Former TBWA\C\D Creative Hayes Dies

During his 18 years at TBWA\Chiat\Day, art director Geoff Hayes helped create Absolut Vodka’s iconic bottle campaign, one of the agency’s most famous and long-running. According to friends, Hayes, 57, took his own life two weeks ago in his New York City apartment.

In 1980, the South Africa native and his copywriter partner Graham Turner, now ecd at Young & Rubicam’s Brand Buzz, created the first ad that kicked off the campaign, a stark print ad featuring the bottle against a black background with a halo hovering above it, with the headline, “Absolut Perfection.” The award-winning campaign made the bottle the star and the Swedish vodka a top seller.

“He was a wonderful character,” said Turner, who worked with him for more than decade. “He was very bright and inventive. We just had a great time together.”

Hayes told Adweek in 1998 that his Absolut ad was inspired by The Honeymooners. He drew a prototype while watching the TV classic. “I’m now convinced it was the ‘man in the moon’ logo that inspired the ad,” he said at the time. His original line, “Absolutely perfect,” was tweaked by Turner to read, “Absolut perfection.”

“There was a visual smartness to it,” said Turner of their Absolut work. “What we did together was interesting. It just came easy. It was always good fun.”

Turner first partnered with Hayes at Y&R in London in 1976. As a team they moved to Euro Advertising a couple of years later and were recruited to New York by TBWA in 1979. The pair stayed at TBWA until 1984, when they returned to London to work at JWT. Hayes returned to TBWA in 1993, and Turner returned to New York later to join Chiat/Day. In 1998, Hayes left the agency to return to South Africa.

Former TBWA head of business development John Doman said Hayes was “a very intense, sensitive, giving person. He was very dedicated to his work.”

Hayes is survived by his sister Barbara and his nephew Merrick; both reside in South Africa. Memorial services were not finalized at press time.