Eulogy For A Copywriter


Over the weekend I was informed by AdScam's George Parker that his friend and long time copywriter Curvin O'Reilly had passed away after a short bout with cancer. Who was Curvin O'Reilly? I didn't know the man but George did so please read what he had to say about this man who, it appears, embodied the reality of our current day fantasies of the Mad Men era.

In addition to George's thoughtful words, Tom Messner wrote a beautiful eulogy he shared with a few of us over the weekend.

Eulogy for a Copywriter

The late Curvin O'Rielly was a restless soul in a restless business.
He worked at startups (Ammiratti, Puris, AvRutick for one and his own agency for another).

He worked at near start-ups (Hal Riney and Partners and Messner Vetere Berger Carey Schmetterer).

He worked at humongous agencies (Y&R, McCann, Ogilvy) and minuscule ones (his own and Ammiratti at the time).

He worked in the Midwest (Ogilvy and Fallon), the Far West (Riney), the Upper Northwest,and Madison Avenue , Lexington Avenue (McCann), and Sixth Avenue (BBDO). He missed toiling on Ninth Avenue as he left Ally before the moving vans went West from 437 Madison.

He was the direct inheritor of the virtues and foibles of David Ogilvy, Carl Ally, Hal Riney, Martin Puris, Amil Gargano--five successful creators of brands who came at tasks differently, but equally successfully. He knew their thinking and approaches not from their books or speeches or articles, but from their living, breathing personas because he worked closely with all of them. And contributed to their reputations substantively.

If you agree with me that automotive ad/marketing requires the deepest concentration and perhaps the most mature skills, Curvin displayed such concentration and skill for the launch of two automotive brands (BMW and Saturn) and the re-launch of another (SAAB) and he could slide from that kind of empirical heady persuasion to the shimmering constructs of Jell-O.

He was not a mere executor and not a mere strategist. The one time I was lucky enough to hire him for a series of difficult tasks, I told him it was because I wanted him to be both Bernbach and McKinsey, a worthy objective if an impossible one.

At the very beginning of Internet marketing, he worked on what was arguably (an argument continued most recently in Advertising Age) the first integrated print-TV-internet advertising campaign.

He was a friend who never tired of political arguments or literary discussions. He had a quaint infatuation with Liberal politics that was not tempered by his reading of Dostoevski on Kindle. Last time I saw him he had driven down from Saratoga and, because I mentioned that Saratoga water was my favorite sparkling water (an addiction), he dropped off a case of Saratoga at my front door, direct from the plant or the springs. We went to lunch and he told me (31 years after he worked on the account) what SAAB could do in 2011 to improve its market share and extend its viability. He clearly was a true believer far more than I could ever muster.

The only mistake we made simultaneously was in 1986 when his restlessness and my stubborness caused him to withdraw from our partnership before incorporation, business cards, agency Christmas parties.

Curvin, requiescat in pace. But let's hope no end to the restless spirit.

by Steve Hall    Aug- 6-12   Click to Comment   
Topic: Agencies