He worshipped at the altar
of originality and was the hero of the creative fraternity.
Bernbach was born in the Bronx, New York City on August 13, 1911, to Jacob
Bernbach, a designer of women's clothes, and Rebecca(Reiter) Bernbach. He was
five feet seven inches tall and weighted 155 pounds. His eyes were blue and his
hair, once blond, but became gray. Gentle and soft-spoken, he avoided physical
exercise and hobbies, but read constantly, especially in philosophy, sociology,
and literary criticism.
As a youth, Bernbach was interested in art, and
he wrote what he called, according to Mel Gussow in the New York Herald Tribune
Magazine, New York (October 10, 1965), "private emotional verse." After
completing his public school education in New York, he was graduated from New
York University in 1933 with a degree in English Literature. At N.Y.U. Bernbach
also studied music, business administration, and philosophy. At the time of his
graduation from college, he liked reading the poetry. He married Evelyn Carbone
in 1938, and they had two sons, John and Paul. He and his wife liked to stay at
home evening, listening to recorded jazz and classical music.
Bernbach went looking for his first job, he had advertising in mind, but the
Depression was at its nadir, and he had to settle for the position of office boy
with the New York office of the Schenley Distillers Company. Venting his pent-up
creativity while working in the mail room at Schenley, he wrote an ad for
Schenley's American Cream whiskey and sent it to the company's advertising
department. By the time the ad appeared, word for word, in the New York Times,
the advertising department had lost track of its source, but Bernbach personally
saw to it that Lewis Rosenthiel, president of the company, learned the author's
identity. Rosenthiel, an old-fashioned admirer of rags-to-riches enterprise,
ordered that Bernbach be given a raise and a position in the advertising
department. Bernbach left Schenley to work for the promotion department of the
1939-40 New York World's Fair, mostly as a ghostwriter. After the Fair ended,
his first, true advertising experience came when he joined the William H.
Weintraub ad agency (now Norman, Craig & Kummel). There, Bernbach became a
close friend with Paul Rand, the agency's art director, who helped to refine his
interest in the fine arts.
Following two years' service in the army
during World War II and a job in postwar planning with Coty, Inc., Bernbach
joined Grey Advertising, Inc., as a copywriter and soon became Grey's
vice-president in charge of copy and art in 1945.
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