President of the independent advertising agency Downtown Partners Chicago and an alumnus of the School of Journalism, Ray Gillette (BSJ, 1971) energized a student audience with his talk, “So, You Want to be in Advertising?” in September 2007.
Using pictures and videos, Gillette led students through a virtual timeline of advertising milestones, discussing Bill Bernbach, who was named as “the single most influential creative force in advertising’s history” by Advertising Age’s survey of the top 100 campaigns of the century. Bernbach was one of three founders of Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, known as DDB Chicago, where Gillette started in 1978 and served as president from 2000-2004.
Gillette said Bernbach’s “Lemon” and “Think Small” ad campaigns for the Volkswagen Beetle are recognized as two of the most important moments in advertising history. He took students through decades of Alka-Seltzer commercials and Polaroid television spots starring James Garner and Mariette Hartley and showed the more recent “Waaazzup” Budweiser commercials that were launched when he was president at DDB Chicago.
The SOJ alumnus began his advertising career as an account manager at McDonald & Little Advertising in Atlanta, Ga. Later at DDB Chicago, he worked on some of the company’s largest accounts, including State Farm, Discover Card, Busch Beer and Qwest Communications.
Gillette is considered a visionary in the integrated marketing discipline, bringing its benefits to DDB clients long before it became standard industry practice. Capitalizing on his entrepreneurial spirit and love of building new business, Gillette was named president of Downtown Partners, an Omnicom agency, in 2004.
SOJ advertising student Jordan Goddard was impressed by Gillette’s career and presentation. “It’s always nice to see West Virginia University graduates in the same field of study as you who have made a real name for themselves,” said Goddard.