Bill Backer

William Montague "Bill" Backer (June 9, 1926 – May 13, 2016) was an American advertising executive. He became an industry legend for creating the slogans "Things go better with Coke", further defining the product as "the real thing", and convinced the world that Miller Lite was "everything you ever wanted in a beer, and less", and should be consumed at "Miller Time". In 1971, Backer created the Coca-Cola campaign and accompanying song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)".

Early life and education

Backer was born June 9, 1926, and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. He graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, and served two years in the United States Navy. He earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1950.[1]


In 1953, Backer's advertising career started in the mailroom of McCann Erickson. He was promoted to creative director in 1972, and vice chairman of the agency in 1978.

In 1979, Backer co-founded Backer & Spielvogel (with Carl Spielvogel), which eight years later became Backer, Spielvogel & Bates Worldwide, Inc., one of the world's largest marketing and advertising communications companies.[2] This worldwide corporation had 178 companies in 55 countries, and employed 8,500 persons—1,000 Americans and 7,500 nationals of the countries in which business was being conducted.

In 1999, Advertising Age included Backer's name in a list of the top 100 players in advertising history.

In 2015, when the AMC television series Mad Men concluded with fictional character Don Draper's conception of the "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing..." campaign while the character was working at McCann Erickson, media outlets contacted Backer, asking him if he was the basis of the Don Draper character. He told the New York Times: "I'm not Don Draper."[3]

Thoroughbred breeding and ownership

Backer was elected as a member of the Jockey Club in 2004. Backer also served on the Board of Directors of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. As owner of Smitten Farm near The Plains, Virginia, he bred and owned a number of stakes performers, including 2009 Grade 3-Turf Virginia Oaks winner Blind Date (by sire Not for Love) and also seven-time stakes winner Applause (by sire Shecky Greene).[4]

Personal life

Backer was married for 30 years to his wife Ann (née Mudge). The two split time between Smitten Farm and a home in Nokomis, Florida.[1] Backer died on May 13, 2016, in Warrenton, Virginia. He was 89.[5]


  • Bill Backer (1993). The Care and Feeding of Ideas (1st ed.). Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 0812919696.


  1. "Ad genius, conservationist Bill Backer dies at 89". May 16, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  2. Rothenberg, Randall (January 12, 1989). "The Media Business: Advertising; B.S.B.W. Names Backer President". Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  3. "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke". Middleburg Life. June 2015. p. 47. Retrieved 2016-06-23.
  4. "William Backer Passes Away | TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions". Thoroughbred Daily News. 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2016-12-30.
  5. Roberts, Sam (May 16, 2016). "Bill Backer, Who Taught the World (and Don Draper) to Sing, Dies at 89". Retrieved May 17, 2016.

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