Mad Man Gene Case, the man behind LBJ’s ‘nuclear’ ad, dies at 72

Back in 1964, the height of the Mad Men era, there were a few other things on people’s minds, like a possible, even likely, nuclear war with Russia.

John Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson was fighting the arch-right Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. Goldwater was threatening all sorts of dire consequences against what he and many other Americans (including the military and a large part of the CIA) saw as an aggressive and deadly enemy (this was only a couple of years after the Cuba missile crisis so he had a point).

Johnson chose his own nuclear option which was this commercial crafted by copywriter Gene Kase, who had just set up his own agency with art director legend Helmut Krone (who later rejoined Doyle Dane Bernbach where he art directed the famous Volkswagen ‘lemon’ ad). And a cracker it was too, although it only ran once.

Johnson, of course, won. Case went on to build his own agency Jordan McGrath Case & Partners which was sold to French marcoms group Havas in 1999. He then went back into political advertising with an outfit called Avenging Angels, working for a number of liberal causes including the Democratic National Committee.

He died this week of a heart attack at 72. The 1964 ‘daisy’ ad isn’t a bad legacy.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.