DDB Creative Pioneer Levenson Dies at 83

Known for his ads for VW, El Al, Sara Lee

Bob Levenson, a leading Doyle Dane Bernbach star during the industry’s creative revolution in the 1960s, died Wednesday at his Manhattan home. Known for writing legendary ads for marketers like Volkswagen, El Al and Sara Lee, he was 83 and died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Levenson started as a copywriter at DDB in 1959 and was affiliated with the agency for more than 25 years, eventually becoming its creative director in 1970. His work for VW played off the Beetle's small size, with tag lines like “It makes your house look bigger.” For Sara Lee, he penned the words to the ad jingle “Everybody doesn’t like something but nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.”

He was known for his informal, smart populist style. In a New York Times obituary, Dominik Imseng, a Swiss copywriter and author whose 2011 book “Think Small” focuses on the history of DDB’s VW campaign said of Levenson: “He called it a ‘Gertrude Steiny’ way of writing: very crisp and to the point.” While Levenson did not create the campaign, he worked on later versions of it.

In a DDB blog post, agency chairman emeritus Keith Reinhard underscored Levenson’s close ties to the agency, saying that when DDB co-founder Bill Bernbach died in 1982, his family asked Levenson to deliver Bernbach’s eulogy at the United Nations Chapel in N.Y.  (Levenson was also the author of the DDB retrospective book: “A History of Advertising that Changed the History of Advertising.”)

After leaving DDB in 1985, Levenson held top positions at Saatchi & Saatchi and at Scali, McCabe, Sloves.