One of the first e-mails I received this morning included a link to an obituary for Bill Backer. As I read the story, I was sad for his passing. I felt that one of my last links to an era of
I first met Backer and Billy Davis (music director for McCann) as I was writing the history of Coke’s iconic 1971 “Hilltop” ad for the Library of Congress as we prepared to donate all our advertising to that organization. Between my conversations with the two men, I felt that I earned a Master’s degree in advertising. They explained not only how the finished ads were produced, but also the “why” and the strategy behind them. Mixed in were a number of fascinating and often hilarious stories. I’ve worn out my copy of Backer’s book, The Care and Feeding of Ideas.
When Davis died in 2004, the first of my advertising mentors was gone, but I still kept in touch with Backer. I was fortunate when he agreed to let me conduct an oral history a few years later. I traveled to his farm in The Plains, Va., and we did a six-hour interview about his time in the advertising field and his work for both
One of my favorite Backer stories was when he discussed Deloney Sledge, Coke’s longtime advertising head. Backer relayed the tale of showing Sledge a description of the taste of
I knew the punchline because Backer included it in his book, but to hear him tell me the story in the soft, Southern drawl he never lost was priceless.
The advertising industry lost one of its giants. The
Ted Ryan is director of heritage communications at The
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