Obituary: Myles Monte Spicer, former ad exec and editorial writer

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 26, 2014 - 9:25 PM

Myles Monte Spicer was frustrated by government gridlock, railed against conservatives who suggested Minnesota’s high taxes are holding the state back, and was dismayed by how far today’s broadcast journalism has strayed from the days of Walter Cronkite and Edward Murrow.

“The incompetence on television today is rampant, and not confined to any one station or cable outlet,” he wrote in the opinion pages of the Star Tribune in October 2013. “It is virtually everywhere.”

And he often defended the virtues of his beloved profession — advertising — for most of his career. He proudly noted that he lived through the “Mad Men” era of advertising. And while it wasn’t perfect, he said he missed those days when there was more personal interaction and companies and employees were more loyal to one another.

“Today’s offices are sterile, with virtually everyone’s head locked into a computer,” he wrote in April 2012. “Sometimes, interoffice communication is done via e-mail — even with the person in the office next door. Absurd.”

Spicer, who ran a number of ad agencies in the Twin Cities and San Diego and was a frequent contributor to the Star Tribune’s opinion pages, died in a car accident on June 14 in California. He was 81.

In his later years, he split his time between his house in Minnetonka and one in Palm Desert, Calif., where he also wrote commentaries for the Desert Sun newspaper.

“His passion was his writing,” said his daughter, Jane, who lives in Minneapolis. “He sent me copies of everything he got published. He said to me recently he had enough now to compile a book.”

A St. Paul native, Spicer graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1954 with a degree in American studies. In addition, he served in the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged as a captain.

He started off his advertising career as a copywriter in 1957. A decade later, he founded his first agency — Kaufman/Spicer — with his partner, Sam Kaufman. He later sold it and founded two other agencies in the Twin Cities and one in San Diego. He eventually sold his interests in those firms and became an advertising consultant.

In some of his essays, Spicer expressed dismay for how his profession was sometimes portrayed as being without scruples.

“The surveys that show us rated somewhere below car dealers and only slightly above Nixon look-a-likes are, in my opinion, mostly unwarranted and quite unfortunate,” he wrote in the Star Tribune in 1995.

He said he found that it was often the clients — and not the advertising agencies — who wanted to bend the truth.

In the 1970s, Spicer wrote and produced much of the advertising campaign for the Phillips Distilling Co., encouraging customers of its liquors to “enjoy in moderation.” Spicer said that campaign became a case study at the Harvard Business School. He also produced a campaign for Phillips warning about fetal alcohol syndrome.

His daughter, Jane, said he was fond of making up jingles and would often sing them everywhere he went.

“He wrote the jingle: ‘Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, remember the Embers,’ ” she said, referring to a slogan for a local restaurant chain.

Blue Bunny was one of his accounts, too, she said, recalling how her family’s freezer was often stocked with the brand’s ice cream when she was growing up.

Later in his life, Spicer bought an Eden Prairie-based medical transcription company, Alpha Transcription. He sold it about a decade later in 2012, after building it from six employees to 160.

He was married for 56 years to Joan Spicer, who died in August.

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