Michael G. Turner, Once Head of Ogilvy's Southern Operations, Dies at 87

Expanded Office From Houston Outpost to Regional Network

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Michael G. Turner, longtime member of Ogilvy & Mather's board and exec VP-director of Southern Operations, died July 12.

Mr. Turner epitomized the qualities David Ogilvy said he valued in managers: "people with guts under pressure, resilience in adversity, imagination, curiosity, grace, human kindness and intellectual honesty."

Mr. Turner was a cunning wooer of new business. To pitch an interstate bus line, he had interns ride buses for weeks, interviewing riders about how they came to be on the bus. He then had their findings summarized into a wall-size decision tree with details as small as how many people chose the bus over hitch-hiking. While Mr. Turner was presenting it, the client interrupted and asked, "Will we get copies of this to take with us?" Mr. Turner simply said, "No," and turned back to the chart. Ogilvy won the account.

He valiantly pitched a tech startup called Gateway Technologies in spite of the fact that the client wouldn't reveal what their product was going to be. Ogilvy won that account, and the company changed its name to Compaq.

Mr. Turner began at the Ogilvy office in Houston in 1970 -- he'd been recruited there by Jock Elliott. Prior to working at Ogilvy, he worked for Benton & Bowles in both New York and London. Under Mr. Turner's supervision, the Houston office grew to be the city's largest agency, then expanded into Ogilvy's Southern Operations with offices in Dallas and Atlanta. Mr. Turner also served briefly as creative director of Ogilvy's Washington, D.C. office. He retired from Ogilvy in 1985.

Mr. Turner enjoyed telling the story of having his name legally changed. He was born Merton Turner. As he was preparing to go off to World War II, his mother told him, "For you to go into the Navy with the name Merton wouldn't be good." So he became Michael Turner before serving on a carrier in the Pacific and suffered only minor abuse when his middle name, Griswold, was revealed at a mail call.

A co-worker who eulogized him said that Mr. Turner belonged to the aristocracy that E. M. Forster described: "Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. …They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke."

Graham Phillips, former chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, said, "The world could do with more Mike Turners, it would be a far better place than it is now."

Michael Turner is survived by his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth; six children; 13 grandchildren; and one great-grandson. A memorial service will be held in Bay Head, N.J., on Saturday , Sept. 8, 2012 at All Saints Episcopal Church.

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