February 9, 2004 by

James Jordan Jr.

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Categories: Media

James Jordan Jr., a Madison Avenue advertising executive with a talent for branding, died on Feb. 4 while snorkeling in the Virgin Islands. Cause of death was not released. He was 73.
For five decades, Jordan peddled products with some of advertising’s most memorable slogans. Using nameonics, he was able to link a product’s brand name with its qualities or benefits. Some of his best known slogans included: “Delta is ready when you are,” “Quaker Oatmeal, it’s the right thing to do,” “Zest-fully clean” and “Wisk beats ring around the collar.”
Jordan graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts, and became a copywriter at Batten, Barten, Durstine & Osborn in New York City. Over the next 25 years, he rose through the agency’s ranks to become its creative director and president.
In 1978, he left the firm to start his own company, which later merged with another to become Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor. When Gerald Ford ran for president in the mid-1970s, Jordan served as his communications adviser.

5 Responses to James Jordan Jr.

  1. Tammy Minick

    When I was on “Agency Training” from Procter & Gamble in 1990 at Jordan McGrath Case & Taylor. In my first week, I was commenting on a board, in front of Jim, and he decided I should be his copy writer for the 3 months I was there. He taught me so much about advertising…and about people. Through the years, if I got to NYC, we would meet for lunch, at his regular haunt (Oceana – went through a few name changes) and he would be truly interested in what I was doing and give me advise. He encouraged me to be my best and pushed me to do more than I ever thought possible – all the while reminding me that life is short and that I should have more of a personal life and think about kids at some point…
    I could go on and on…this does zero justice to what an impact he had on my life. He was so big…and so real. The line they keep omitting that he wrote was “if they could only stay little, til their Carters wore out” – he could write this from his heart, as he had 7 children (and described his wife Mary as a saint). I miss him so much…
    Tammy Minick

  2. tony zamora

    He was never bored with the business of making ads.
    Even though he probably did everything he ever wanted to do in this business, it alway seemed to excite him. I worked with him
    for just 4 years, but I trasure the time I spent with him, and clients must have too, because he was always being by somebody for wanted his perticular approach to their business.
    He will always be missed.

  3. Jerry Prueitt

    I first worked with Jim as an art director at BBDO. He was the only person in advertising I felt really challenged me. Well, he challenged everyone. I was there for about a year. Jim called it my summer job. I went on to McCann Erickson, then started my own Production company and sold a couple of screen plays.
    Then in 1978 I was in White Plains looking at a digital effects company .
    A young woman working there had a name tag Ms Jordan. For some reason
    I said “I used to work with a Jordan at BBDO. He was one of the ten best advertising writers in America.” “Oh, that would be my uncle Jim.” She said.
    I didn’t think anything about it. Then in 1984 I was talking to Alphonse
    Normandia – Alphonse called me a week later, said I should call Jim.
    So we met. I walked in the door and his smile and look hit me. The first
    Line out of his mouth was “So Who are the other nine?”
    What?
    You said I was one of ten, who are the others –
    I worked for Jim on a free lance basis for about four years.
    It was so much fun I went on staff as a Sr VP and a creative director.
    I’m still trying to think who the other nine are.
    I miss you Jim.

  4. robert iannizzotto

    Mr. Jordan was a true Icon of Advertising and was a sharp, well educated friend. I worked for James at his new agency venture and it was truely a life experience for me. I will miss him and his wit and his insight on the true advertising medium.

  5. Mark Itkowitz

    My name is Mark Itkowitz and I knew Jim Jordan well.
    In fact, I worked for him at BBDO New York and Jordan, McGrath, Case & Partners in a period that spanned 22 years of my career. Under Jim, I rose from Jr. Copywriter to Executive Vice President, Creative Director and he was there at every stage as my boss, my mentor and most importantly, my friend.
    As I write this, I’m 61 years old and still have my hand in the ad business as Executive Creative Director at E.B. Lane
    in Phoenix, AZ. Many years have passed. But the wisdom, the grace and the humanity of this remarkable man have always stayed with me. As many who knew Jim will say in speaking of him, he was truly larger than life. And he has had enduring impact on mine.
    I have many memories of Jim Jordan. Here are a few.
    In 1975, my wife Sandy gave birth our first child. It was a
    boy. When it came time to choose a name, we both wanted
    one that not only connoted strength and decisiveness, but sounded okay with the last name of Itkowitz. Not an easy task. Now by this time, I had already been at BBDO for two years. Every day, our conversations were peppered with the name Jordan and the underlying power it represented was never lost on me.
    “Jordan wants this.” Jordan killed that”.”You take it down and show Jordan”.
    Not surprisingly, I suggested Jordan to my wife and she also liked the sound of it. But it clearly didn’t carry the same weight as it did with me.
    When Jim got word that our first born carried his name, he responded with great warmth and pride. The rest of the agency thought it was hilarious. They couldn’t believe the lengths I’d go for career continuity. Even Allen Rosenshine, soon to be our creative director and ultimately President,
    made me promise to name my next child Rosenshine.
    At this point in time, Jim and Mary Helen already had 6 children and didn’t expect to have a seventh. So Jim felt safe in saying he would name his next child Itkowitz. But Mary Helen did, in fact, become pregnant that same year.
    She gave birth a beautiful baby girl who they named Laurie.
    Upon hearing this, I wrote Jim a memo saying:
    “Congratulations on the birth of your daughter.
    Considering it’s a girl, I can understand why you’d pick a pretty name like Laurie. Itkowitz is really a much better name for a boy.”
    Jim thought that was hilarious and it became one of his favorite anecdotes. For years afterwards, he used the story to introduce me at cocktail parties and even included it in a speech to the 4A’s.
    At Jordan, Case & McGrath, the hallways literally ran red. That was because red was Jim’s favorite color. But not just any shade. Jim had charged his favorite Art Director Alex Ross with creating the perfect crimson hue for the carpets of the entire agency.
    I had always preferred a soothing hunter green. So when Jim told me I could have my office redone, I started from the floor up. From small square samples of carpet swatches, I choose what seemed like a nice verdant shade. However when it was finally installed, the color was almost overwhelming. At this point, I had no furniture, just a wide, green expanse of carpet.
    The next morning, I arrived to find a 19th hole flag standing in the middle of the office. The following day, a huge bag of grass seed occupied the center of the room. On the third day, I found my office door closed. As I opened it, a strange sound greeted my ears.” Baaaaaa…Baaaaaaaaa.” There, standing in the middle of my lush, green carpet, surrounded by daisies, stood a full grown sheep. I turned
    to find Jim Jordan and half the agency standing in my doorway. The smirking and the laughter soon turned to chaos when the sheep escaped into the hall with a sheep
    wrangler in hot pursuit. Over time, the green of my carpet seemed to soften. But the memory of that morning
    will remain forever vivid.
    Jim Jordan never used a typewriter, let alone a computer.
    He wrote everything in pen or with a black felt tip marker.
    His handwriting reflected his personality. It was bold and aggressive with perfectly formed characters. Jim was basically so techno-phobic, he wouldn’t even operate a tape recorder or VCR.
    However, it never stood in the way of his success. He would often sit on the floor in the middle of his office with scripts, storyboards and memos spread out around him writing long documents which he handed to his secretary Marie to type. As a orator, creator, communicator, and long hand copywriter, Jim was in a league of his own.
    In 1986, I inherited the Zest account. At this point, Jim had already created the campaign “You’re not fully clean unless you’re Zestfully Clean”. The catchy song and the famous towel snap were already part of the concept but Zestfully Clean had not yet assumed its place as part of the American vernacular.
    For our first commercial, my partner Jerry Pruitt and I created a spot that set the visual tone for the brand for years to come. To dramatize how Zestful a shower experience could be, the commercial utilized the beauty of water shot in slow motion. We would see men and women flying through the air, bursting through dazzling, aqua walls of water or hanging from ropes being hit with torrents of water as they spun in the air. The bar shots of Zest would be equally exhilarating.
    To get this all on film, we used acclaimed water effects director Santiago Suarez with post production at R.
    Greenberg, the biggest and best facility in New York. The scenes were spectacular. And so was the price. But the vision had been captured. And when Jim Jordan saw what had been accomplished, he was euphoric. On our way back from R. Greenberg in his limousine, he laid out to me how he saw our relationship. Puffing expansively on his cigar, he turned to me and said,
    “Itkowitz, I’ll lay down the foundations, you raise the skyscrapers.”
    It was Jim’s colorful way of saying that he’d write the theme lines and then I’d find brilliant, visual, inventive ways of making them memorable. Over the years, we worked this way on Zest, Nestle Crunch and numerous other accounts.
    Before an extended vacation, my wife Sandy came by the agency to pick me up. Sandy and I chatted with Jim for awhile as he walked us out to the elevator. We got on and as the doors began to close, he assured me that everything would be taken care while I was away:
    “You have a great time. I will be your broom.”
    I remember feeling at that moment that I couldn’t possibly
    have a better boss than Jim Jordan.
    Every so often, people did leave. But many of them also came back. Perhaps that was because on their going-away card, Jim would draw a small candle in a window. It was his unique way of saying that they would always be welcome. They could always come home to Jordan, McGrath.

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