Colleagues pay tribute to Google’s James Howard and his contribution to the creative industries

Last week during Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Google’s brand marketing lead for the UK James Howard died in the most tragic circumstances. Here his colleagues have paid tribute to his passion and creativity in unique projects he started at Google such as the award-winning Inside Abbey Road and the underwater Streetview experience Searching Loch Ness.

James' colleagues at Google have helped The Drum collate below some of his best projects as a tribute to him, and a celebration of what he contributed to the industry and those around him.

Described by his colleagues as passionate, creative, with a great sense of humour and boundless energy for his work, and for life, James was also a fan of music and popular culture and he was able to build a rapport with people through this passion. He understood and took great pride in the role of music in the UK.

Yonca Brunini, Google's vice president of marketing for EMEA, said: “James was a well-respected and loved colleague, who inspired the team with his infectious enthusiasm. He was never phased by a challenge, he loved to think about the next big idea and always pushed for creative excellence.

“He was able to deliver on audacious creative projects not least because he was able to excite and collaborate well with people around him: from product teams, to music industry stars, to Google’s Creative Lab, to external agencies. He will always be remembered through his work which has given access to so many people from all over the world to iconic UK landmarks.”

Below his colleagues have outlined what they admired about James and celebrate the work he created.

Inside Abbey Road – won a Silver Cannes Lion

On a visit to the Abbey Road Studios for a YouTube event, he came up with the idea for Google’s ‘Inside Abbey Road’ project, an interactive journey inside the iconic studio, where users could discover how innovation and creativity came together in one location to influence the world.

Google searches for Abbey Road are on a par with the UK’s biggest tourist attraction - the British Museum - but until recently it had been inaccessible to anyone but music royalty. James changed that.

Using Google technology, James helped open the doors of Abbey Road studios to 1.8 million visitors and counting from around the world. Online visitors can experience 150 HD panoramas, 300+ items of content from 50+ musicians and partners.

Musicians who came out in support, posting to social followers about their experiences at Abbey Road included Sam Smith, The London Symphony Orchestra, Paloma Faith, Jamie Cullum and Sigur Ros. The project was also picked up by worldwide press.

James Britton, managing partner at Stink Digital, who worked with James on Abbey Road, said: “We were lucky enough to work with James for the last year or so. From day one he had such a clear idea of what he wanted the Abbey Road project to be. He was so articulate, with these great turns of phrase that I still catch myself using now. But most importantly, he made me laugh out loud every time we met, without fail. I'm so glad he got to see the finished project, and I hope it'll stand as a testament to one of the friendliest, smartest people we've had the pleasure of working with.”

Searching Loch Ness

James’ great sense of curiosity and fun was on full display in his ‘Searching Loch Ness’ project. He realised that a large lake in northern Scotland inspires hundreds of thousands of internet searches a year from all around the world (more, even, than Buckingham Palace) - Loch Ness. But beyond the legend of Nessie, curious seekers knew relatively little about this beautiful Scottish location, and few would ever have the chance to visit.

James wanted to give everyone better access to the location and foster better understanding of the legend, and do it through technology. Having searched out and struck up a good friendship with Adrian Shine, one of the original ‘Nessie Hunters’ and designer of the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, James persuaded Google’s Street View team to take on a mapping project with a difference: exploring the underwater depths of Loch Ness.

The result is a dramatic 23 mile round trip across a Scottish icon that allows curious explorers anywhere to dive below the surface of the legend. The launch of the experience coincided with a Google Doodle that James helped create, celebrating the 81st anniversary of the infamous ‘Surgeon’s Photograph’, and was supported by a film that dived into the notion of curiosity and discovery (featuring a very eloquent bearded narrator). ‘Searching Loch Ness’ produced one of the highest peaks in Street View traffic ever, trended on social media in the UK, and gave people around the world a glimpse into the legend.

David Allen, head of brand and marketing at Abbey Road Studios: "I had the pleasure of working with James on ‘Inside Abbey Road,’ a mammoth project which started from a tiny idea he picked up and made fly. It was a long and complex job and I threw several curveballs at James but I never saw him complain or lose faith in. He was smart, capable, tenacious, diplomatic and warm-hearted. Our many, many meetings and calls were, for want of a better phrase, a laugh and he made my part in the project much simpler. Really, you can’t say anything better about someone you work with. I held him in the highest regard."

Google + projects:

James always looked for ways to use Google technology to push boundaries when it came to connecting artists with their fans. In his time leading Music Partnerships for Google+ he worked with a raft of global artists including Jessie J, One Direction, Haim, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Robbie Williams, Jason Derulo, The Saturdays, Little Mix, Girls Aloud and Bastille to use Google Hangouts to interact with fans from around the world in innovative and experimental ways.

Working with BBC Radio 1 he used Hangouts to bring listeners watching at home onto the screens at Wembley stadium to experience the joy of shouting 'Hello Wembley!' to an audience of 12,000 screaming fans. James was always up for trying something new, and pushing technology to its limit, sometimes beyond its limit - believing that it's better to try and fail, than never to try at all.

The news of James' passing at Cannes sent shock waves through the entire advertising industry. Tracy De Groose, chief executive of Dentsu Aegis Network, UK and Ireland, echoed the sentiments of the entire industry with the following words: “We were deeply saddened when we heard the news about the tragic loss of a respected Google executive. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”

Havas Media chief executive Paul Frampton, on behalf of Havas Group, said: "Our thoughts and heartfelt prayers go out to James, his family and all of his colleagues at Google. A terrible incident at any time, but even more so during the Cannes festival. Having spoken to many of the Google team during the week and knowing the strength of the Google community, I know this will have hit the team very hard.

"Equally, I know they will celebrate the far reaching impact that James had on the business and remember him for the people he touched. I'd like to pass on our respect to all of the Google team who continued with their ambitious Cannes program. These moments remind us that at the end of the day we only work in advertising and the connections that James made with those inside and outside Google are much more important. RIP."

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