14 Incredibly Famous People You Never Knew Started In Advertising

hugh hefner playboyHugh Hefner got his start as an adman.

Photo: Instagram @mermaidcrystal

What do Hugh Hefner, Jim Henson, and the guy who invented the Egg McMuffin have in common? They all got their start in advertising.Some of the world’s most famous authors, actors, directors, and pornography mavens got their start in advertising. They just didn’t stay in the business.

While many approached it with gusto — rising to the C-suite and creating some of the most iconic slogans of all times — and others saw it as a means to an end until they got their first big break in another field.

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie might have received numerous awards for his literature, but he failed a copy test at JWT 40 years ago.

'The only question I remember was they asked you to imagine that you met a Martian who mysteriously spoke English and you had to explain to them in less than 100 words how to make toast,' he told the IAPI during the Advertising Effectiveness Awards.

But Rushdie did snag freelance copywriter gigs for a decade at Charles Barker and Ogilvy & Mather, creating the tagline 'That'll do nicely' for American Express and 'Irresistibubble' for Aero bars.

John Hegarty of BBH critiqued Rushdie for not talking about his ad career during his success as a writer, adding, 'He did write crap ads ... admittedly.'

James Patterson

The thriller writer spent his early career as a bigwig in the ad world.

Patterson worked at J. Walter Thompson and rose from copywriter to become the agency's youngest creative director, and was eventually CEO of JWT North America.

He also came up with famous ad slogans including 'I'm a Toys 'R' Us Kid.'

Here's a commercial where kids sing Patterson's famous Toys 'R' Us slogan.

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss did the illustrations for beer ads ...

... motor oil ads ...

... and pop-gun ads.

Hugh Hefner

Before there was Playboy fame and fortune, Hugh Hefner worked as a copywriter to pay the bills.

Hefner worked as an advertising copywriter for the department store Carson, Pirie, Scott for $40 a week in 1950 and then as a promotion copywriter at Esquire for $60 a week in 1951.

Sir Alec Guinness

That's right, Obi-Wan Kenobi got his start as an ad man.

Guinness took a job as a junior copywriter at Ark's Publicity in London when he was only 18.

John Hughes

Before he was directing the Brat Pack, filmmaker John Hughes used his wit to get an entry level job at Needham, Harper & Steers before moving to Leo Burnett during the 1970s as a copywriter in Chicago.

Hughes worked on the KFC account -- 'always coming up with some wild, offbeat ways to creatively promote the Colonel's chicken,' art director Robert Birkenes said.

Hughes also did the iconic Edge 'Credit Card Shaving Test' spot.

Here's the famous Edge shaving commercial:

Jim Henson

Before Sesame Street and The Muppet Show took off, Jim Henson was hired to make more than 100 commercials for Wilkins Coffee. They starred puppets named Willkins and Wontkins and used mock violence to peddle the product.

Henson also produced ads for Wilson's Meat and Pak-Nit fabrics.

Here's Jim Henson's incredible campaign for Wilkins Coffee. (Spoiler alert: there are puppets.)

F. Scott Fitzgerald

When 22-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald ended his service in the army, he wanted nothing more than to marry Zelda Sayre. The only catch was that she wouldn't say yes until he had enough money to support himself. So off Fitzgerald went to try his hand at being a journalist in New York City. When that fell flat, he took a friend's advice and got into advertising.

Fitzgerald worked at Barron Collier, writing slogans for $35 a week.

He told the New York Post in a 1935 interview that, 'The hit I made with a slogan, I wrote for the Muscatine Steam laundry in Muscatine, Iowa--'We keep you clean in Muscatine.' I got a raise for that. 'It's perhaps a bit imaginative,' said the boss, 'but still it's plain that there's a future for you in this business. Pretty soon this office won't be big enough to hold you.''

Rick Moranis

Although the information is sparse, various sources report that Rick Moranis worked as a copywriter before shrinking himself or Ghostbuster-ing.

Helen Gurley Brown

Gurley Brown might be best known for being the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan, but she started out as a secretary at ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, which is now a part of DraftFCB.

She finally was able to break into copywriting after winning Glamour magazine's '10 Girls with Taste' competition, forcing her boss to see that she was a very talented writer.

Although she continued working as a secretary while taking on duties as a copywriter for three years, working on Sunkist and Catalina swimsuits, she eventually was snagged by Kenyon & Eckhardt where she became one of the highest-paid people in advertising in the country.

Mary Higgins Clark

The bestselling author worked as a secretary for the head of the creative department at Remington-Rand after graduating from Wood Secretarial School.

Wanting to take a step up in the industry, Higgins Clark enrolled in advertising night classes. Her boss noticed her talent and asked her to help write catalogue copy with another soon-to-be literary legend, Joseph Heller.

Higgins Clark also modelled for the agency with then-unknown Grace Kelly.

Joseph Heller

Before he wrote Catch-22, Heller worked as a copywriter at Remington-Rand for a short period of time with Mary Higgins Clark.

Herb Peterson

You might not recognise the name, but you know what he created.

Herb Peterson, owner of six McDonald's franchises in California, invented the famous Egg McMuffin.

But he got his start as an ad exec at D'Arcy Advertising in Chicago. He came up with the slogan, 'Where Quality Starts Fresh Every Day.'

Bob Newhart

Early in his career, Bob Newhart was desperate to break out of accounting and into the world of comedy.

He transitioned from corporate to creative by taking a job as an advertising copywriter for Fred A. Niles in Chicago in 1959.

A lot of things can happen in the ad world without you noticing.

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