Allen Kay, 77, Dies; Coined ‘If You See Something, Say Something’

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He created galore memorable commercials, including 1 featuring a monk who works miracles with a Xerox copier. His astir notable slogan helped prevention lives.

Allen Kay, a antheral   with achromatic  hair, a beard and glasses dressed each  successful  black, lasting  connected  a Manhattan sidewalk with his hands successful  his pockets.
Allen Kay, the advertizing enforcement down the “If you spot something, accidental something” campaign, successful 2010.Credit...Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Sam Roberts

Dec. 2, 2022, 6:12 p.m. ET

Allen Kay, an advertizing enforcement whose enactment sold Xerox copiers to Super Bowl viewers (Brother Dominic the monk) and saved lives aft the 2001 violent attacks (“If you spot something, accidental something”), died connected Nov. 27 astatine his location successful Weehawken, N.J. He was 77.

The origin was cardio-respiratory failure, said his wife, Susan (Brody) Kay.

Mr. Kay won immoderate 30 Clio Awards and was inducted into 2 advertizing Halls of Fame for the innovative and often whimsical campaigns helium and his collaborators crafted erstwhile helium worked astatine Needham, Harper & Steers from 1971 until 1982 erstwhile helium near arsenic elder vice president and originative manager and aboriginal astatine his ain agencies, Korey Kay & Partners and the Advertising Company.

“We person 5 basal guidelines for processing advertising,” helium said successful an interrogation for Guy Kawasaki’s publication “How to Drive Your Competition Crazy: Creating Disruption for Fun and Profit” (1995). “Start with the customer. Live with the client. Uncover the obvious. Keep it simple. And travel through.”

His tv commercials reached millions of viewers. But helium made his top interaction with the slogan helium conjured for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority aft the Sept. 11, 2001, violent onslaught connected the World Trade Center successful Lower Manhattan helped marque radical each implicit the satellite much information conscious.

“People understood that officials could not beryllium everywhere, truthful the M.T.A. was asking them to enactment successful each other’s safety,” Mr. Kay told The New York Times successful 2007.

The understated six-word conflict outcry for civic engagement that helium created resulted from probe successful Israel, wherever being connected the lookout for coercion is routine, and with rider absorption groups.

“The mode we saw the duty was a benignant of a loose-lips-sink-ships, circa 2003,” Mr. Kay told The Times successful 2003. “The irony was that successful World War II, the connection was to support your rima shut. And present the connection is, successful the trains, don’t.”


“I’m arrogant of what it’s done and the imaginable it has to bash more,” Mr. Kay said successful 2010 of the slogan helium created, which made its archetypal quality successful the New York subway strategy successful 2003.Credit...David Grossman/Alamy

A fig of appeals were rejected arsenic excessively agelong oregon complicated, among them “If you spot a bundle without a person, don’t support it to yourself” — which was, astatine the precise least, ambiguous.

“Be suspicious of things that look suspicious” was discarded, too. Transit officials aboriginal explained that they had decided that wording was each but guaranteed to make crank calls, since New Yorkers thin to respect 1 different and their possessions warily to statesman with.

“There are a batch of suspicious-looking people,” Katherine N. Lapp, the transit agency’s enforcement director, said successful 2003.

Posters bearing the slogan “If you spot something, accidental something” were installed successful the subway strategy successful 2003, 1 week earlier the American penetration of Iraq began.

“I’m arrogant of what it’s done and the imaginable it has to bash more,” Mr. Kay told The Times successful 2010. “Some things you conscionable can’t stop. But if it is stoppable, and that thought makes idiosyncratic deliberation doubly and accidental thing that stops something, that’s its crushed for being.”

In a connection aft Mr. Kay’s death, John J. McCarthy, the M.T.A.’s main of outer relations, said: “By fundamentally serving arsenic a counterweight to ‘Snitches get stitches,’ the iconic ‘See something, accidental something’ run has implicit the years unquestionably saved lives.”

In 1976, erstwhile Mr. Kay was astatine Needham, helium was credited with kicking disconnected the usage of the Super Bowl arsenic a planetary showcase for premiering innovative (and exorbitant) advertisements. For Super Bowl X, helium and the copywriter Steven Penchina created a spot for the Xerox high-speed duplicator.

It featured a monk named Brother Dominic (played by Jack Eagle, a borscht-belt comedian and erstwhile big-band trumpeter), who was shown toiling distant successful the basement of an abbey, penning a manuscript by hand. When the begetter superior asks him for 500 copies, helium luckily finds a person with a Xerox copying instrumentality and gets the occupation done speedily.

“It’s a miracle,” his chap monks exclaim.

Advertising Age proclaimed the Brother Dominic run 1 of the apical 50 of the 20th century.

By positioning Honda arsenic “the car that sells itself” for dealers successful New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Mr. Kay and his colleagues created a people leader retired of a mythical salesman they named Danny. Customers would locomotion into the showroom and announce, “I’ll instrumentality it,” earlier Danny could adjacent marque his pitch.

In 1984, Mr. Kay persuaded an upstart institution called Eagle Telephonics to walk $10,000 to prosecute an technologist affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History to physique a radio-controlled robotic eagle that alighted connected the caput of a deskbound enforcement successful a commercial.

“Notice thing antithetic astir my office?” the enforcement asks. The advertisement ends with a tagline: “Now each different phones are endangered species.”

A run for the instrumentality steadfast Jacoby & Meyers took the “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the lone thing” attack to the extremity of ineligible action.

“Remember that guy?” 1 commercialized began. “Who came successful 2nd successful the past New York Marathon? Neither bash we. Winning is everything.”

Another commercial opens with the opus “Hail to the Chief” and shows portraits of the humanities figures Horatio Seymour, Charles C. Pinckney, Hugh L. White and Lewis Cass. “Presidential elections are similar lawsuits,” a voice-over says. “You’re cipher unless you win.” (The advertisement does not elaborate that they mislaid to Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren and Zachary Taylor, respectively.)

Mr. Kay was already working for the M.T.A. erstwhile helium coined the celebrated information alert. In 1993, helium wrote a poster connection to riders that began by parodying the vexing occupation of inaudible loudspeaker announcements with a gap-laden message: “You m ght n t bel eve this, but we existent y are w rking connected th p blic addr ss sy t m.”

Mr. Kay and his partners were thing if not assertive successful pursuing accounts. In 1982, they learned that WCBS-TV successful New York was buying for a caller agency, but by that clip the station’s manager of communications, Joseph Passarella, had narrowed the hunt to 3 different agencies and barred caller bidders.

Mr. Kay and Ms. Korey responded similar existent New Yorkers: They resorted to threats. They sent Mr. Passarella an audition reel with a enactment that read: “We person your dog. Look astatine this reel if you privation to spot him again.” After calling his woman to marque definite that she hadn’t acquired a canine since helium near location that morning, Mr. Passarella looked astatine the reel, liked it and hired Korey Kay for the $3 cardinal account.


In his career, Mr. Kay won immoderate 30 Clio Awards and was inducted into 2 advertizing Halls of Fame.Credit...Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Allen Steven Kay was calved connected Nov. 25, 1945, successful the Bronx. His father, Samuel, worked astatine Grey Advertising arsenic a comptroller. His mother, Estelle (Citron) Kay, operated a Comptometer, a key-driven mechanical calculator, for a ample firm.

After moving with his household to New Jersey from the Washington Heights vicinity of Manhattan, Allen graduated from Fair Lawn High School and went connected to gain a grade successful advertizing from ArtCenter College of Design successful Los Angeles successful 1967.

He worked for McCann Erickson and Jack Tinker & Partners earlier joining Needham successful 1971. He founded Korey Kay & Partners with Lois Korey successful 1982 and the Advertising Company successful 2016.

In summation to his wife, helium is survived by his daughters, Jill and Deana Kay; his sister, Robin Cortese; and six grandchildren.

Mr. Kay had been moving connected an autobiography but died earlier finishing it. It was tentatively titled “Death Runs successful My Family.”

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