Jerrold (Jerry) Bernstein
Although he rode the crest of several waves of agency growth as a senior executive at three Canadian agencies, Jerry Bernstein—who died in Los Angeles on February 18, 2009, at age 68—may best be remembered for his creation of a smart-ass owl.
In 1969, Bernstein was a copy group head at W.B. Doner in Detroit when he wrote and illustrated “Mr. Cow,” a 60-second animated spot with the tag line: “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know.”
While claims that it was the longest-running TV ad in history are hard to verify, it made enough of an impression to recently sparking a lively discussion on YouTube.com that Bernstein himself participated in. The spot also won a special citation from the Clio Awards for children’s advertising in 1970—the first of two Clios Bernstein would win.
A Michigan native, Bernstein joined Doner after graduating from Wayne State University with a communications degree. After three years, Bernstein moved to Toronto as vice-president and creative director of McCann Erickson. His first stay in Canada was short-lived, and something of a learning experience, recalls advertising consultant Brian Buckingham. Bernstein was back in Detroit after a stint at Quaker Oats’ in-house agency in Chicago when Buckingham, then executive vice-president of Bates International in Toronto, recruited him.
“Jerry felt he might’ve been too young to be a creative director the first time around, but I thought he did outstanding work. He was a highly creative guy. His ability to translate a brief into ideas was extraordinary.” Overall, Buckingham adds, “Jerry elevated creative product wherever he went in this business.”
In 1983, after seven years with Bates, Bernstein left to become a partner and executive creative director for Toronto’s Palmer Bonner, his home until 1988.
Lynda Headland—who, as a Palmer Bonner copywriter, shared Bernstein’s second Clio with him for a Dad’s Cookies ad in 1983—remembers him as “a terrific mentor who could challenge you, instill confidence and make you laugh, all at the same time.”
In 1989, Bernstein moved to Southern California and opened Jerry Bernstein & Associates in Woodland Hills. His second wife, Dana Gellert, served as the firm’s creative director. Despite being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006, Bernstein remained active and—as witnessed by the online discussion of his immortal Tootsie Pop commercial—engaged.
Jerry Bernstein's creativity is witnessed in his development of the Logo and the Mission Statement of Parkinson's Resource Organization, "Working so no one is isolated because of Parkinson's". The logo includes the words Hope, Encouragement, Support, Education, and Inspiration. He will forever be remembered in the Parkinson's World.
Jerrold was a resident of Woodland Hills, California.
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