Neil Drossman, Adman Who Sold With a Smile, Is Dead at 83

Neil Drossman, who brought a cheeky wit and a tireless work ethic to the award-winning print advertisements and television commercials he wrote for clients like Meow Mix cat food, Teacher’s Scotch whisky and 1-800-Flowers, died on Nov. 25 in the Bronx. He was 83.

His daughter, Jill Drossman, said he died of sepsis in a hospital.

From the late 1960s until this year, Mr. Drossman was a copywriter and an executive at several agencies, some run by the advertising guru Jerry Della Femina and some he helped run himself.

“He was one of the smartest people I know, very low key, and he had a passion,” Mr. Della Femina, who hired Mr. Drossman at Della Femina, Travisano & Partners in the early 1970s, said in a phone interview. “He really wanted to win.”

One of the most enduring lines Mr. Drossman wrote was for Meow Mix: “Tastes so good, cats ask for it by name.” That came at the end of commercials in which cats appeared to sing (“Meow meow meow meow/Meow meow meow meow”) for their chicken and seafood.

For Stick Ups, small deodorizing disks made by Air Wick that could be glued anywhere in the house, he wrote commercials that had the punchline “This is a good place for a Stick Up.”

For a 1-800-Flowers print ad, Mr. Drossman wrote: “There are 800 reasons for sending flowers. Guilt is 700 of them.”

And for Chemical Bank, to send the message that each of its branches served its neighborhood differently, he wrote, “Flatbush ain’t Flushing.” The line that followed — “Flatbush is the ghost of Ebbets Field and Jackie Robinson stealing home” — was personal: It harked back to his upbringing in Brooklyn, his love for the Dodgers and his anger at their move to Los Angeles when he was a teenager.

Paul Kruger, a creative director and partner at Della Femina Advertising, where Mr. Drossman worked until recently, described him as indefatigable.

“He was an idea machine,” Mr. Kruger said. “He would spit out line after line after line and come up with new stuff. He’d say, ‘One more thought, one more thought.’”

In 1973 and 1974, Mr. Drossman ghostwrote full-page testimonials for Teacher’s Scotch in the voices of celebrities like Groucho Marx, George Burns and Mel Brooks. The Brooks ad was written as an interview with Mr. Brooks’s character the 2,000 Year Old Man.

“Sir, when was Scotch discovered?”

“It was during the Ice Age. We had so many tons of ice, we didn’t know what to do. So we made drinks, all kinds of drinks.”

The Teacher’s campaign won Della Femina, Travisano a Clio Award for creative excellence in advertising. It also earned Mr. Drossman a writing award from what is now the One Club for Creativity.

Mr. Drossman and his colleagues earned Clio Awards in 1980 for three campaigns — for Air Wick Stick Ups, Meow Mix and the carpet store Einstein Moomjy. His Emery Air Freight ads (“It’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your package is?”) won an award from the One Club in 1978.

Neil Arthur Drossman was born on Feb. 26, 1940, in Brooklyn. His father, Edward, owned a jewelry store. His mother, Anne (Rosenberg) Drossman, took over the store after her husband died in 1971.

After graduating from Alfred University in upstate New York with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1961, Mr. Drossman worked at CBS News before beginning his advertising career. Among the agencies he worked for were Daniel & Charles, Delehanty Kurnit & Geller and Kurtz, Kambanis & Symon.

Mr. Della Femina recalled his reaction to seeing ads Mr. Drossman had written for other agencies. “You look at an ad and you say, ‘I wish I had done that,’” he said. “His portfolio was full of ads like that.”

After working at Della Femina, Travisano and a subsidiary, Drossman Yustein Clowes, for about a dozen years, Mr. Drossman formed Drossman Lehmann Marino Reveley in 1983. In 1994, he joined Ryan & Partners as an equity partner, and the agency became Ryan Drossman & Partners. In 2002, he and the art director Bob Needleman started Needleman Drossman & Partners, which became a division of Della Femina Advertising.

When Reader’s Digest hired Needleman Drossman in 2003 to refresh its image, Mr. Drossman pushed that venerable publication into slightly risqué territory. One of the ads in the campaign showed a woman in a bathrobe holding a copy of the magazine and looking into the camera.

“If we got any closer to our readers,” the headline read, “we’d have to use protection.”

Mr. Drossman, then the chairman and co-creative director of his agency, said the goal of the campaign was “to make people think twice about the Digest.”

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Ellen (Danor) Drossman; his son, Edward; his sister, Phyllis Bulhack; and three grandchildren. He lived in Manhattan.

Not all of Mr. Drossman’s copywriting was humorous. In 2008, in a commercial extolling Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey for ranking among America’s 50 best hospitals, a young boy was shown playing alone with a glove and a baseball.

“If every hospital performed that well,” the narrator says, “hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved. Who knows, maybe Finn wouldn’t be alone now. Maybe he’d be having a catch with his grandfather.”

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