David Deutsch, who founded ad agency David Deutsch Associates in 1969, passed away today at the age of 84 from natural causes.
Mr. Deutsch built a strong reputation for his agency, transforming it from a creative-service shop in its early days to an agency associated with classy, meticulous print work. By the time his son, Donny Deutsch, joined the firm in 1983, David Deutsch Associates was a full-service agency that represented top-notch brand names such as Pontiac.
Before setting up his agency in New York, Mr. Deutsch had previously worked at McCann-Erickson for 13 years and Ogilvy & Mather for four years. But he loved the independence he had at his own creative boutique, telling Ad Age in 1970, "Why didn't I do this sooner?"
He was an adman who enjoyed the personal details. He smiled at the prospect of threading the projector. His light yet levelheaded manner was on display in a 1972 Ad Age column when he posed the question, "Is it safe to pick an art director the way you'd pick a tie?"
In early days, he won over clients by promising long, hard work. "After I show [a prospective client] my work, I can say, truthfully, that I'm talking to him as the man who will do the work," he told Ad Age in 1970. "I tell him I'm dependent on him and that I'm more apt to do more for him because of it. And then I go out and work long hours to make sure I keep my promises."
Mr. Deutsch handed Donny the reigns in 1989. The agency was renamed Deutsch Inc., and that year, with the younger Mr. Deutsch in the role of chairman, it made waves with its groundbreaking Ikea ads that featured interracial and gay couples. The splashy campaign made Ikea relevant in North America.
David Deutsch retired in 1993 and switched gears to pursue the fine arts. He had one-man shows and exhibits, and won several awards for his work.
During the '90s, Donny Deutsch increased Deutsch Inc.'s billings tenfold, from $70 million in 1989 to $800 million in 1998, and opened offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. In 1998, it won the Mitsibushi Motor Sales of America account, worth $250 million – one of the reasons Ad Age awarded Deutsch the agency of the year honor in 1998.
In 2000, Deutsch was sold to Interpublic, its current owner. The senior Mr. Deutsch was known to walk the halls of the agency even after he turned over ownership.
"We are incredibly saddened by the passing of David Deutsch," said Linda Sawyer, Deutsch CEO North America, in a statement. "He was a remarkable man with tremendous talent and a big, caring heart. As the founder of Deutsch, we proudly stand on David's shoulders each and every day. We share Donny and his family's grief."