Chris Wall, a 35-year veteran of the advertising industry who spent the past two decades with Ogilvy & Mather, died Tuesday night after a brief battle with cancer. He was 61.
“Chris Wall died last night, and all of us who loved him are hurting beyond belief,” wrote his longtime creative partner and Ogilvy executive creative director Susan Westre in a note that was shared by colleagues and friends on Facebook today. “It’s unbearable that he is no longer with us.”
Wall most recently served as vice chairman of Ogilvy North America, overseeing the WPP network’s creative work across the continent while reporting directly to global chairman John Seifert.
Wall had worked at Ogilvy since 1996, joining as executive creative director following a year at Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam. At Ogilvy, he worked his way up from ecd to vice chairman of creative at Ogilvy New York, and in 2009, to vice chairman of creative at Ogilvy North America, succeeding David Apicella.
Before Ogilvy and his stint at W+K, Wall spent almost a decade at BBDO, which he joined in 1987 as a writer on the Apple account. Wall and his art director partner Westre, whom he met at an agency prior to working at BBDO, and their boss, Steve Hayden—the writer of “1984” at TBWA\Chiat\Day—all ended up at Ogilvy in the end.
Wall was best known for his work on computer and tech accounts throughout his career. Following his experience on Apple at BBDO, he worked on the Microsoft business at W+K, and then, most famously, on the IBM account at Ogilvy.
Apple’s longtime nemesis, IBM had its own creative renaissance in the 1990s and 2000s, thanks to Ogilvy’s advertising.
“We took a brand that was written off for dead, that had no new products, and helped make it relevant and fresh—part of the future instead of part of the past,” Wall told Adweek in 2002 of his work on IBM. “What more can you expect advertising to do?”
In the early years on the account, he said, the biggest challenge was “convincing the client to let the creative people do what they’re hired to do [and] convincing the creative people to accept responsibility for the results.”
Wall also created campaigns for brands including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, American Express, Volvo and Ford during his storied tenure in the ad industry. He received hundreds of awards from every major industry trade show including Cannes Lions, the Clios and The One Show, among others, earning Grand Effies for both Apple and IBM.
Outside of his day job as a copywriter, Wall’s writing was published in various industry journals, and he lectured at MIT, Columbia Business School and NYU’s Stern School of Business. He lived in Chicago.
An Ogilvy spokesperson declined to comment on Wall’s death, but colleagues shared remembrances of his life on social media today.
Several parties confirmed to Adweek that news of Wall’s death went out via an all-staff memo this morning.