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Len Sirowitz, whose bold, offbeat ads captured an era, dies at 91

Len Sirowitz, an award-winning advertising art director whose creative work in the 1960s included memorable print ads for the Volkswagen Beetle—like one that declared, “Ugly is only in appearance”—and a campaign for Mobil in which a car was dropped off. a 10-story building intended to highlight the dangers of excessive speed, died March 4 at his home in Manhattan. He was 91 years old.

His daughter, Laura Sirowitz, confirmed the death.

Mr. Sirowitz joined the influential Doyle Dane Bernbach advertising agency, known as DDB, in 1959, at the age of 27, and spent the next 11 years with the company wittily designing and passion the appearance of ads for many accounts.

It was quite early in my career that I began to realize that my message not only had to be bold, but it also had to come from the truth…and touch people's emotions,” he told Dave Dye, who runs the advertising blog. From the atticin 2015.

Volkswagen was perhaps Mr. Sirowitz's most important story, and the simple Beetle, nicknamed the “Bug,” was his and the editor Robert Levenson's automotive muse. Their collaborations for the German automaker included the “Will We Ever Kill the Bug?” » in which they positioned a Beetle turned over on its roof, like a dead insect. The answer to the question: “Never.” (However, after a few shots of the car, its roof collapsed.)

The two men also designed an ad showing a motley Beetle made up of green and beige wings, a blue hood and a turquoise door, cobbled together from models between 1958 and 1964. The ad highlighted the ease with which owners could find parts.

For Sara Lee, Mr. Sirowitz and Mr. Levenson created a television commercial in which people faced inconveniences like haircuts and traffic jams, then consoled themselves with a piece of the company's pie, introducing a jingle which will soon become enduring: “Not everyone likes something / But no one likes Sara Lee.”

For Mobil's public service newspaper and television advertisements on road safety, Mr. Sirowitz illustrated how a collision at 60 miles per hour would have the same impact as a car falling 10 stories. “And it will take you to exactly the same place: the morgue,” the narrator said.

Another television commercial for Mobil showed a couple canoodling in a car while the man drove into the blinding lights of oncoming traffic, ultimately leading to an accident. A narrator states: “At Mobil, we sell gasoline and oil. We are in favor of leading and loving, but not at the same time.

And for the Better Vision Institute, an association of lens and frame manufacturers, Mr. Sirowitz ran dozens of promotions that appeared in Life magazine, persuading people to get their eyes checked more often. One particularly dramatic ad ran entirely in black with copy of Leon Meadows saying, “This is what yellow daisies in a green pasture against a blue sky look like to many Americans.” »

Another Mr. Sirowitz advertisement for the Better Vision Institute, many of which appeared in Life magazine. He has been praised for his creativity and innovation in such campaigns.Credit…Doyle Dane Bernbach for the Better Vision Institute

Bob Isherwood, former global creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, called Mr. Sirowitz a “hero creative director” for his flow of fresh ideas and different approaches.

“It was just an idea that he put on the page,” he said in a telephone interview. “When you see ads like that, you think, 'Oh, my God, I wish I did that.'”

Leonard Sirowitz was born June 25, 1932 in Brooklyn. Her father, Abraham Sirowitz, immigrated from Ukraine in 1905 and worked in various jobs, including taxi driver and jewelry polisher. His mother, Sadie (Schoenwetter) Sirowitz, ran the household.

Len Sirowitz in 1985. He was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame that same year, his work being described as “intelligent and humane.”Credit…via the Sirowitz family

Mr. Sirowitz's passion for drawing led him to study at the age of 12 at the Art Students League of New York in Manhattan and, two years later, to be admitted to the High School of Music and Art (now Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Arts and Performing Arts). There he met his future wife, Myrna Florman, a music student known as Mickey, when he was 17 and she was 14.

Mr. Sirowitz is a 1953 graduate of Pratt Institute, where he received a bachelor's degree in advertising. He spent the next two years in the Army, primarily at Fort Dix in New Jersey, and married Miss Florman while serving in January 1955. She survives him, as does his daughter; a son, Michael; and a grandson.

After his discharge from the Army, Mr. Sirowitz worked for the LW Frohlich pharmaceutical advertising agency as well as Gray Advertising, CBS and Channel 13, New York's public television station.

In addition to working for DDB's commercial clients like Sony, where Mr. Sirowitz created a fanciful campaign based on the portability of his four-inch-wide television, he also became involved in political causes as a volunteer.

In 1965, a full-page newspaper ad for the National Committee for a Sound Nuclear Policy showed a cockroach on a white background with the headline: “The Winner of World War III.”

Another ad from 1968, for the Coalition for a Democratic Alternative, bore, in giant letters, the headline “For What?” Below, a text by editor Dave Reider described the despair of the Vietnam War, demanded that President Lyndon B. Johnson resign, and argued for Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Mr. Sirowitz was senior vice president and associate creative director of DDB when he left in 1970 to start his own agency, Harper Rosenfeld Sirowitz as co-president and co-creative director. (He was reappointed several times over the years.) By that time, he had been voted art director of the year for 1968 and 1970 in national polls conducted by Ad Weekly. He was inducted into Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1985.

His agency's clients included Swissair, McDonald's, Smith Corona and Royal Caribbean Cruises. Yet in 1995 the company closed after losing several accounts, and Mr. Sirowitz joins the Ryan Drossman & Partners agency as vice-president.

He soon retired and returned to the Art Students League, where he drew large-format charcoal nude portraits four days a week.

“I strive for bold, dramatic interpretations of the model's pose, drawn with quick, spontaneous lines, and most importantly, it must be part of a strong, well-crafted composition,” he said in the institution's magazine. League Linesin its 2012-13 issue.

His compositional style was clearly evident in his advertising campaigns, including one in 1991 for America West Airlines, in which he cast the improv comedian Jonathan Winters – looking tough and wearing camouflage – in a parody of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who had recently commanded American troops in the Gulf War.

THE announcement declared“Announcing Air Superiority for Civilians” and offered discounted airfares of up to 40 percent.

The campaign, however, was chastised by the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization for being in poor taste, and America West soon after filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“To me, a good ad should make your palms sweat,” Mr. Sirowitz told The Associated Press. “America West is the smallest of the major airlines. We wanted to do the kind of publicity that would put them on the map in one fell swoop.

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