Julian Norman Koenig, a renowned advertising copywriter who nevertheless described himself as just “a writer of short sentences,” died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan on June 12. He was 93 and had suffered what was believed to be a stroke about a week before.
Mr. Koenig, remembered among friends for his drollery as well as his resemblance to Groucho Marx, lived for many years in Bridgehampton, commuting to the city to work at Doyle Dane Bernbach, later B.B.D.O., then at Papert Koenig and Lois, a firm of which he was president, and eventually at his own company, Julian Koenig Inc. He was a legend among ad men for the “Think Small” and “Lemon” campaigns that introduced the Volkswagen Beetle to this country; for having chosen Earth Day as the title of what was to become an annual celebration of the environment, and for the Timex slogan “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” which became a pop-culture catchphrase. In addition to his efforts on behalf of environmental causes, over the years he worked for gun control, on Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign, and against nuclear proliferation.
He first came to the South Fork in 1967 at the urging of his then-wife, the former Maria Eckhart. They subsequently settled year-round on Ocean Road in Bridgehampton, where they raised two daughters, Antonia and Sarah. He later bought a house in Sag Harbor. Although his work was in the big time, his talent as a copywriter followed him here to what was then a relatively small-time community. A fan of the Old Stove Pub in Wainscott, he came up with a slogan that appeared on a sign outside the restaurant for decades: “When you’re fed up with the chic, come to the Greek.” He even wrote a line for an East Hampton Star subscription campaign: “Don’t Waste a Weekend Without It.”
He was a member of the board of trustees of the Hampton Day School in Bridgehampton while his daughters were students there.
Sarah Koenig, his youngest daughter, said her father was addicted to horse racing from the time he was a young man. He gave up advertising for a time in the late 1950s and early ’60s, she said, because he had become successful as a handicapper. She recalled that he would take her and her sister, Antonia, to places like McDonald’s in Southampton, which would ordinarily have been out of the question had it not been close to an Off Track Betting site. Asked if he made a killing at the track, she said, he would dryly reply, “I break even.”
He was born on April 22, 1921, in Manhattan to Morris and Minna Harlib Koenig, moving with them from the Lower to the Upper East Side. He graduated from the Horace Mann School and from Dartmouth College before joining the Army in World War II. His daughter said he had hoped to see combat but was relegated to a stateside teaching job because of poor eyesight and bad feet.
In a 2005 interview on “This American Life,” a public-radio program of which Sarah Koenig is a producer, it was noted Mr. Koenig had been name-checked in an episode of the cable television show Mad Men. Also on “This American Life,” Mr. Koenig cited campaigns that he claimed his former partner George Lois had “burgled.” (He mentioned commercials for Xerox that featured a chimpanzee operating a copy machine, and for Dutch Masters cigars starring Ernie Kovacs.) He didn’t think, he said, that “anybody can go proudly into the next world” based on a career of puffery and deception. However, his death has drawn an unusual number of admiring remembrances, nationwide, for a person whose lifelong career was in a field that is, usually, strictly behind the scenes.
In addition to Sarah Koenig, a former East Hampton Star reporter who lives in State College, Pa., and Antonia Koenig, a recent law school graduate who lives in Seattle, Wash., Mr. Koenig is survived by two children from his first marriage, John Koenig of Millstone, N.J., and Pim Koenig of Corrales, N.M. He also is survived by his second wife, Maria Matthiessen of Sagaponack, who remained a close friend although they had divorced.