Stan Freberg, renowned advertising copywriter often referred to
as "the father of the funny commercial" and one of Ad Age's top 100
advertising people of the last century has died. He was 88.
The Grammy, Clio and Silver Lion award winner was born in 1926
in Pasadena, Calif., the only son of a Baptist minister. A
self-described lonely child, he spent long hours listening to Fred
Allen and Jack Benny on the radio and loved to perform comedy
routines for his pet rabbits. After graduating from high school in
1944, he began supplying voices for Warner Bros. Looney Tunes
cartoons. He was also the voice of the beaver in Walt Disney's "Lady
& the Tramp" in 1955 and appeared in several movies, including
"It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."
Stan Freberg on the cover of his Greatest Hits album.
In 1950, Mr. Freberg emerged as a comedy recording artist with a
Capitol record, "John & Marsha." He went on to parody many of
the cultural trends of the day with a satiric version of the song
"On Top of Old Smokey" in 1951, a send-up of crooner Johnny Ray's
overwrought ballad "Cry" in 1952 and even a parody of the infamous
U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy called "Point of Order." Probably his
most successful comic record was a satiric version of the police
In the summer of 1957, Mr. Freberg and his stock company of
performers starred in radio's final attempt to present a
full-scale, weekly comedy variety show, "The Stan Freberg Show." It
ran for 13 weeks and took deadly satiric aim at the advertising
As the creator of radio comedy shows and a recording artist, Mr.
Freberg had already made a name for himself when adman Howard Luck
Gossage persuaded him to start writing commercials in 1956. In
1957, Messrs. Gossage and Freberg, along with a third partner, J.
Joseph Weiner, formed Weiner & Gossage in San Francisco.
During the second half of the 20th century, Mr. Freberg
delivered many memorable campaigns and set the standard for humor
in advertising. His accounts included Chun King, Jeno's Pizza,
Sunsweet prunes ("Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles"),
Contadina tomato paste ("Who puts 8 great tomatoes in that little
bitty can? You know who. You know who. You know who"), and
The Sunsweet spot landed the No. 63 spot on Ad Age's Top 100
Advertising Campaigns of the Century list published in 1999.
That same year, Ad Age reported that the Museum of Television
& Radio honored his career with a seminar titled "Leapin'
Lizards! Stan Freberg Here" that was attended by his longtime
friend Ray Bradbury, who had appeared in another ad Mr. Freberg
created for Sunsweet.
Jeff Goodby, who wrote an essay for the booklet accompanying Mr.
Freberg's "Tip of the Freberg," called
the man a "martial arts master of advertising" and wrote that
"the brilliant ones, like Stan, realize that the mundaneness of
what must be conveyed [in an ad] can actually augment the humor
when it's placed in an unfamiliar context." (In a 1999 interview
with Creativity, Mr. Freberg said Goodby Silverstein's "Got Milk"
was the only current ad that he coveted.)
Mr. Freberg, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and
on The Dick Cavett Show, said that he was sidetracked into the
ad business from a successful career as a radio and TV satirist
because he disliked the way most advertisers attempted to
communicate with him as a consumer. In his book, "It Only Hurts
When I Laugh," he wrote: "If you don't like an ad, why should
anybody else? . . . We're all consumers. . . . That's why I always
create commercials for myself first of all. I am the consumer I
know best. If I think it's a great commercial, I figure the rest of
the people might think so, too. I haven't been wrong so far."