Karlen Williams Graybill Advertising Remembers Founder Roland “Rolly” Karlen on His Passing

Share Article

Roland “Rolly” Karlen, Beat Generation playwright turned adman who created a jingle New Yorkers of a certain age will never forget, recently passed away at age 88.

“Rolly Karlen was a visionary who built an agency committed to placing clients’ interests’ first and driving sales growth for their brands,” said Jim Williams, Managing Partner, Karlen Williams Graybill Advertising.

Roland “Rolly” Karlen, founder of Karlen Williams Graybill Advertising and the man who gave New Yorkers of an earlier era a Castro Convertible jingle they can never forget, died at home on September 20, 2014 at the age of 88.

A lifelong New Yorker, Rolly Karlen went to Hunter College on the G.I. Bill after World War II and earned a bachelor’s degree in English. His dream was to write for the stage, and he authored several plays before turning to an advertising career to support his young family. Karlen founded Newton Advertising with his brother Bernard in 1952. (“Newton” was Karlen’s middle name.) For 10 years, Karlen wrote ad copy and pursued playwriting in his increasingly limited spare time. Among his notable campaigns, he wrote and produced the first color TV spot to appear on WNBC-TV in New York, an ad for local furniture maker Castro Convertible, which featured a tune National Public Radio later ranked one of the 10 best jingles ever written. (“Who’s tops in the convertible line…it’s Castro Convertible.”)

In 1962, Karlen founded his own firm, Karlen Advertising, where he created what he called the “uncommercial,” where radio personalities read compelling ad copy live. One of the agency’s early successes was the Mineral Ice topical analgesic brand, which it helped grow from a chiropractor’s home recipe to a category leader, ultimately sold to Bristol Myers. Karlen worked on TV and radio campaigns for the Hoover vacuum brand for many years and helped create the mainstream vitamin/herbal supplement movement by building brands such as Ginsana, Garlique, Natrol and Ester-C.

Karlen remained active in the business until 2004 when he sold the remainder of the agency, renamed Karlen Williams Graybill Advertising, to his existing partners, Jim Williams and Jeff Graybill. In retirement, Karlen returned to playwriting, his first love, and enjoyed several professional readings of his early plays. He was also a major supporter of public television and the Central Park Conservancy.

“Rolly Karlen was a visionary who built an agency committed to placing clients’ interests’ first and driving sales growth for their brands,” said Jim Williams, Managing Partner, Karlen Williams Graybill Advertising. “His insights, creativity, and love for the written word produced memorable advertising that built the bottom line for generations of businesses. We are proud to carry on his legacy.”

ABOUT KARLEN WILLIAMS GRAYBILL ADVERTISING
Karlen Williams Graybill Advertising is a full service advertising agency based in New York City. Founded in 1962, today KWG manages advertising services for over 40 national name brands with consumer sales totaling over $3 billion, including Allegra, Rolaids, Icy Hot, Act Mouthwash, Gold Bond, Airborne, French’s Mustard and Frank’s RedHot. To find out more please visit kwgadv.com.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

George McGrath
McGrath Business Communications
+1 (917) 658-8131
Email >