Former Lever Bros. Advertising Chief Dies at Age 88

Sam Thurm Helped Bring Minority Actors Into Major Ad Campaigns

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WASHINGTON ( -- Sam Thurm, a former VP-advertising for Lever Bros. who served on the board of three major advertising associations, died Monday in Princeton, N.J., after a long illness. He was 88.
Sam Thurm
Sam Thurm

Mr. Thurm's infamous quote about advertising -- "With no ads, who would pay for the media? The good fairy?" -- is still often cited in advertising books and discussions. Hailing Mr. Thurm's retirement in July of 1985, former New York Times advertising columnist Philip H. Dougherty stated the executive "as much as any man, deserves the title Mr. Advertiser."

Changed face of TV commercials
Mr. Thurm came to Lever Bros. after a decade at Young & Rubicam and stayed 17 years, becoming VP-advertising and literally changing the face of the company and the country's TV commercials. Under his direction, in August 1963, Lever Bros. solicited ideas from its agencies on how to more effectively use African-Americans and other minorities in its advertising and became one of the first major advertisers to run commercials featuring minorities. One commercial Lever ran from BBDO for Wisk detergent showed two boys -- one white and the other black -- playing baseball. Lever said at the time the move was "good business."

While at Lever, Mr. Thurm began serving on industry associations, becoming chairman of the board of the American Advertising Federation, chairman of the Advertising Research Foundation and vice chairman of the Advertising Council.

After retiring from Lever in 1973, he became senior VP of the Association of National Advertisers, a role that effectively made him marketers' Washington lobbyist. He held that post until his retirement to Florida in 1985. Living in Boca Raton, he taught advertising at Florida Atlantic University for 15 years.

A memorial service is planned for Mr. Thurm, who is survived by two sons and his second wife, Arlene.
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