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Woman Behind Levy’s Jewish Rye Slogan Dies

Retired advertising executive Judy Protas was 91

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The 1961 ad campaign for Levy's bakery.(University of Michigan Library)

Judy Protas, the advertising executive at Doyle Dane Bernbach credited with writing a 1961 slogan so ubiquitous it now resides in the upper ad echelons with the likes of “Who Shot J.R.?” has died at 91, the New York Times reports. “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye,” the unexpected ad campaign for Levy’s, a Brooklyn bakery largely catering to and popular among local Jews, was Protas’ brainchild—though several others have been credited with it over the years—and an instant hit.

The signs, which featured the faces of a diverse range of people, young and old, male and female, were plastered in subways, and haven’t ventured far from popular memory, at least in New York, since. (You can buy poster versions of the ads online.) According to the Times, the Levy’s slogan was just one of Protas’ many clever creations, though it certainly is her most remembered.

And thus, from Ms. Protas’s largely anonymous pen sprang a slogan — “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye” — that has far outlived the actual campaign, which began in 1961 and ran through the 1970s.

A copywriter who spent most of her career at DDB, Ms. Protas was responsible for some of the most vibrant entries in the agency’s portfolio, including ads for Cracker Jack (“Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize”) and Ohrbach’s, the discount department store.

Protas attended Barnard College as an undergraduate and received a Master’s degree in English literature from Yale. She worked for Macy’s before being hired by DDB in 1950, where she became vice president in 1967. She retired in the 1990s. Protas is survived by two nieces and four nephews.

What are your memories of the Levy’s ads?

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Woman Behind Levy’s Jewish Rye Slogan Dies

Retired advertising executive Judy Protas was 91

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