NEW YORK Paul Tilley, the 40-year-old creative chief of Omnicom Group’s DDB in Chicago, died Friday, an apparent suicide. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, an ambulance was called to that city’s Fairmont Hotel around 6:25 p.m. Friday following reports that someone had fallen from the building.
On Sunday, the Cook County Medical examiner confirmed the identity of the deceased as Paul Tilley and said the death has been ruled a suicide. A Chicago Police spokesman said Tilley’s case remains “under investigation.”
Tilley was in the agency’s offices early last week meeting with clients and appeared to be conducting business as usual; on Wednesday he was in New Orleans presenting work to State Farm, sources said. His whereabouts on Thursday and Friday were unclear, but he may have been out of the office for business-related reasons, per sources.
“The DDB Chicago family is in mourning over the loss of our dear friend, Paul Tilley,” the shop said in a statement. “He was a leader, a mentor, an inspiration. He was talented, charismatic and truly one of the good guys. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and two daughters, as well as each other during this shocking and difficult time.”
In an internal memo issued Saturday, DDB Chicago CEO Rick Carpenter addressed the tragedy: “It is with great sorrow that I write to you this weekend. But I wanted you to hear this difficult news from me first…The reality of this news is difficult to comprehend. It is such loss for DDB, but also for our industry, our community, and certainly for his family and all who loved him. Paul was a mentor to many, a friend to all. His ability to lead, inspire, and yes, entertain will be so greatly missed.”
Tilley, evp, managing director of creative at DDB’s largest U.S. office, had worked there for 11 years. He was promoted to the top creative post in late 2006, overseeing clients such as Anheuser-Busch, Capital One, Cars.com, Johnson & Johnson, LensCrafters, McDonald’s, Midas, OfficeMax, Safeway, State Farm, The Chicago Tribune and Wrigley. Tilley had earlier worked as a cd at JWT in Chicago on Kraft, Oscar Mayer and McDonnell-Douglas. As a writer and creative exec, he won numerous industry awards, including Addys, Clios and a Gold Effie.
Tilley joined DDB Needham in 1997 as an acd, working on General Mills and Budweiser. He is credited with helping the agency win new business from Qwest, the Illinois Lottery, Dell and Alltel.
He rose through the ranks to group cd and worked on the “Dude, you’re getting a Dell” campaign that helped the computer maker climb from fourth in the industry to No. 1 in home PC sales. In 2004, Tilley was named the creative leader on the McDonald’s business and co-developed the “I’m lovin’ it” campaign. Buoyed by those efforts, McDonald’s reached its highest sales in 30 years, according to DDB, and won its first Cannes Lions.
“I’ve spent 18 years as a writer. I grew to appreciate the craft of copywriting and what made for good writing,” Tilley told Adweek in October 2006. “But I fairly quickly rose into creative management because as good a writer as I was, I really enjoyed demonstrating to a client that you were solving a problem, not just coming up with a “creative idea.” No client wants to think they’re just funding your entertainment schemes. The root word of commercial is commerce, which clients care about a lot…I really see my job as seeing the best idea in the room and figuring out a way to make the client understand what’s great about it.”
A native Texan, Tilley found his way to Chicago via Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His first job in advertising was writing copy on Bissell carpet shampoo bottles, but within two years, he was working on TV spots.
Details about services for Tilley were not available at midday on Sunday.