Before she was Veronica Olchin in "The King of Queens" or Peggy Moody in "All My Children," Ann Meara spent a lot of time with a nun.
Ms. Meara, the actress and comedienne who began her career as part of the famed Stiller & Meara comedy duo, died Saturday at age 85, leaving a legacy of five Emmy nominations, movie roles and unforgettable sketch comedy showcased on the "The Ed Sullivan" show. But in the ad world, Ms. Meara may be best remembered for the famous '70s Blue Nun radio spots from Della Femina, Travisano & Partners.
Jerry Della Femina recalled in a telephone interview today that he first met Ms. Meara and Mr. Stiller at a nightclub. He told the pair, "Someday I am going to use you in a commercial." Later, during auditions, he said, Meara and Stiller easily won the roles in the radio campaign.
The partners were known for saying anything that came into their heads, which suited the Blue Nun white wine radio ads, where Ms. Meara traded pun-filled, goofy lines with her husband, Jerry Stiller, who delivered the famous line "May I suggest a little Blue Nun?"
In one radio spot about a party, Ms. Meara innocently responds, "Oh I don't think she'd have a very good time. Besides, it's going to be all couples."
The original budget was $70,000 to advertise 70,000 cases of wine. After the success of the campaign, Blue Nun sales rocketed, Mr. Della Femina said. Mr. Della Femina's agency, Della Femina, Travisano & Partners, was new when it won the white wine account but the campaign helped put it on the map.
Written mostly by Kay Kavanaugh and Mark Yustein, the campaign was the result of creative flexibility, Mr. Della Femina said. "The secret was that Meara and Stiller were able to do it," he said of the comedy pair's ad-libbing. "And to our credit, we were capable of accepting it."