We want you to live.



Last month, when Dom Marino contacted Bob Levenson and me to co-write a story about our "We
Want You to Live" campaign, we had no idea that Bob, himself, had not much longer to live. I so
looked forward to collaborating with Bob again after all these years. But to my deepest regret, he
was too ill to participate. As we all know by now, Bob passed away on January 16, 2013.

So Bob, if you don't mind, I would like to tell our fellow DDBers about the time we threw a car off the
roof of a 10-story building just for laughs.

"10-Story Building" was the first TV spot we produced for Mobil along with a wide array of full page
newspaper ads and other TV commercials…each with the tag line "We Want You to Live".
In 1965, DDB was hired by Mobil to create a special institutional campaign in celebration of their
100th anniversary while their gasoline and oil business was still at Ted Bates. In looking for a hook to
latch onto, Bob and I were aware that the subject of highway safety was in the air. Ralph Nader's
book, "Unsafe at any Speed", was making a big to-do about the subject. Washington and the Press
were abuzz about it as President Johnson forcefully pushed Congress to pass a multitude of highway
and automotive safety laws.


So there we were, sitting across from each other, thumbing through a myriad of car safety materials.
We came upon a diagram demonstrating the impact of a head-on collision of a car going 60mph as
the equivalent to driving off the roof of a 10-story building. It's hard to remember who said what but
one of us blurted out "What if we did that for real?" Then the other one sneered sarcastically, "Lots of
luck!" That followed with "Maybe in Los Angeles. Those guys in Hollywood would let you do anything…
for a price." We looked at each other and decided to give it a shot.


After getting Bernbach and the client to agree to our bonehead idea, we hired Dick Miller, the Director,
and off we flew to L.A. to look for a possible location. What weirdo landlord, we thought, would let us
throw a car off the roof of his building and destroy his sidewalk in the process? We rented a
helicopter and flew all over L.A. looking for a 10-story building. While circling the city we came to
realize that the one thing that is almost non-existent in L.A. is a building that is exactly 10 stories high.
After searching for hours, we finally spotted one right in the heart of downtown L.A. located next to a
parking lot. That led to a meeting with the landlord and an agreement. $4,000 bucks plus the cost of
repairing the hole in the ground did the job.

We knew that by kicking off the campaign with something as outrageous as pushing a car off the roof
of a building, we would be literally and figuratively, breaking new ground. (Remember, there were no
computer tricks in those days.) To add to the drama, we planned to fly the car up to the roof by
helicopter. We selected three identical Nash Ramblers to work with. (Two were back-ups in case we
goofed.) We then hired some UCLA scientists to figure out the trajectory of the fall based on the
weight of the car and the distance it had to drop. We needed to be sure that the car would hit the
ground head on.

We were then ready to go with four cameras simultaneously covering the action. One camera was on
the roof to shoot the helicopter delivering the car and to cover it being pushed off. One camera was
on the ground focused right at the planned point of impact. In addition, we mounted two tiny cameras
inside the car so that we could capture the ground rushing up to us through the front window. Bob
and I were up on the roof as Dick Miller yelled "Action!" and the Nash Rambler, sitting on a cantilever,
was pushed off. The beginning of the drop went as planned but much to our chagrin, about half way down, the car started to flip over and landed with a thud on its back. How could those UCLA
scientists be so wrong? Then we figured it out. In preparing the cars for the shoot, for safety
reasons, the gas tanks were removed which changed the weight of the car and threw off the
calculation of the way it would fall. But not to worry, we had the opening footage.

We also had two backup cars waiting in the parking lot along with a huge crane in case we needed it.
And need it we did. The second Nash Rambler was then lifted up to the height of the roof and hung
vertically by its rear. Again, Dick Miller called "Action!" and car #2 was released and we got the end
of the shot. The monstrous head on crash was safely in our camera and we were home free. We
were so elated that we decided to lift the third Nash Rambler up to the roof and push it off just for
laughs.

And laugh we did. In fact, we had the last laugh because sales of Mobil gas and oil rose dramatically
as the campaign ran. Ultimately, Mobil took the lion's share of their business away from Ted Bates
and gave it all to Doyle Dane Bernbach.

On a serious note: Of all the awards and accolades that our "We Want You to Live" campaign
received, the one that Bob and I were most proud of was the one awarded to us by Rutger's
University as the best advertising campaign of the year from a corporation in the public service.

Bob, my greatest regret, is that I had to write this story without you. Although you are no longer with
us, your amazing body of work and your accomplishments in the world of advertising will live forever.

Len Sirowitz
DDB Art Director