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Subject: Roy Grace, Art Director in the Creative Heyday of Ads

Dies at 66
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Date Posted: March 02, 2003 10:30:08 EDT

Roy Grace, an art director who was one of the leading lights during the so-called creative revolution in advertising in the 1960's and 1970's, helping to produce memorable campaigns for brands like Alka-Seltzer, American Tourister and Volkswagen, died on Wednesday. He was 66 and lived in New York.

The cause was prostate cancer, his family said.

Mr. Grace spent almost four decades in advertising, including two stints at Doyle Dane Bernbach in New York, the agency considered the main purveyor of the era's ground-breaking campaigns, infused with warmth and wit, which helped transform the tone and tenor of consumer advertising.

At Doyle Dane, now the DDB Worldwide division of the Omnicom Group, Mr. Grace worked with equally talented copywriters, directors and others on award-winning commercials that remain familiar enough so many years later that most can still be conjured up by their vintage one- or two-word nicknames:

"Spicy Meatball" for Alka-Seltzer, a commercial within a commercial, centered on the problem-plagued shoot of a spot for a make-believe brand named Mama Magadini's Spicy Meatballs. A line from the commercial, "Mama mia! That's a spicy meatball," became a catch phrase.

"Funeral" for Volkswagen of America, a commercial narrated by a deceased billionaire who leaves little or nothing to his profligate relatives and business partner, whose wasteful ways are symbolized by the huge, gaudy cars in which they ride in his funeral procession. But a trusty, thrifty nephew, seen driving a Beetle at the end of the procession, inherits his uncle's fortune.

"Gorilla" for American Tourister, a demonstration of the toughness of the company's product that showed a suitcase surviving a manhandling, or monkey-handling, at a zoo. "Dear clumsy bellboys, brutal cab drivers, careless doormen, ruthless porters, savage baggage masters and all butter-fingered luggage handlers all over the world," an announcer intones, "have we got a suitcase for you."

Mr. Grace was born on Dec. 5, 1936, and graduated from the High School of Art and Design and Cooper Union. He joined Doyle Dane as an art director in 1964, left in 1972 to join Gilbert Advertising in New York, later Gilbert, Grace & Stark, then returned to Doyle Dane a couple of years later and remained there until 1986. He rose to executive creative director and chairman of the agency's United States operations.

Mr. Grace formed his own agency, Grace & Rothschild, in 1986, with Doyle Dane colleagues, including Diane Rothschild. Grace & Rothschild worked on the accounts of advertisers like Channel One, the division of Whittle Communications that sponsored newscasts in schools, now owned by Primedia; J&B Scotch whiskey; and Land Rover and Sterling cars.

Grace & Rothschild closed in 2000 after its largest account, Land Rover, part of the Ford Motor Company, was shifted to another agency. The remaining accounts and 11 employees, including Ms. Rothschild, the president, joined what is now Della Femina Jeary Rothschild & Partners in New York.

Mr. Grace won numerous industry honors including membership in the Halls of Fame of the Art Directors Club and the One Club for Art and Copy. By one count, he worked on 25 of the 100 "best commercials of all time" as selected by the trade publication Advertising Age.

Mr. Grace is survived by his wife, Marcia, of Manhattan; a daughter, Jessica, of Manhattan; and a son, Nicholas, of Beverly Hills, Calif.

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