Philip H. Geier Jr., Who Built an Advertising Giant, Dies at 84


Three months later, with New Coke selling poorly — at one point it was renamed Coke II — Coca-Cola revived Coke, calling it Classic Coke, and sales soared. Mr. Geier wrote that the debacle had proved the value of gathering better information before replacing a beloved product and of listening to unhappy customers.

“When they’re mad at you,” he wrote, “act fast to appease them.”

Philip Henry Geier Jr. was born on Feb. 22, 1935, in Pontiac, Mich., and grew up in Cleveland. He was the oldest of six sons of Philip Sr., who ran a family-owned vacuum cleaner company and later sold insurance, and Jane (Gillen) Geier, a homemaker.

While studying economics at Colgate University in upstate New York, Mr. Geier started two businesses: selling late-night sandwiches to students after the school’s kitchens had closed, and operating a car service to New York City.

He received his first taste of advertising during his junior year, when he dated Joan Bennett (who went on to marry Edward M. Kennedy, the future United States senator, a few years later). Mr. Geier would listen to her father, Harry Wiggin Bennett Jr., a senior executive at an ad agency, practice making presentations in front of a mirror at their home.

After graduating from Colgate in 1957, Mr. Geier earned an M.B.A. from Columbia University the next year. He served six months in the National Guard in Cleveland. For a time he tried to develop some novel products: a toothbrush with toothpaste in its handle; a bar of glycerin soap that revealed a corporate logo after repeated use; and suntan lotion that also carried an insect repellent. None were successful.

Convinced that he could apply his skills to advertising, he applied to the McCann-Erickson trainee program in Cleveland in 1958 and was accepted. Promoted to account executive two years later, he moved to the agency’s Manhattan office, where one of his first accounts was Nestlé’s chocolate morsels.

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