New Orleans Advertising Legend Peter Mayer Dies at 86

Creative icon founded eponymous agency in 1967

Peter Mayer, a longtime ad industry veteran and founder of the New Orleans agency bearing his name, passed away peacefully last week at the age of 86 surrounded by members of his family. His funeral service took place this morning.

Mayer's family fled Nazi Germany to settle in New Orleans in 1935 when he was only 6 years old, and he arrived speaking not a single word of English. After earning his degree from the Missouri School of Journalism and serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, he began a career as a reporter and transitioned into the agency world with roles at Fitzgerald Advertising and Walker Saussy Advertising.

Mayer then launched his own shop in 1967 with the help of former Walker Saussy creative director Dorothea "Dot" Cahn. Over the next four-plus decades, Peter Mayer became one of the largest such agencies in the state and, eventually, in the entire Gulf region. Its client portfolio has included the New Orleans Saints, CenturyLink, GE Capital, the Kennedy Space Center, the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, Zatarain's and the National WWII Museum.

"He looked forward to three things every day: where to have lunch, whom to have lunch with and what to order," said Mayer's son Mark. For 40 years, he regularly ate breakfast at the Commerce Restaurant in New Orleans' Central Business District and sat in a director's chair on Camp Street smoking his signature cigar after lunch. Others remember him as a man with a fondness for unusual hats and (slightly) exaggerated stories regarding his own exotic travels and fishing exploits.

Mayer, who was awarded the New Orleans Ad Club's Silver Medal Award in 1982 and inducted into the Louisiana Broadcasters Hall of Game in 1994, contributed his time to various local causes and organizations like the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Friends and colleagues say he made a point of taking time out to encourage young people who aspired to enter the ad industry.

Peter Mayer was married twice, first to Tamara Bernstein Mayer, then to Linda Bailey Mayer. He is survived by his wife, Linda, three children and eight grandchildren.

His sons Mark and Josh currently run the agency he founded nearly 50 years ago, serving as its president and chief creative officer.