspicions about the unusual pattern of the journey.  Having been told that under no circumstances was he to tell anyone about the true purpose of his journey, since being ‘spotted’ would undermine the integrity of the research, the shopper stuck to his story and withstood several hours of difficult questioning.  Such was his loyalty to Jonathan and to BPRI.

Jonathan stayed on at BPRI after it was sold to WPP and then entered semi-retirement, enabling him to indulge his passion for sailing.  He was the proud owner of an Oyster yacht and loved taking part in ocean-going races and regattas with other members of the Oyster community.

In 2005 he organised an Atlantic crossing with the intention of having a crew that included people who, like him, had survived prostate cancer.  The trip was a great success and highly effective in building awareness of the condition and raising significant funds for the umbrella charity, Prostate Research Campaign UK.

When PSB (another WPP subsidiary) came calling in 2013, Jonathan couldn’t resist the challenge and held the position of EMEA chair until March 2020.

Jonathan was kind, charismatic and passionate, as well as being widely respected by everyone with whom he worked. At BPRI he was single-minded in his determination to create a culture of excellence throughout all facets of the organisation.

His legacy was to inspire a generation of B2B researchers. Many people have referred to their time at BPRI as a career-shaping experience and the best days of their professional life. For that Jonathan deserves a huge amount of credit.

Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go to Jonathan’s wife, Philippa and his four sons, Simon, Duncan, Charles and Rupert.