Very few things have any real staying power in the turbulent ad agency world. But for more than 35 years, Doug Pippin’s name was a constant at Saatchi & Saatchi New York.
The copywriter and creative director’s tenure at the legendary Publicis shop is unheard of in today’s industry. But it’s only one of many reasons that his unexpected passing last month led to an outpouring of remembrances and tributes for a man Adweek once called “Saatchi’s guiding light.”
“He was frankly brilliant and brittle and a genius writer,” said longtime colleague and agency owner Tom Cotton, who entered the industry alongside Pippin back in 1979 at the late agency Geer duBois. “We came here clueless and broke. I didn’t know a soul,” Cotton said. “I started on day one next to this copywriter guy who had two years’ experience at a little Boston agency called McDougal, so I thought, this guy’s a veteran!”
Pippin later left Geer after clashing with its CEO but “quickly surfaced at what was then Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, which ended up becoming [part of] Saatchi & Saatchi,” said Cotton. “And he never left. There was no problem he couldn’t crack.”
During his three and a half decades with the Saatchi & Saatchi organization, Pippin created ads for clients ranging from CPG giants like P&G to financial institutions like Chase. He may be best-known for his work on the International Olympic Committee’s extended “Celebrate Humanity” campaign, for which he shared credit with other members of the Saatchi & Saatchi team.
“The happiest and proudest I’ve ever seen Doug was at the 2004 torch relay at the Olympic Games,” said Saatchi & Saatchi producer and longtime Pippin partner Jerry Boyle. “They wanted him to carry the torch [down Manhattan’s Upper West Side] since he was the global creative director on the account. He finishes his leg, passes the flame on … and for the next 20 minutes he was an absolute celebrity. He had complete strangers coming up to him as he was kissing babies and showing young kids how the torch works. The pride he had in that moment was just incredible.”
As he passed John Lennon’s former home at the Dakotas on Central Park West, he made a point of flashing the peace sign.
Pippin also famously led a 2006 Ameriprise campaign starring cinema icon Dennis Hopper, who was then nearing the end of a long and storied career. Interestingly, the writer bonded with Hopper during the shoot and ended up performing the voice over work on the campaign as well.
“When he wrote something, he was the one who was going to promote the script,” said Boyle. “On Ameriprise, we went to hire a VO actor and the client said no, we want Doug.” He continued: “That’s what keeps him alive to me as I pored over his work over the past week. I keep hearing him, and it’s like he’s still here.”
Pippin’s former colleagues also said he played a key role in mentoring younger creative talent as they moved up within the Saatchi & Saatchi organization, and Boyle told Adweek that he briefed a young creative team on the very day of his passing.
“To say that Doug saved my ass more than once is an understatement,” wrote EP + Co. president and CCO Con Williamson in a Facebook post celebrating his former manager. “Heck, even as recently as last week, I stood looking at a wall of ideas that just weren’t quite right and asked myself … ‘What would Pippin do?'”
In another post, Saatchi & Saatchi New York svp, global account director Nick Miaritis recalled the first time he met Pippin in a professional setting. “I remember back when I was 22 and had my first meeting with him on the Olympics. In a meeting where the average age was around 27, Doug stood out as the adult in the room,” Miaritis wrote. “As he spoke, everyone just had to sit back, be quiet and watch as a true professional did his thing—every word mattered and you could tell he truly loved what he was sharing.”
Saatchi & Saatchi CCO Javier Campopiano called him “a writer’s writer,” describing the aforementioned Olympics campaign as “some of the most beautiful copy I’ve ever read.”
“Doug was the finest wordsmith I ever worked with. So prolific that many thought it came easily to him. At that time, it did not. He wouldn’t let it be easy,” said friend and colleague John Sullivan at a memorial ceremony for Pippin last weekend. “Not one to rest on his laurels, he never put his work above examination, spending hours refining a phrase or looking for a better one. And those who would compromise his work faced that daunting, baleful stare.”
Campopiano added, “Pippin, as he was usually called, was an outstanding example of how you can be a great creative and also a great, humble and sweet man. After attending his beautiful and moving memorial ceremony this past weekend, I am certain that Doug’s most amazing skills were as a father, a husband and a friend.”
Doug Pippin passed away at the age of 66.