The Industry Remembers Gary Prouk

Marketing has been inundated with remembrances of Gary Prouk, the Canadian advertising icon who passed away March 7. Here is just a small selection of what our readers have said about the man who revealed what made the Mona Lisa smile. From the Marketing inbox After 43 years in the agency business I can think […]

Marketing has been inundated with remembrances of Gary Prouk, the Canadian advertising icon who passed away March 7. Here is just a small selection of what our readers have said about the man who revealed what made the Mona Lisa smile.

From the Marketing inbox

After 43 years in the agency business I can think of but a handful of truly and consistently outstanding creatives. Gary Prouk tops that list.

Gary worked for me at Ronalds-Reynolds during his early agency days. I quickly recognized that here was a budding creative advertising virtuoso.

One day, Otto Preminger, the celebrated Hollywood director, producer, actor was in town. Through some personal circumstances and contacts he paid a short visit to our agency. Of course, I screened our reel. One of the spots was for Nestlé’s Quik – the chocolate drink powder.

At the end of the screening Preminger made only one observation. Saying – “Whoever did that commercial knows something about making film.” That was Gary Prouk’s work.

Lamentably, when DDB opened their Toronto office Gary left me for Bill Bernbach. I understood. I knew back then that one day he would become a creative force. And I told him so.

If I may –
I respectfully urge our industry to create an extra special award – The Gary Prouk Award – for an unusually inspired, magnificent piece of work.

Gary Prouk Lives On.

Hank Karpus


David Martin
Gary was the last of his era, a giant who influenced an entire generation of creative people. There will never be another one like him. Gary used to say, ‘even after I left DDB, I never stopped working for Bill’. Like so many other people, I can say the same thing about Gary. Thank you, Gary, for making me, and our industry, better.

Tom Goudie
There are people who tell stories and then there are the people other people tell stories about. I never knew or worked for Mr. Prouk, but the many people I count as my mentors most certainly did. To a young copywriter at the time, their tales-fabulously told I might add usually over a cold pint at the Pilot- were and still are priceless.

Tony Kerr
I owe Gary much. There aren’t many days that go by where I don’t think of him. He introduced to me to the importance of living an examined life and to uncompromisingly commit to creating excellence. He made me very proud to be an advertising practitioner.

Peter Shier
One of the real ‘characters’ in our business and he shall be missed. I suggest Marketing dig out some of the Letters To the Editor he crafted through the years. For the up and comers in our business, those alone would be a valuable education on brevity and wit in writing.

Pete Gardiner
I was working on a print ad for Hertz. My wall was covered in headlines when Gary walked into my office. (Geez, I was a junior writer and I had my own office.) He looked at all my clever headlines, shook his head, and asked “what are you trying to say?” I said the offer was “Any car on the lot for $19.” He said “you can’t beat that. Just say that.” So long Gary. I’ve also never stopped working for you.

Bert Bell
Gary and I have been friends for 51 years. We met when I first worked for him when he was at Ronalds-Reynolds in 1962. We’ve been friends ever since, working and traveling together on accounts like the Jamaican Tourist Board, etc. Gary was a man with a brilliant mind, always curious about everything, and he was one of kindest men I have ever known. I, like many, have lost a great man and a generous, irreplaceable friend. Rest in Peace, Gary.

Barry R. Bittle
At one point in the late 80′s Gary looking me in the eye one Friday night at Boardwalk Pictures said… Barry , I hunger for the day when I can say to you ” Don’t F#*k it up rather than save us. Those were the days. I loved working with Gary Prouk he was so gifted and also so very very funny. Gary, Hope you got to heaven 5 minutes before the devil knew you were dead.

Karen Howe
I worked for Gary for four years. He was a tough, tough taskmaster, and a brilliant strategist.

Kathy McLay
Gary took us kids under his wing at Scali and taught us about art, culture, how to dress and what to read. It was more than just an advertising job, it was life lessons from a worldly, wise, generous, hilarious and kind man who will never be forgotten.

Grace Castaneda
I had the privilege of working for Gary not once, but twice in my advertising career. He taught me how to respect great creative and love advertising. He was a man of uncompromising standards and impeccable taste. He knew how to live and wanted all of us to see and experience the world the way he did. He was generous, caring and most of all, brilliant. Thank you Gary. You were one of a kind.

Lorraine Hughes
What an incredible loss, and much too soon. Many of us owe an incredible debt to Gary for the inspiration, opportunity and friendship that he gave to us. His mark is indelible. God Bless.

Harrison Yates
When Bill Bernbach sent me to Canada as CD of DDB in 1967, Gary was a junior copywriter. I saw he had great talent and the kind of forceful personality required for success in the ad business. When I left DDB two years later I told Bill there was a young guy in the Toronto office who I thought could do the job. I sent him to New York to meet with Bill and he got the promotion. From then on there was no stopping him. I can only assume that he is now telling God how to run heaven.

Kevin Pfuhl
Gary. Thanks for letting a junior media punk like me be a part of your team and agency so long ago. I learned from you not what a great idea is, rather, what it must be.

Joanne Ingrassia
I first met Gary when I was a journalist with Advertising Age and wrote about his work at Lowe SMS (the beer wars). In later years, I felt privileged that he invited me to work with him to promote the leading edge work he was doing with Natrel and other clients. What some people might have seen as arrogance to my mind was never that, just simple acknowledgment of what this brilliant man had accomplished and still offered. He willingly shared his wisdom and passion with anyone truly interested.
His passion for literature and art and people he cared for was balanced with the the brightness and deep understanding of how to speak for clients in compelling, unforgettable ways.
I was just thinking about Gary a couple of weeks ago and felt overdue for a visit with him again, just to enjoy the always lovely and often thought-provoking conversations. He will be missed.

Gray Abraham
Gary hired me first at DDB and then twice at Scali. He then fired me twice and I quit once. He taught me personally more about advertising and gut instinct than anyone else that I have ever met. Canadian advertising owes him a helluva lot and so do I. We will miss his style, his wit, his taste and his withering bloody mindedness. To this day whenever I see an ad that is missing a period at the end of the headline I always think to myself “Gary wouldn’t like that”.

You can share your remembrances of Gary Prouk here.

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