& Porcelli, a steakhouse across from the DDB New York office, by 5 p.m. with the first round of Buds waiting. He would liven up a 4A's meeting with a spontaneous piano show.
"He was a strange, interesting mixture of what was sort of advertising in the '60s and '70s, when we would all go to lunch together" despite working at competing agencies, said Bob Kuperman, former chairman and CEO of DDB in New York.
Kaess' easy charm won over fans from the start of his DDB career. New York-based consultant Joanne Davis, who initially hired him there, said: "During the interview, he talked about having graduated from Vassar. I remember finding that amusing because he was [there when they first] began admitting men. I asked him why he picked Vassar as his college of choice, and he said, 'I'm no fool.'"
That casual humor informed many of his colleague's memories. DDB Worldwide chief creativity officer Bob Scarpelli said Kaess would always ask how he looked after giving a big presentation. Not "How'd I do?" but "Did I look OK?" A couple of weeks before Kaess passed on, Scarpelli met him in New York for a drink. Obviously, the disease, and fighting it, had taken its toll. Nevertheless, Ken was still able to put together a wry, "I look good, don't I?"
At that same meeting, Kaess asked Scarpelli, as he had others in recent weeks, if there was anyone he wanted him to take a hit out on. "What are they gonna do to me?" he joked.
Said Reinhard: "Even as he faced the end of his life, he was charming, charismatic and courageous. He didn't want any sadness, no pity parties. He asked that people [attending his funeral] come back to the house and have a party. He said he only had two regrets: One was not being able to watch [his children] Christopher and Courtney graduate from college, marry and go through their lives. The other was not being able to see how far he could have taken DDB."
Longtime IPG executive Stone Roberts, who joined DDB affiliate Roberts & Tarlow in part because of Kaess, thinks his legacy will be more humble. Asked about it last week, Roberts paused for a moment before saying simply, "He'll be remembered as one of the great, good guys of advertising."Omnicom CEO John Wren said he felt privileged to have developed a strong, personal relationship with Kaess over the past six months, as he handled his illness with "grace, charm and humor."
"He came to full grips with his situation and dealt with it in a very elegant way," he said. "He had a pretty clear view of what he needed to do, to focus on his family and his kids, and he pulled it off.
"I'm grateful to have traveled part of the journey with him, and I learned a lot doing so," Wren added. "About focus, about what's important—and what's not."