In 1960, he resigned as advertising columnist for The New York Times to enter the agency business as public relations director at McCann-Erickson. Before long he was assisting the legendary Marion Harper in building the Interpublic Group of Cos. organization. For nearly 20 years, he quietly built a reputation as a behind-the-scenes industry insider, a mover and shaker.
Call it what you will, his status in the New York agency world was based on a keen marketing sense working together with far-flung contacts, financial acumen, loyalty and, perhaps most of all, an old-fashioned commitment to client service/care & feeding. He has been cited as a key figure, while at McCann-Erickson, in Miller Brewing's acquisition in 1972 of Meister Brau beer and its repositioning as the hugely successful "less filling" Lite beer from Miller.
In 1979, as IPG vice chairman and chairman of the executive committee, he resigned after a power struggle with Phil Geier, Interpublic's current chairman, but soon teamed with McCann creative Bill Backer to form Backer & Spielvogel. They and their partners won the huge Lite beer account from McCann, added Campbell Soup, Hyundai, Wendy's, Avis and others, and eventually sold out to Saatchi & Saatchi in '86.
In the mergermania of the '80s, the two executives were persuaded, against their better judgment, to absorb a troubled Ted Bates & Co., and there's irony in the fact that Mr. Spielvogel has seen Saatchi's new management team strip away the Backer and Spielvogel names, leaving only Bates as the surviving name on the door.
Now Mr. Spielvogel has decided to move on again and, unfortunately, this time he's leaving the agency business. Given his fierce competitive spirit, independence, imagination, contacts and energy, and his financial skills, few who know him will be surprised when he turns Resignation No. 3 into yet another winning move.
The agency business, always thin on major-league talent, will miss this player. And clients, who benefited greatly from his careful management of their business, could miss him even more.