Obituary: David C. Austin / Longtime advertising executive involved in memorable campaigns

Sept. 29, 1944 - Feb. 26, 2014

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David C. Austin was not the creative mind behind the iconic Eat'n Park Christmas tree TV advertisement, but without him, the commercial might not have left the drawing board.

"I tried to kill it. I thought it was too expensive," explained Fred Wallin, a colleague to Mr. Austin when they both worked at the Pittsburgh-born Ketchum ad agency. "Dave overruled me," Mr. Wallin said, and Ketchum eventually pitched the ad, which is still aired during the holiday season, 30 years after its first run.

Mr. Austin, an account executive behind some of the most memorable marketing campaigns to come out of Ketchum during the 1980s and 1990s, died on Feb. 26 at age 69 of a heart attack. He lived in Peters.

Mr. Wallin and Jay Austin, one of Mr. Austin's sons, noted that the elder Austin also managed Ketchum's account with Pennsylvania's tourism bureau during the "You've Got A Friend In Pennsylvania" years. That slogan was developed by Pittsburgh adman Ray Werner.

The best account managers, Mr. Werner said, are "kind of like orchestra leader. They're conducting things. They have all these little pieces that have to come together" -- the creative team, pitches, budgets, deadlines, client relations and more.

Mr. Austin, he said, "blends all the instruments together. The orchestra [gets] applauded, and he's standing on the sides, smiling."

Mr. Austin came to Pittsburgh by way of Cleveland and Ohio University, where he met his future wife, Carol Murray. Before coming to Pittsburgh and Ketchum in 1977, he was an advertising executive with B.F. Goodrich.

He spent three decades in advertising, retiring in 2001, according to his family.

He was named the Pittsburgh Business & Professional Advertising Association Executive of the Year in 1985, and served as president of the Pittsburgh Advertising Management Association.

One of his personal and professional highlights, Mr. Wallin said, was when Mr. Austin played a round of golf with Arnold Palmer, who in the 1990s was a spokesman for what is now PNC Financial Services, at the time that Ketchum was handling PNC's enormous marketing campaign.

In advertising as in life, Mr. Austin believed in understatement, family and friends said. "He would not speak for the sake of speaking," Jay Austin said. "He taught us many lessons in life through his example more than his word."

Mr. Austin is survived by his wife, Carol Austin; a brother Neil; two sons, Jay C. Austin of Virginia and Peter D. Austin of Mt. Lebanon; a brother, Neil, and four grandchildren; two stepsisters; and many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m., at Beinhauer funeral home, 2828 Washington Road, Peters.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Bethel United Methodist Church, 5901 Library Road, Bethel Park.


Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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