Jerry Hoeck

Jerry Hoeck • Written May 2009 • Died October 2014


Jerry Hoeck has had a long and distinguished career in advertising and public consulting and public service. In politics, he was particularly active in directing the campaigns and advising U.S. Senators Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. Jackson. At UW, Hoeck worked on The Daily and for Columns, the campus humor magazine. On December 7, 1941, during his senior year at UW, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Hoeck and his Daily coworkers rushed to put out a special edition of the paper.  He was later inducted into the UW Communication Alumni Hall of Fame.

At first, Hoeck wanted to join the Army Air Force; instead he stayed at UW to study Japanese. In spring, he was recruited to join the Navy’s first Japanese Language School. He fought at Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. After the war, he was a founding partner of a Seattle advertising agency: Miller, McKay, Hoeck and Hartung. The agency was well known for its innovative creative work.

Hoeck’s greatest passion was politics, and he soon became involved in the Democratic party. He worked on Warren Magnuson’s 1948 Congressional campaign and his 1950 U.S. Senate campaign. In 1952, Hoeck helped young U.S. Rep. Henry M. Jackson in his U.S. Senate race, as well.

In 1960, he took a three-month leave of absence from the agency, and served as the advertising manager of the Democratic National Committee. After the election, he returned to Seattle, and continued to work for local Democrats, playing a major role in the 1964 election of four Washington state congressmen: Tom Foley, Brock Adams, Lloyd Meeds, and Floyd Hicks. In 1972 and 1976, he worked on the Jackson presidential campaigns.

Hoeck has been very active in community service, offering his advertising and marketing expertise to a wide variety of causes and organizations, including: the bond election for the Seattle Center, Civic Unity Committee, numerous Seattle School bond campaigns, Forward Thrust, and the slogan for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair “Century 21,” a term that Hoeck and one of his business partners coined—as he says, “before there was a real estate company by that name!

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The 25 years I spent in the ad agency business in Seattle (1946-1971) were marked by enormous change in both the city and the business. It’s true that Seattle boomed during World War II with Boeing cranking out B-17s and the shipyards turning out ships night and day…but when the war ended, things went quiet and Seattle reverted to its former status of a slow-growth little “village” in the Northwest corner of the United States.

Things didn’t start roaring again until the late 1950s.; It pays to remember that Boeing flew its first commercial jet passenger in 1958…and that changed Seattle and the entire world. Everything became "half as far away." Instead of 12 hours away, New York became only six hours away. And Los Angeles was only two hours away. And instead of taking all day, you could go to Honolulu for lunch. And Seattle in the eyes of rest of the United States became a reachable and real city. Steve Hannegan, the famous Hollywood publicist who promoted Sun Valley for Averill Harriman, once turned down a group of Seattle businessmen who wanted to hire him to publicize Seattle because he had only been to Seattle once and he thought "the best kept woman in town probably had a pull-down bed." So much for Seattle’s reputation in the 1950s!

It was in this atmosphere that we started a tiny agency in the old Central Building on 3rd Avenue.It was just three guys and a girl: Wally Mackay, Marlowe Hartung and myself. We had been close friends at the UW.Wally had been the Daily editor, Marlowe had been editor of the Tyee yearbook and I had edited the Columns, the humor magazine. We all came out of the war at the same time and joined Wally’s dad who had a one-man shop.

For the next eight years we really scrambled. We had no money and no real background. Any account was an account regardless how much they spent. If a furniture store spent $300 a month in radio spots, we handled them. The big accounts in town – the beers, the banks, Boeing, Weyerhaeuser – were all handled by the old-fashioned agencies like Cole & Weber, Honig-Cooper, Ruthrauf & Ryan, Botsford-Constantine-Gardner, McCann-Erickson. We weren’t in their league and didn’t pretend to be.They were conservative and more traditional. And that proved to be our opportunity.

The opportunity was television – a high school football game – we all gathered at the old Washington State Press Club to watch because they had the only one TV set downtown. After the show, I walked back to the Cobb Building with Loren Stone, the general account manager of KIRO, and asked his impression. He answered, "Well, it’s interesting and entertaining but it will never replace radio." So much for the TV revolution!

It took us eight years to build up $1 million in total billings with perhaps a dozen clients – a lot of small start-up businesses run by people like Harvey Swenson with Sweden Freezer, Milt Charboneau with Tree Top Apple Juice, Phil Bayley with Olympic Stain, Nick Bez with West Coast Airlines and Ole Bardahl with his weird oil additive in Ballard.

Bardahl was kind of a fluke. In the beginning, like in 1947, they were a five-man operation with distribution only in western Washington with a budget of maybe $5,000 a year. By 1965, they had worldwide distribution and were spending millions in spot television. We got our feet wet in television with Bardahl. The first spot we ever made for Bardahl was filmed at Criterion Films, a studio over on Fairview opposite the Seattle Times. It was probably the only studio in town at the time. It was live action with a model named Marcia from the Bon Marche. Marcia later became Marcia Rosellini, the wife of Seattle’s famous restaurateur.

But the spot that really built Bardahl was an animated spot …the first "Dragnet TV" parody. In 1952, I went to Hollywood for the first time with a storyboard and hired Ray Patin and Gus Jekel to do the animation. When the finished answer print came back to Seattle, I had to go to Tall's Camera Shop to look at it because the agency did not have a film projector – so much for the sophistication of Seattle ad agencies! The spot was named the best TV commercial of the year by Billboard Magazine and the New York Art Directors. But more importantly, it sold millions of cans of Bardahl across the U. S. and set up our agency as a young Seattle group that knew how to handle this new medium.

Shortly thereafter, we got a phone call from Jim Miller (Miller & Co agency) who wanted to merge. Jim was an account guy with Western Agency that handled Rainier Beer, and when Emil Sick fell out with the owner of the agency, he called Jim and told him to set up shop and he could have the account. So Jim had one account but it was worth $1 million. Jim, who was an old friend that I had gone to high school with, thought it was a good idea to merge the two agencies and we thought it was a good idea. Thus was born Miller, Mackay, Hoeck & Hartung – and it was a long, happy and successful marriage until we sold the agency to McCann-Erickson in 1964.

The 1960s brought on not only social change. It brought on change in what an agency was really supposed to do.The word ‘creative’ replaced 'media' and ‘account service’ as to what was the most important function an agency provided. Clients wanted the magic that agencies could provide in TV. It didn’t matter whether the agency was in Seattle, New York City or Timbuktoo. We lost Rainier Beer for a couple years because Al Ferguson wanted the magic of Bill Bernbach in Manhattan. At least he went to the best. We got it back a few years later when we were McCann-Erickson.

Meanwhile, we scored some hits of our own, like taking a small meat packer with a brand of Bar-S and spread its fame so successfully with TV spots that Cudahy bought the company and moved the account to Omaha. That became the big headache in the business; the better job you did, the greater chance that somebody would buy the client and move the business.It happened to us with a paper client, an airline and a bank.

Now I’d like to conclude by talking about unusual people we met as clients. Let’s start with KING Broadcasting Company.Everybody knows about Dorothy Bullitt, the fabled owner, but I would like to talk about the small crew that really built this broadcasting empire. The smartest move that Mrs. Bullitt ever made was when she brought young Otto Brandt from ABC in New York to run Channel 5. She already has a program director, Lee Schulman, and an advertising unit with Al Hunter, Jim Neidigh and Danny Starr that were better than she ever knew.

But Otto welded the group together and they became what I thought was the most imaginative and enterprising station in the country. They did things that no other station did. Otto took on civic problems and dramatized them on TV. Almost single-handed KING alerted the whole city to the fact that the Port was ‘dead,’ the harbor was empty of ships, we needed revamping of the Port Commission and an upgrade in our Port facilities.

The public responded and in 1960 elected a whole new Port management and passed a bond issue that re-built the Port. In less than 10 years, the Port was bustling with trade from Japan and the Far East. That was just the beginning. Brandt’s sales team staged huge ‘Treasure Hunts’ in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco where hundreds of agency time-buyers participated every year in wonderful worldwide parties. Needless to say, in the minds of agency people thousands of miles away, KING-TV was the only station in Seattle.

Unfortunately, after years of amazing growth, for no explainable reason, Mrs. Bullitt replaced Otto Brandt with her son and the station was never the same. Otto became the RCA distributor and the rest spread to the winds. Lee Schulman became program director of the NBC television stations in Los Angeles and Chicago. In fact, he hired my daughter, Heidi, as political reporter under Tom Brokaw, then anchor at channel 2 in Virginia.

The brightest and most challenging person we ever met in the advertising business was Walter Straley, president of Pacific Northwest Bell. He was the perfect client; smart, creative, open to new ideas and he welcomed ads and initiatives that were ‘out-of-the-box.’ If this doesn’t sound like the typical phone company executive, you are right! He wasn’t. When AT&T broke up the national unit into regional operating companies, they decided to send a different kind of ‘bird’ to run the show in Washington and Oregon.

Probably the thought in New York HQ was that we were too far away to do much harm, so why not experiment? Walter started out as an actor; handsome, articulate, he was one of two announcers at the radio station WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. The other was a guy named ‘Dutch’ Reagan who later took the job of President of the United States. Walter said that Reagan chased a secretary to LA and that’s how he ended up in the movie business and eventually as governor of California. Walter, like Otto Brandt at KING, made Pacific Northwest Bell a lively part of the community. His agency became a second tourism department for the state and the Governor.

We were asked to create large-scale conferences on the environment and urban development. Making ads was only one part of the agency’s job, but the ads better be good and unusual. And to make sure, his ad manager was a lively, hard-charging guy named Dan Hutchins. When Straley later became head of all advertising and public relations for AT&T in New York, he took Dan with him. Sadly, one day, Dan’s career ended with a heart attack at lunch at Club 21 in Manhattan.

The last fellow I want to mention may not appear to be part of the advertising business, but he was. He was my closest friend; John Haydon, a remarkable man. His last four jobs were President of the Port Commission, Governor of Samoa, owner of a garden nursery and manager of the Makah Tribe at Neah Bay. But he started out as an advertising salesman and writer for the trade magazine, Marine Digest. He became the first advertising and public relations director of the Port, then became advertising and sales manager for Bardahl Oil before he bought Marine Digest and ran for the Port Commission.

John was a navigator on B17s flying over Europe, was a writer and a hell of an idea man. As Port PR Director, he conceived the idea of the first ‘Japanese Trade Fair’ shortly after the war at the Edmondson Pavilion at the UW. As Dan Evans would gladly tell you, he probably wouldn’t have been elected Governor without Haydon setting up dozens of support committees and organizing a huge direct-mail campaign, the likes of which this state has never seen. Also, when Haydon became Port Commissioner in 1960, he looked around and saw no black or minority employees, which was true of city and county government. Haydon changed that. Today over 15% of employees are minorities.

That brings me to my last point – the last big change in Seattle advertising. In the late 1950s, there were no African-Americans working at any radio/TV station, newspaper or media operation. There were no blacks or minorities on the air or in commercials, working in banks, department stores or grocery stores. In fact, we hired the first black person in an advertising agency – an 18-year-old secretary named Sebee Buford (who was scared to death) – and we took a lot of heat. The truth is Seattle was totally racist and ‘white.’

Today, thank God, due to some civil rights laws passes in the 1960s and the enlightenment of the general population, things are different. Minorities can get jobs in advertising. They can do anything. In fact, a black may become President.