Famous Names in Advertising: Not Who You’d Expect

The ad world attracts some interesting people, and no wonder. The level of creativity required to come up with a unique idea that stands out in a sea of unique ideas is sky high. While you may be familiar with some of the big names in the history of the biz, like guru David Ogilvy, or founder of modern advertising David Lasker, some of the famous names that have worked in advertising may surprise you.

Herschell Gordon Lewis, for example. While he may not be a household name, he’s well-known to horror movie fans and cult film buffs as the father of “the splatter film.” Also known as the “Godfather of Gore,” Lewis started producing and directing low-budget films in the ’60s, such as Two Thousand Maniacs. Lewis recouped his minimal investments in spades, cashing in on the movies’ drive-in popularity and the burgeoning interest in horror movies.

Lewis was a master of marketing, and no wonder. He started out as an adman, working for an agency and teaching graduate courses in advertising at night. He then moved on to directing commercials for Alexander and Associates before he turned to film directing. Despite his notoriety as a filmmaker, Lewis still cranks out the books on marketing and also teaches seminars. He has a new film planned for 2009.

Comedian and TV star Bob Newhart also started in advertising, working as a copywriter for independent film and TV producer Fred Niles in Chicago in 1959. Newhart and one of his co-workers entertained each other with humorous phone calls, which became the basis of his audition tapes and helped develop the schtick that would later make him famous.

Other funny men have also worked in advertising, such as Stan Freberg, who voiced a multitude of Warner Bros. characters, and Don Novello, who worked in Chicago as a copywriter for Leo Burnett before donning priestly garments as Saturday Night Live’s Father Guido Sarducci. Terry Gilliam, the filmmaker and Monty Python cast member responsible for the comedy troupe’s bizarre animations, worked at an advertising agency when he was fresh out of college.

Actors who have worked in advertising before becoming famous names include Sir Alec Guinness, who wrote copy before making his stage debut, and Rick Moranis of Ghostbusters and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids fame. Pretty in Pink director John Hughes also started as an ad man.

It’s not just funny guys and filmmakers who worked in the advertising world. Some of the greatest literary writers have also written ad copy, most notably F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby (and the man who coined the term “The Jazz Age.) Mystery writers Dorothy L. Sayers and Dashiell Hammet (The Thin Man) also worked in the ad biz, Ms. Sayers using it as the subject of one of her acclaimed ’30s novels, Murder Must Advertise.

If you find it surprising that advertising attracts so many brilliant minds, Oozil doesn’t. That’s why the site was created: to bring together today’s best creative workers. Whether you seek the next great literary mind, a forward-thinking filmmaker, or a comic genius who can turn out witty phrases, Oozil is the meeting place.

Find the next big thing at Oozil –even before it’s the next big thing.

By Elizabeth Kelly

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