Needham Harper & Steers Chairman Paul Harper Dies

Exec Was Founder of DDB Predecessor Agency

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Paul C. Harper, Jr., former Chairman of Needham Harper Worldwide, died Dec. 7 of complications from pneumonia. He was 92 years old.

Mr. Harper is best known as a Mad Men-era agency executive who created a global agency, Needham, Harper & Steers, a predecessor to today's DDB Worldwide. He joined Needham, which would later become Needham Harper, as a copywriter in 1946. He moved up the ranks to become president of the agency in 1960.

Paul Harper
Paul Harper

During his reign, the agency produced a series of praised campaigns in the '70s and '80s, including McDonald's "You deserve a break today," "The night belongs to Michelob" for Anheuser-Busch and "We make it simple" for Honda.

Bill Bernbach said once said, "Paul Harper has dared to forecast the shape of things to come in the marketing and advertising world and he was mostly right."

Mr. Harper retired from the CEO post at Needham in 1984. Keith Reinhard, a star creative at the agency, succeeded Mr. Harper, put together a global network for Needham and renamed the agency Needham Harper Worldwide.

"Paul Harper was my mentor," said Mr. Reinhard, now chariman emeritus at DDB Worldwide. "He showed us that a successful leader can wear his mantle with quiet dignity and humility and that a creative organization runs best if it has a collective sense of pride and principle. But most of all, Paul taught us the importance of what he called 'Creative Fire,' which, in his words, 'makes our business different; so exciting, so unpredictable, but in the end so productive.'"

Mr. Harper later moved to Lyme, Conn., where he pursued in his retirement a lifelong passion for painting -- particularly landscape painting -- hiking and canoeing.

Mr. Harper was born in Coblenz, Germany, on December 16, 1920. His father and mother, Paul C. Harper and Anne-Lindsay White, were stationed there in the American occupation forces. His family later moved to Evanston, Ill., where Mr. Harper was raised. He graduated from Yale University in 1942 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving in Saipan and Iwo Jima as an artillery Captain in World War II, winning the bronze star.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Eleanor Emery Harper; his six children, Diana, Jessica, William, Lindsay, Charles and Sam; 14 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

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