Neil Drossman, who brought cheeky wit and a tireless work ethic to the award-winning print ads and television commercials he wrote for clients such as Meow Mix cat food, Teacher's Scotch whiskey and 1-800-Flowers, died Nov. 25 in the Bronx. He was 83 years old.
His son, Edward, said he died of prostate cancer in a hospital.
From the late 1960s until this year, Drossman was a copywriter and executive at several agencies, some run by the advertising guru. Jerry Della Femina and some he helped manage himself.
“He was one of the smartest people I know, very low-key and had a passion,” Della Femina, who hired Drossman at Della Femina, Travisano & Partners in the early 1970s, said in a telephone interview. “He really wanted to of win”.
One of the most enduring lines Drossman wrote was for Meow Mix: “It tastes so good the cats ask for it by name.” That came at the end of Advertisements in which cats seemed to sing. (“Meow meow meow meow / Meow meow meow meow”) for its chicken and seafood.
For Stick Ups, small deodorizing discs made by Air Wick that could be stuck anywhere in the house, he wrote ads that had the punchline. “This is a good place for a heist.”
For a print ad for 1-800-Flowers, Drossman wrote: “There are 800 reasons to send flowers. The fault lies with 700 of them.”
And for Chemical Bank, to send the message that each of its branches served its neighborhood differently, he wrote: “Flatbush is not Flushing.” The line that followed – “Flatbush is the ghost of Ebbets Field and Jackie Robinson robbing a house” – was personal: It harked back to his upbringing in Brooklyn, his love of the Dodgers and his anger at their move to Los Angeles when I was a teenager.
Paul Kruger, creative director and partner at Della Femina Advertising, where Drossman worked until recently, described him as tireless.
“He was an idea machine,” Kruger said. “He would spit out line after line after line and come up with new things. He said, 'One more thought, one more thought.'”
In 1973 and 1974, Drossman wrote full-page testimonials for Teacher's Scotch in the voices of celebrities such as Groucho MarxGeorge Burns and Mel Brooks. Brooks' ad was written as an interview with the character Mr. Brooks, the 2000 Year Old Man.
“Sir, when was Scotch whiskey discovered?”
“It was during the Ice Age. We had so many tons of ice that we didn't know what to do. “So we made drinks, all kinds of drinks.”
The Teacher campaign earned Della Femina, Travisano a Clio Award for creative excellence in advertising. It also earned Mr. Drossman a writing award from what is now the One Club for Creativity.
Drossman and his colleagues won Clio Awards in 1980 for three campaigns: Air Wick Stick Ups, Meow Mix, and the Einstein Moomjy rug store. His Emery Air Freight ads (“It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your package is?”) won a One Club award in 1978.
Neil Arthur Drossman was born on February 26, 1940 in Brooklyn. His father, Edward, owned a jewelry store. Her mother, Anne (Rosenberg) Drossman, worked at the store and took over after her husband died in 1971.
After graduating from Alfred University in upstate New York with a bachelor's degree in English in 1961, Drossman worked at CBS News before beginning his advertising career. Agencies he worked for included Daniel & Charles, Delehanty Kurnit & Geller and Kurtz, Kambanis & Symon.
Della Femina recalled her reaction to seeing the ads Drossman had written for other agencies. “You look at an ad and say, 'I wish I had done that,'” she said. “His portfolio was full of ads like that.”
After working at Della Femina, Travisano and a subsidiary, Drossman Yustein Clowes, for about a dozen years, Mr. Drossman formed Drossman Lehmann Marino Reveley in 1983. In 1994, he joined Ryan & Partners as an equity partner and the agency became Ryan. Drossman and partners. In 2002, he and art director Bob Needleman founded Needleman Drossman & Partners, which became a division of Della Femina Advertising.
When Reader's Digest hired Needleman Drossman in 2003 to refresh its image, Drossman pushed that venerable publication into slightly risque territory. One of the campaign ads showed a woman in a bathrobe holding a copy of the magazine and looking at the camera.
“If we got closer to our readers,” the headline said, “we would have to use protection.”
Drossman, then president and co-creative director of his agency, said the goal of the campaign was “to make people think twice about the Digest.”
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, Ellen (Danor) Drossman; his daughter, Jill Drossman; his sister, Phyllis Bulhack; and three grandchildren. He lived in Manhattan.
Not all of Mr. Drossman's writing was humorous. In 2008, a commercial touting Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey for being among the top 50 hospitals in the United States showed a boy playing alone with a glove and a baseball.
“If all hospitals worked as well” the narrator says, “Hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved. Who knows, maybe Finn wouldn't be alone now. He maybe he would be playing with his grandfather.
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