Former Ogilvy Creative Director Russ Alben Dies

Copywriter Specialized in Kids' Campaigns Such as Choo Choo Charlie

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Russ Alben
Russ Alben

Advertising executive and copywriter Russ Alben, credited with the Timex tagline "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking" and the Choo Choo Charlie jingle, died Aug. 26 in Los Angeles. He was 82.

Mr. Alben graduated from Syracuse University in the early 1950s. After a stint working as a producer for children's TV shows, including Bozo the Clown, he found his way to Madison Avenue, where he worked for 40 years.

He started as a copywriter at Benton & Bowles and Grey Advertising before being recruited as creative director at Carson Roberts Agency in Los Angeles in fall 1968. That agency was acquired by Ogilvy & Mather in the early 1970s, at which point Mr. Alben was made VP-creative director. He retired from Ogilvy in December 1981.

It was in the 1960s that Mr. Alben really found his niche in the growing segment of children's advertising. "If you ate cereal at some point growing up, then it was probably advertised by my dad," said Alex Alben, Mr. Alben's oldest son. He worked on the Post cereal account and wrote songs for Sugar Bear and Linus The Lion Hearted, two Post Cereal characters who later got their own TV show.

Mr. Alben also worked with Ideal Toy Co., Hasbro and Mattel in marketing their toys. "My dad was very interested in the play patterns of children...He had me and my younger brother, and he would watch us play and then he would come up with ideas for what he would do in the commercial," said Mr. Alben's son. He scripted the first Barbie Fashion Show; commercials for Mattel and created campaigns for Hot Wheels. He also wrote Good & Plenty's Choo Choo Charlie jingle, below.

Mr. Alben was also a composer and lyric writer. He and his wife wrote the official record albums -- Hop to New York and Jump to the Fair -- for the 1964 New York World's Fair. He also wrote the book and lyrics for a biographical play about the life of Albert Einstein with music writer Jerry Hart. "The Smartest Man in The World" was produced by the West Coast Jewish Theater in Los Angeles in 2007.

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