Laurel Cutler, an ad exec who made a name for herself in the "Mad Men" days of the 1960s as a rare female voice, has died at the age of 94.
The New York Times recently reported the death, noting that it occurred Nov. 28.
American Advertising Federation named Cutler “Woman of the Year” in 1985 and, in what The New York Times called a “sly twist,” she was the first woman to be named “Man of the Year” by the organization a decade later. She was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2011.
In the 1960s, Cutler was creative director of McCann-Erickson. Lee Iacocca, Chrysler’s chairman, appointed her a corporate officer in 1988. She kept her senior management position at FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York, at the time.
She is credited with setting in motion Chrysler’s acquisition of Jeep in 1987.
Cutler was also credited with the launch of Prego, Campbell Soup’s spaghetti sauce. Cutler convinced Campbell executives to use that name instead of Campbell’s Very Own Spaghetti Sauce, the name that had been planned. The name she championed was the word for “please” and “you’re welcome” in Italian.
Cutler predicted correctly that consumers would become more open-minded in their shopping habits in pursuit of value. “The very same people would buy at Neiman Marcus in the morning and Kmart in the afternoon,” she told Inc.
Cutler graduated Wellesley College in 1946 hoping to become a lawyer. After her family dissuaded her from pursuing that path, she channeled her persuasive gifts into pitching. “She loved the art of persuasion,” her daughter said in an interview. “She liked weaving an argument that could win somebody over.”
Her first job in advertising was at Reuben Donnelly as a contest judge. From there, she worked as a typist for J. Walter Thompson in the late 1940s before being promoted to a copywriter. She joined McCann-Erickson in 1964 before being recruited by Leber Katz Partners and made her name via her forecasting abilities.
During her tenure, Cutler was lauded as a “futurist.” Her advice to product developers was: “Delight the few, attract the many.”