Alan Maxwell Pottasch, known as the father of the "Pepsi Generation," was the creative force behind Pepsi-Cola advertising spanning nearly five decades. He was 79 years young and at the time of his death was doing what he loved best–working on a Pepsi TV commercial in Los Angeles. Although he officially retired from Pepsi in 1991, Pottasch continued to serve as an active creative consultant to Pepsi-Cola and other PepsiCo divisions.
He joined Pepsi-Cola in 1957 and devoted his career to marketing and advertising. In the early 1960s, Pottasch was among the first to recognize the coming youth culture, dominated by so-called "baby boomers." Of that era he said, "Pepsi named and claimed 25 million young people for its own with a big, sweeping invitation to live life to its fullest." The landmark effort shifted the focus of advertising from extolling the virtues of a product to celebrating the lives of its consumers–in this case, the young at heart, optimistic and vibrant "Pepsi Generation." Launched in 1963, the "Pepsi Generation" was one of the longest-running, most successful advertising campaigns in history. Although initially aimed at Americans, the campaign proved to have universal appeal and resonated with consumers around the world. The phrase remains an important part of today's global pop lexicon.
Pottasch's Pepsi commercials won more than 60 major awards, including the advertising world's highest honor, the Grand Prix at Cannes. Pottasch also produced some of the industry's most famous celebrity commercials, including the groundbreaking series of musical ads starring Michael Jackson in the 1980s.
Pottasch was appointed senior vice president, worldwide creative, for Pepsi-Cola in 1972, the post he retired from in 1991. Yet he never actually retired. He continued until his death as a creative consultant, formulating ideas, overseeing commercial shoots and documenting how Pepsi's advertising reflected America's cultural and historic trends.
Beyond his advertising impact, early in his Pepsi tenure, Pottasch yielded to his love of travel and accepted a stint in the company's international division. He held various management assignments in pre-revolutionary Iran, Latin America and as president and CEO of Pepsi-Cola Japan.
In addition to his Pepsi duties, Pottasch served on the boards of the Association of National Advertisers, the Ad Council, Cayman Airways and the National Association of Underwater Instructors. He also was an active pilot and could often be found behind the controls of his beloved vintage Piper Cub, which he kept on a lake near his home; and was a pioneering scuba diver instructor, training countless friends in the pursuit of diving at locations around the globe.
Before joining Pepsi, Pottasch was vice president of the Kenyon & Eckhardt Advertising Agency and for eight years prior to that was a producer-director with ABC-TV in New York.
Starting as an electrical engineering major, his college years were interrupted by a stint in the Navy Air Corps during World War II, where he trained as a pilot. Pottasch eventually earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing from Pennsylvania State University in 1949. Intrigued by television, then in its infancy, he attended a directing school in New York City. He later participated in Harvard Business School's Advanced Management program.
Penn State honored Pottasch with its Alumni Fellow Award in 1993. He also was the University's College of Communications commencement speaker in 2004, advising graduates to "Pursue your passion, persevere and maintain perspective on what's important in life."
A native of New York City, Pottasch lived in New Fairfield, Conn., with his wife Lisa and their daughter Allison.