New Norwich charity gives former advertising manager chance to put something back

In this day and age when all you hear about is people just out for themselves without concerns for anyone else, it's heartening to find someone who is keen to give something back to the community.

Chris Murphy had a highly successful career in advertising, ran his own agency, and was able to retire from work early. He has a nice house in Unthank Road and is happily married with two daughters.

But he's aware that other people in Norwich are not so fortunate and are increasingly struggling to make ends meet.

The current recession means that many parents in Norwich are having to go without their own meals to allow their children to eat, and more people are getting into debt.

That's why he works a few days a week at a Norwich free debt-counselling centre as part of the national charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP). The centre was set up about two months ago and is based from Surrey Chapel.

Mr Murphy said: 'I was very blessed to have the career I had in advertising, which meant I could give up work early. And because of my faith and love of Norwich I wanted to put something back in the community.

'We tend of think of Norwich as a quite middle-class city, but it's a place where parents are missing at least one or more of their main meals so their children can eat. It's a place where people are contemplating suicide and it's getting worse.

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'Too many people live with the burden of debt, mostly through no fault of their own. CAP has helped more than 50,000 people become debt-free in its 16-year history.

'I work with clients to manage their way out of debt, typically between three and five years, and we provide pastoral care, as appropriate, through Surrey Chapel.'

He gave up working full-time in 2011 after 34 years in the advertising industry and 20 years running his own agency.

Originally from Liverpool, he moved with his family to Norwich when he was 11 for his dad's work.

He attended the City of Norwich School, stayed on into the sixth form, but struggled with his O and A-levels. His father died aged 43 when he was 15 and, as he did not want to leave his mother in Norwich, he went into a local advertising agency as an office junior and later moved to production and various client roles.

Further down the line, a merger in 1997 created the Fox Murphy marketing and advertising agency, of which he was managing director for 11 years.

That in turn changed to Balloon Dog in 2008, where he was chairman for nearly three years.

Balloon Dog employs about 65 people in Norwich and London and works with clients such as Adnams, Pret a Manger, Barclays, Aviva, Merial and Disney. It delivers branding, advertising, design, digital and design marketing.

All this may sound glamorous, but Mr Murphy, who is a Norwich City season-ticket holder, assures me that it was not – although he said the Mad Men television series was probably a very accurate reflection of what it would have been like in the US at that time.

He said: 'It's a great way to make money, but it's essentially a service industry. You can have great client relationships or not.

'You can never get away nowadays with the stock image of the flash offices and all that.'

One of his favourite campaigns as an adman was for Adnams Brewery in Southwold.

He said: 'The agency did the branding for the campaign including TV. The line was 'real character' and it was not just about the beer, but the company itself and also the people who drink Adnams. We used real people from Southwold in the campaign.'

Advertising was one of the two occupations he contemplated when he was a teenager at school. The other was journalism.

He said: 'I wanted to do something interesting and creative, and thought of advertising and journalism. But with journalism it would have meant me moving home at a time when I did not want to leave my mother after my father's death.'

His favourite place in Norwich is Eaton Park, a short walk from his home, where he runs and enjoys the atmosphere.

'It's great to have space like this in the city centre. It's like a little haven for the 30 or 40 minutes I regularly come here.'

Archant photographer Bill Smith and I met Mr Murphy at Eaton Park for a chat and to get some photographs, and he bought us a cup of tea.

Bill remarked afterwards that Mr Murphy's ad skills had not deserted him.

He said: 'I often go out to jobs and you tell someone your name and the next minute they have forgotten it. But he called us Bill and David the whole time. That shows that he's still on the ball.'

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