Case met Krone at Doyle, Dane Bernbach where Case, a copywriter, was assigned to LBJ's campaign against Senator Goldwater. There, Case worked on the famous Daisy commercial , still considered the most effective political spot that ever ran on TV. He left DDB to join Jack Tinker & Partners, a noble experiment in creativity established by Interpublic under Marion Harper--its sole function was creative exploration and development. (Mary Wells was another DDB writer turned Tinkerer.) But Case stayed in touch with Krone and their frequent lunches tipped off rumors they were starting an agency.
When Case teamed up with Krone, he was just 31, one of the youngest founders of a start-up then. Because it was 1969, Ad Age made it a point of record that he was also one with the longest hair. No Don Draperly Brilcreem look for Gene Case. But, a la Mad Men, he and Krone set up shop in a hotel, taking a 7th floor suite at the Plaza. A week later, they brought in Pat McGrath, an account man from Benton & Bowles, who figured out the business end of things: McGrath put up $5,000 and loaned Case an additional $5,000, bringing the start-up capital total to $15,000. (This was when $5000 meant something: the average house cost $4600) The partners agreed to take $2,500 a month each, though no one took anything for the first five months.
After a month, the new agency moved across the street to 4 West 58th St where its modest $2 million of business included Carey Limousine, Cybernetics Inc. and Nestle Decaf coffee. After a lean couple of years, they won Mennen Skin Bracer, an $1.8 million account from J. Walter Thompson and created the series of commercials Case became most famous for: "Thanks. I needed that" a mnemonic that went viral before there was viral: men would be slapped across the face or slap themselves, as demonstrated by a still-slim John Goodman in the best (sorry) copy of this spot from the 70s I could find, posted below.
But the success of Mennen couldn't heal a growing rift between Case and Krone who displayed not only creative differences, but disparities in work habits. According to a 1994 Ad Age interview with McGrath, Krone would arrive mid-morning, have coffee, read the papers, have lunch and by the time "his furnaces were fully stoked, Case, whose day began promptly at 9 a.m, would be getting ready to go home." In 1972, Krone high-tailed it back to Doyle, Dane, Bernbach where he stayed until retiring in 1988.
Case's agency thrived due to packaged goods clients, but his heart was always in politics. He did a print campaign that helped Nelson Rockefeller win a third term as governor. And in 2002, at the age of 65, he founded a shop called The Avenging Angels, an advocacy ad agency to create campaigns for liberal causes.
Like Don Draper, he was always the consummate pitchman. "He was without a doubt the best presenter of advertising who ever lived," McGrath is quoted in today's Times. "Clients were sometimes unhappy because the ads weren't as good as the presentation." Um. Like this one?: