Laurel Cutler, a powerhouse from the golden age of advertising, dies at 94
She remembers judging a competition in which contestants had to complete this sentence about a fabric brightener: “I like LaFrance Blueing Flakes because. …” The winner wrote, “I washed a pair of curtains two weeks apart, and they came out the same shade of white.” This entry won, Ms. Cutler concluded, “because it was concrete and specific and contained a demonstration”, principles that have remained true to her as she rose through the ranks.
She then worked as a typist at the J. Walter Thompson Agency in the late 1940s before being promoted to editor. She left to advertise for Walter Winchell, the country’s reigning gossip columnist, then joined McCann Erikson in 1964, at the height of the “Mad Men” era.
“Yeah, there were a lot of three-martini lunches,” she wrote in her memoir. But she worked her way up to creative director on the food and drug accounts, which were seen as a step up from fashion and beauty (where the fictional Peggy Olson was stuck).
When Ms Cutler was in her twenties, her hair began to turn gray prematurely. Clairol, one of her clients, pushed her to color it. But that would have required her to spend three hours every three weeks at the hairdresser—too much time, she decided. She remained gray and eventually lost the Clairol account.
Ms Cutler married a lawyer, Stanley Bernstein, in 1952. Yet she was the family’s main breadwinner and they later divorced. She married Theodore J. Israel, an investor, in 2002; he died in 2015.
She is survived by her daughter, Amy Bernstein, who was confirmed dead; two sons, Jon and Seth Bernstein; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. Lloyd Cutler, his brother, died in 2005.
Mrs. Cutler adored her brother, even though she felt overshadowed by him. In her memoir, she recalls a reception in Washington where she was introduced to Katharine Graham, editor of the Washington Post, as “Lloyd’s sister”. At that, Edward N. Ney, president of Young & Rubicam, the global marketing agency, chimed in to tell Ms Graham: “In our world, he’s Laurel’s brother.
“Lloyd told this story for the rest of his life,” Ms Cutler wrote. “And he always said I made more money than him, which was probably true.”