Monday, May 21, 2018
  • Wednesday, May. 18, 2016
Ad Legend Bill Backer Dies At 89
The remastered and color-corrected version of the classic Coca-Cola "Hilltop" commercial.
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Contrary to television’s modern rewriting of history through creative license, Don Draper didn’t teach the world to sing with the iconic Coca-Cola “Hilltop” commercial as depicted in the finale of AMC’s Mad Men series. Rather the creative mind behind that landmark ad was Bill Backer who last Friday (May 13) passed away at the age of 89 in Warrenton, VA. Backer was a lauded creative at McCann-Erickson when he introduced a world in “perfect harmony” for Coca-Cola in 1971. Recently Coca-Cola released a remastered and color-corrected version of “Hilltop.”

Backer is known for his successful tenures at Y&R, McCann and the venerable Backer & Spielvogel (founded with Carl Spielvogel) which after its sale to Saatchi and merger with Ted Bates became Backer Spielvogel Bates. Backer teamed with colleagues over the years to craft such jingles and slogans as “The Real Thing” and “Things Go Better With Coke” for Coca-Cola, “Soup Is Good Food” for Campbell’s, and “Everything you ever wanted in a beer...and less” for Miller Lite. His slogans and catchlines became part of Americana, weaving brands into mainstream life. His deft creative touch over a four decade career also graced ads for such brands as Lowenbrau, Quaker Foods, Philip Morris, Wendy’s and Xerox.

Backer’s first industry foray took the form of his opening a jingles business, followed by a stint at Columbia Pictures and then finally a fortuitous move into the agency arena, including two tours of duty at McCann--the first starting out in the mailroom, the second with him serving as creative director and later adding the vice-chairman mantle.

Backer is survived by his wife Ann Backer and leaves a legacy in addition to the high-profile one in the ad industry; he served as president of the Piedmont Foundation, a land conservation advocacy group. Located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia’s Piedmont is known for its scenic beauty spanning forests, fields and wetlands.