A friend remembers Elliott

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Jock was already a grandee at BBDO when I first worked with him in the 1950s. He was running the huge and complicated DuPont account. I was a junior copywriter, a title that no longer exists. Today, I believe, such neophytes are called associate creative directors.

Despite the vast distance between our ranks, Jock always treated me as though I might be a human being. This made him something of a hero to me, and I never quite got over it in our later collegial decades at Ogilvy & Mather.

What most separated Jock from other able leaders in advertising was the unique quality of his public talks, from formal after-dinner speeches to seemingly casual remarks on somebody's 50th birthday. Listeners in his audiences wondered: How does he do it? How does he make it sound so natural and relaxed, so like him and yet so perfectly put together?

I think a clue to Jock's magic can be found in what Doug Henning, an actual magician, says he does in developing a new illusion. There are four steps. First, deciding what to do. Next, figuring out how to do it. Then, working on it until it's easy (maybe a year). Finally, working on it still more until it's beautiful.

Jock pretty much followed Henning's four steps.

I think his way of working might best be illustrated in microcosm. Here's how I saw him many times, in his role as chairman, prepare the setting of he scene for a major presentation. He would arrive in the meeting room at 6:30 or 7 a.m. On a plain yellow pad he'd have written a few paragraphs in pencil in a small hand. He would corral somebody and ask "How does this sound?" and then read aloud what he'd written. The listener might make a few comments. Jock would nod, pencil in some revisions, then try again, perhaps on somebody else. And again. And again.

Each revision made the remarks more pointed and appropriate. Each rehearsal made them sound less rehearsed. Few clients ever realized that he was reading verbatim from the yellow pad on the table in front of him.

What I've said in this limited space doesn't even touch on my old friend's qualities as a leader, his warmth, his honesty, his wit, his devotion to doing the right thing. I just hope that, as he used to say when he suspected something had fallen short of the mark, "it's better than a poke in the eye with a long stick."

Joel Raphaelson began his advertising career in 1953 at BBDO before being lured to Ogilvy in 1958. He worked with Jock Elliott at both agencies.

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