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As Dusenberry Passes, the Mad Men Generation Gets Smaller.

Posted by: David Kiley on January 3, 2008


I’ve been searching for the right words to mark the passing of Phil Dusenberry, the great creative chief at BBDO who died this past week at the age of 71.

Dusenberry is best known for overseeing the Pepsi TV ad that resulted in Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire. That incident, in fact, gave “Dus” the title of his book, “And Then We Set His Hair on Fire.”

Dusenberry was also well known for being part of Ronald Reagan’s ad team, as well as an anti-abortion campaign in the early 1990s. While it may not be fair to single out such one-off events to mark his career, the writing of obits necessitates finding such things to describe. Make no mistake, his overall touch on campaign for Pepsi, Federal Express and GE are unmistakable.

I’m not sure I want to say more. My former colleague at Adweek, Cathy Taylor, has written a blog item about Dus that is a good take on his career.

Also, here is a remembrance from One Club CEO Mary Warlick.

Why don’t I want to go deeper? I once had a job interview with Dus. It was during an ill-advised but highly instructional chapter in my life when I worked for Lowe & Partners, NY. I was fired after a change in management and was still foolishly looking for a job in advertising. I interviewed at BBDO, and left my meeting with Dus not feeling too good about how it had went. I later found out why he hadn’t taken to me, as he related his reasons to a friend of mine not knowing it would get back to me. It was a pathetically small-minded and superficial reason that colored my impressions of him.

That’s not the Dus, though, I’d like to remember. Part of his legacy is also as a screenwriter, and he is credited with writing “The Natural,” one of the great baseball movies of all time and a personal favorite. Thanks for that Phil. I think probably your deeds out-numbered your short-comings. I hope you are in a good place.

Reader Comments

Tom Messner

January 3, 2008 7:06 PM

Phil was really later than the "Mad Men" generation portrayed in the series. What he is part of is a group of people who came from Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx and made a great impact on mass communications and, in so doing, made better living than their parents by getting into a business that heretofore had been so very Ivy League. Bernbach, Ammiratti, Chiat, Della Femina, Kurnit, Krone, Deutsch and Deutsch, Russo and Russo, Stark, Grace, Honig, Kuperman, Berger, Shaine, Koenig, Lois and hundreds of others who came out of Lincoln High School, Midwood, Lafayette, SVA, Pratt, Cooper Union, Forest Hills, Bronx Science, Andrew jackson. PS 12. That is the generation that is moving on.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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