The industry has lost a legendary leader. Longtime DDB creative leader Robert H. Levenson passed away on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan, New York at the age of 83, the result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as reported by the New York Times.
Mr. Levenson first joined DDB New York in 1959 as a copywriter, and later moved up the ranks to become the agency's creative director from 1970-1985 and then the vice chairman and chairman of its international operations.
In a memorial on the DDB blog, Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard wrote that Mr. Levenson "was a creative giant who personally wrote and later inspired many of the legendary ads that made DDB the most awarded agency of the 20th Century."
Mr. Levenson is best remembered for pithy writing, evident in classic campaigns for VW, Sara Lee, El Al and Mobil. For Volkswagen, he created the the famous Volkswagen "Snow Plow" spot, which revealed how the man who drives the snow plow gets to his vehicle every morning, and came up with famous lines like "It makes your house look bigger," for the Beetle. He was the scribe on Mobil's "We Want You to Live" road safety campaign, and penned one of the industry's most memorable jingles, for Sarah Lee: "Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Sara Lee." He also made his mark on El Al, with a series of conversational print ads, including "My Son, The Pilot," in which a mom boasts proudly about her son's career at the airline.
Mr. Levenson was a respected and inspiring mentor to many in the industry. In his tribute, Mr. Reinhard revealed a piece of advice he liked to give out: "When writers got stuck on a piece of copy, he advised them to start with, 'Dear Fred: This is what I want to tell you about such and such. Simply make believe that the person you're talking to is a perfectly intelligent friend who knows less about the product than you do,' was Bob's advice. 'And then,' said Bob, 'when you're finished writing the copy, cross off the "Dear Fred" part.'"
Following DDB, Mr. Levenson also worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, and Scali, McCabe, Sloves.
He is survived by his third wife, Jane Warshaw, his sons Keith and Seth (from his first marriage to Elaine Berk) and stepdaughter Katherine Warshaw-Reid.