Among those lost in the recent wave of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the motives lies behind what many consider to be the most iconic and influential ad in the history of advertising.
Harvey Gabor, the art director behind McCann’s 1971 “I Want To Buy The World A Coke” ad for Coca-Cola, also known as “Hilltop,” recently died of coronavirus, pneumonia and internal bleeding after being hospitalized last month, according to a Facebook – Contribution of his wife Barbara. He was 86 years old.
The creative chairman of Deutsch LA, Pete Favat, described the cult advertisement as “the most important advertising medium of all time”. He also noticed its cultural significance after the attacks, violence and turmoil in the late 1960s.
“It was horrible during that time, and then comes this ‘I want to buy the world a Coke and teach the world to sing’ commercial. He had such a profound influence on culture and reminded us that we can’t just be human? ‘”Favat said to Adweek.
In 2015, “Hilltop” gained another cultural significance with the finale of Mad Men.
Get off the hill
After years with McCann, Gabor moved to Wells, Rich and Greene as Art Director before moving to Ogilvy as Creative Director. After around 20 years in New York, he moved to Boston to join Ingalls Quinn & Johnson as Creative Director. At IQJ, Favat worked under Gabor from 1987.
“He didn’t have any rules, as you think, but I learned the difference between an ad and an idea from him. He was really looking for an idea and no one before him really made that clear, ”said Favat. “When you cracked him, you knew you did something.”
Favat remembered Gabor’s nervous energy. Gabor had a penchant for biting his nails and cuticles, which sometimes caused bleeding on the side. Ultimately, Gabor’s enduring trait was his ability to gently deliver sharp criticism.
“He had that [habit] to put his hand on the side of his head but with his hand bent back. It would spin and lie on the side of his brain, ”said Favat. “While you are presenting to him, he would do that. And he would just mumble to himself. He once said to me, “Well, I don’t know if you could think smaller.”
While leaving the office frustrated in such situations, Favat always found that Gabor’s feedback improved the subject.
“I would leave his office and be mad at myself. And then, a week or two later, I would be back in his office and he would say, “You’re a champion, you’re a bloody champion,” he said, adding, “He seldom would, but if he did did it you would feel great. “
When he left the agency and thanked Gabor, Favat replied: “You know, child, I’ve learned a lot to watch you.”
Always looking for the idea
Gabor ended his career as Executive Creative Director at SMZ Advertising agency in Troy, Michigan before retiring in 2012. Victor Spieles, Creative Director of SMZ Advertising, wrote a tribute to Gabor’s illustrated Christmas cards in the agency’s blog on November 9th. During his retirement, Gabor wrote an e-book about his time in advertising called “Peeing With David Ogilvy”.
In 2012, Gabor appeared as part of the Google “Project: Re-Brief” campaign, in which four classic advertisements were updated. Project: Re-Brief has reinterpreted “Hilltop” for today. The updated idea was brought to life via a vending machine where people could literally buy a Coke for someone on the other side of the world. Gabor seemed excited to revisit the campaign and engage with young creatives. Shortly after retiring, he said, “I’m retired but I miss the action.”