Man Behind World's 'Most Famous Ad' Dead at 89

Bill Backer known for Coca-Cola commercial, among many others
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2016 9:00 AM CDT

If you were alive in the early '70s, you knew the ad. Even if you weren't, you probably do: "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" was such a hit upon its Feb. 12, 1971, debut that radio DJs were flooded with calls to play it, "as if it were a song by The Doors or the Jackson 5," notes the Washington Post. It was the brainchild of Bill Backer, who died Friday in Warrenton, Va., at age 89. The tributes are pouring in for the man whose most famous ad featured into the final scene in the series finale of Mad Men. Among the coverage:

  • The Coca-Cola Company's website has a detailed explainer of how Backer dreamed up the ad while stuck overnight in Shannon, Ireland, and the challenges of the commercial shoots.
  • The Daily Beast reports the commercial's $250,000 price tag made it the most expensive to have been filmed at the time.
  • The New York Times runs down some of Backer's other famous lines, for Miller Lite, Campbell's Soup, and Oreo.
  • He also now-memorably inserted Dave Thomas into Wendy's commercials, notes Ad Age.

  • As for what he thought of Mad Men, Backer told the Wall Street Journal in 2015 that he stopped watching after two years as it "became more of a soap opera." He also addresses whether he "bed a different girl every night" like Don Draper.
  • A great quote in Ad Age from a former colleague: "I was always envious of Bill because he had a grand piano in his New York office."
  • Virginia's Fauquier Now reports that Backer became a conservationist in his later years and played a primary role in fighting Disney's plans to erect a history theme park near the tiny town of Haymarket.
  • He was also a thoroughbred owner and breeder, per the Thoroughbred Daily News.
(More obituary stories.)

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