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NEW YORK - Advertising executive Philip Dusenberry died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan of lung cancer. He was 71.
Dusenberry oversaw the 1980s Pepsi commercial in which Michael Jackson's hair was accidentally set on fire. He also oversaw teams at advertisement agency BBDO that coined "The choice of a new generation" for Pepsi and "We bring good things to life" for General Electric.
Dusenberry believed that human stories were more attention grabbing than product details.
He said: "I'm always going to be searching for emotion. In an age when most products aren't very different, the difference is often in the way people feel about the product."
Born on April 28 1936 in Brooklyn, he was the eldest child of a cab driver. He attended Emory & Henry College in Virginia on a baseball scholarship, but dropped out after the athletics programme and his scholarship were discontinued.
He took voice lessons to try to lose his Brooklyn accent and worked as a radio DJ. He got his first taste of writing for commercials when the station manager asked him to fill in for the ad writer.
Dusenberry followed a radio colleague to BBDO and rose to prominence there in the 1980s when he became executive creative director.
He was an early advocate of using cinematic techniques and special effects in TV spots and he often cast celebrities in advertisements. PepsiCo was one of his long time clients and the ads starred celebrities Lionel Richie, Don Johnson, Madonna and Michael J Fox.
Dusenberry also dabbled in the film business. He was a co-author of the screenplay for the movies Hail to the Chief, a 1973 political satire and The Natural, starring Robert Redford.
After the 9/11 attacks, he led the team that made The New York Miracle public service campaign to lift the spirits of New Yorkers.
When he retired in 2002, he was chairman of BBDO North America. He was inducted in 2002 into the Advertising Hall of Fame in Washington.
Dusenberry is survived by his wife Susan, stepson, daughter-in-law, two brothers and a sister. - New York Times