Julian Norman Koenig was an award winning copywriter and widely considered one of the greatest in the history of advertising. He was inducted into The One Club Creative Hall of Fame in 1966.
In 1970, renowned copywriter Jerry Della Femina wrote of Koenig: "There was a period about eight years ago when it seemed that Julian Koenig was the copywriter on every great ad that was ever written. I spent my first five years in this business trying to emulate Mr. Koenig. I wasn't alone. Ask any top copywriter who he followed early in his career and almost to a man, they'll mention Julian Koenig."
Background and family
Koenig was born in Manhattan, New York City, the son of Minna (Harlib) and Morris Koenig. He was from a family of lawyers and judges. He studied at Dartmouth College and briefly at Columbia Law School. Before finishing law school he dropped out to write a novel and later found his way into the advertising industry. Koenig served four years in the United States Army Air Forces, 1942-1946. In 1946, Julian became half owner of a semi-pro baseball team, the Yonkers Indians, with his friend, writer Eliot Asinof. The team went bankrupt during its second season under their ownership, in part because there were no women's bathrooms at the Indians' ball park. Julian Koenig's older brother was Lester Koenig, a screenwriter and film producer, who, after he became a victim of the Hollywood blacklist, was principally known for heading the jazz record label, Contemporary Records.
He was married twice, first to Aquila Connolly, and later to Maria Eckhart. He has four children: Pim, an artist; John, a businessman and horseracing enthusiast; Antonia, a law student; and Sarah, a producer for the public radio show This American Life. He also has seven grandchildren. Koenig died in Manhattan on June 12, 2014.
Koenig originated many famous advertising campaigns. While working at the advertising firm Hirshon Garfield he designed the Timex torture test commercials which featured the tagline "Timex: It takes a licking and keeps on ticking". At the firm DDB, he and Helmut Krone created the legendary "Think Small" and "Lemon" ads for Volkswagen under the supervision of William Bernbach. The "Think Small" ad was voted the No. 1 campaign of all time in Advertising Age’s 1999 “The Century of Advertising."
In 1960 Fred Papert, an account manager from Kenyon & Eckhardt, persuaded Koenig and George Lois to start up their own creative hot shop, PKL. In 1962, they broke an industry taboo by doing an IPO. Within years several other agencies followed their lead.
Koenig was on Senator Gaylord Nelson's 1969 committee that established Earth Day on April 22. Koenig coined the name "Earth Day", basing it off of the fact that it occurred on his birthday.
Denis Hayes, the environmental activist who coordinated the first Earth Day, recounts Koenig's involvement:
"Weirdly, there have been a handful of other people who have also claimed credit for coming up with "Earth Day"—and Gaylord Nelson, who wasn't actually involved in the decision, tossed out a couple cockamamie stories about Wisconsin people over the years, which I think I got corrected in his mind before his death.
The author was definitely Julian.
At the time, my staff and I had a problem with the name Gaylord had originally placed on our effort to launch a modern environmental movement: "Environmental Teach-In." "Teach-In" was proving to be a serious turn-off to a lot of people who wanted to protest and change things, not debate them. Plus, it was boring.
Julian called us at about that time, volunteering to help us if we ever wanted to do some ads. I knew of PKL as the hottest shop on Madison Ave, so I candidly described the problem to him and said we really needed a new name. Something that could comfortably include moderates and political newbees while not alienating the seasoned activists we needed to enlist across the country to actually build the events. He said, "Gimme a few days."
A few days later, we received a set of tear sheets for a full-page newspaper ad to announce the campaign. He offered a bunch of possible names—Earth Day, Ecology Day, Environment Day, E Day—but he made it quite clear that we would be idiots if we didn't choose Earth Day. Over beer and pizza the following evening, my 20-something staff and I concurred, and quickly placed the ad in the NOTWIR section of the Sunday NYT.
Thus was born what remains the strongest "brand" in the environmental field. Earth Day has now been observed in more than 175 nations. "Earth Day" is transparent and resonant in essentially every language in the world."
Koenig was engaged in a lengthy struggle against George Lois, who claims to have actually created many of their firm's ad campaigns. Koenig, corroborated by several former colleagues, has pointed out that Lois did not in fact even work on many of the projects for which he is claiming credit.