Guy Day dies at 79; co-founded acclaimed Chiat/Day advertising agency in L.A.


Guy Day, who teamed with fellow advertising executive Jay Chiat in 1968 to co-found the acclaimed Chiat/Day advertising agency in Los Angeles, has died. He was 79.

Day died in his sleep of natural causes Saturday at his home in Pflugerville, Texas, said his wife, Annette.

An Army veteran who launched his career in the mail room of an ad agency in New York City in the 1950s, Day was partners with Tom Faust in the Faust/Day ad agency in Los Angeles for six years before Faust left in 1968.

Day then called Chiat of Jay Chiat & Associates to discuss merging their two operations.

“It was just some way to get size and scope,” Day recalled in a 1989 Adweek interview. “I didn’t want to run an agency by myself.”

A winning toss of a coin made Day president of Chiat/Day, which is credited with turning the Super Bowl into an “advertising showcase” in 1984 with the landmark Orwellian “1984” commercial that introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer.

“He’s an advertising icon,” said Mel Newhoff, president of Strategic Marketing Partners in Westlake Village, who was hired by Day before the 1968 merger and spent eight years at Chiat/Day.

“Guy was kind of the quiet creative force at Chiat/Day,” Newhoff said. “He was an excellent writer and motivated the creative teams inside the agency.”

Mel Abert, who worked as an art director at Faust/Day and Chiat/Day, called Day “an amazing man.”

“He had a tremendous intellect; certainly, that’s what I was in awe of,” said Abert, a partner in Abert Entity, an advertising and marketing firm in Manhattan Beach. “Faust/Day and Chiat/Day were just full of extremely fun and brilliant people, and he was one of them.”

The ad agency, which is now known as TBWAChiatDay, was described by Adweek this week as “the first to forge an industry outside of traditional centers like New York and Chicago, attracting national marketers and winning global acclaim for the agency’s work.”

In 1970, Chiat/Day was hired by Honda to introduce its first car in the United States. Other 1970s accounts included Olympia Brewing Co., Johnston Foods Co., Merle Norman Cosmetics, Yamaha motorcycles, Motel 6 and Ontario Motor Speedway.

Chiat/Day’s billings reportedly quintupled within a decade, and Day sold his interest in the agency in 1978.

“It’s a very personal thing,” he told The Times in 1978, “but I felt I’d done as much as I could in the advertising business and I wanted to get back to my childhood ambition: being a writer.”

Day worked on a novel over the next few years but began feeling bored at home. After calling Chiat to see if he needed help, Day returned to the agency in 1982 as “a freelance president” while Chiat focused on building an office in New York.

After Day’s return, the agency’s billings reportedly almost tripled, with accounts that included Nike, Porsche, Pizza Hut and Apple computers.

After leaving the agency again in 1986, Day returned to writing novels.

But in 1989, he began a brief stint as vice chairman of the Los Angeles ad firm Keye/Donna/Pearlstein. And in 1991, he became the Los Angeles-based vice chairman of Minneapolis agency McElligott Wright Morrison White.

He retired from advertising later in the decade.

Despite his various sabbaticals from the business, Day described himself as a “lifelong agency ad man.”

“I think it’s the best business in the world,” he said in a 1989 interview with Advertising Age. “Where else can you be so un-bored?”

Born in Chicago on July 30, 1930, Day dropped out of the University of Missouri, where he studied journalism, to enlist in the Army during the Korean War.

After his discharge, he landed a mail-room job at the McCann/Erickson advertising agency in New York.

“I wanted to be involved with words and pictures and . . . a shot at making enough money so that I wouldn’t have to work past age 40,” he told Advertising Age in 1989.

After advancing to the paste-up department, he moved to Los Angeles in 1955 to study at the Art Center College of Design. He gave that up after a couple of semesters to work at the Hixson & Jorgensen ad agency.

After six years there and a stint at Carson & Roberts, he and Tom Faust formed Faust/Day in 1962.

Over the years, Annette Day said, her husband worked on two novels as well as a book about advertising. Unfortunately, she said, none were published.

In addition to his wife, Day is survived by a daughter, Colleen Gottlob; two sons, Bill and Cameron; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Services will be private.