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Levy’s ad campaign: “You don’t have to be Jewish” (1961–70s)

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Sep 12th, 2016. Artwork published in .
    Levy’s ad campaign: “You don’t have to be Jewish” (1961–70s) 1
    Source: www.auction.fr License: All Rights Reserved.

    Doyle Dane Berbach’s famous campaign for Levy’s Jewish Rye bread. The copywriting was by Judy Protas

    “We had a local bread, real Jewish bread, that was sold widely in Brooklyn to Jewish people,” she told The New York Times in 1979. “What we wanted to do was enlarge its public acceptance. Since New York is so mixed ethnically, we decided to spread the good word that way.”

    … The Levy’s campaign, conceived by Mr. Bernbach and the art director William Taubin, featured photographs of conspicuously non-Jewish New Yorkers — a black boy, Asian and Native American men and a robed choirboy among them — blissfully contemplating a slice of the company’s rye.

    The ads were aimed primarily at the metropolitan area, where, exploiting a singular New York delivery system, they appeared chiefly in the subways. Long part of the day-to-day texture of the city, they were so striking that they drew a national following and were sold individually as posters.

    … and the design by William Taubin.

    Sean Adams:

    When I’m teaching, I show a 1958 Edsel ad to explain a boring ad. It’s a photo of a car and the copy tells me it’s a car. On the other end of the spectrum is a campaign like the Levy’s Rye Bread campaign from 1964. I see the product, but the copy asks me to do some work. It relies on the viewer’s cultural knowledge. It demystifies a product that might be considered exotic in 1964. And the final takeaway is a sense of humor and success. “Oh, I get it, the policeman must be Irish.” If you ad the fact that most ads in 1964 had a whole bunch of white people and nobody else, these are even more striking.

    Early versions of the ad had tightly spaced type, while later versions (or perhaps only the poster reproductions) were spaced looser.
    Source: www.internationalposter.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    Early versions of the ad had tightly spaced type, while later versions (or perhaps only the poster reproductions) were spaced looser.

    Levy’s ad campaign: “You don’t have to be Jewish” (1961–70s) 3
    Source: www.lib.umich.edu License: All Rights Reserved.
    Levy’s ad campaign: “You don’t have to be Jewish” (1961–70s) 4
    Source: www.lib.umich.edu License: All Rights Reserved.
    Levy’s ad campaign: “You don’t have to be Jewish” (1961–70s) 5
    Source: www.burningsettlerscabin.com License: All Rights Reserved.
    Levy’s ad campaign: “You don’t have to be Jewish” (1961–70s) 6
    Source: www.burningsettlerscabin.com License: All Rights Reserved.
    Buster Keaton
    Source: www.lib.umich.edu License: All Rights Reserved.

    Buster Keaton

    Levy’s ad campaign: “You don’t have to be Jewish” (1961–70s) 8
    Source: www.dpvintageposters.com License: All Rights Reserved.
    “Malcolm X liked the poster featuring the black child so much that he had himself photographed alongside it.” — The New York Times
    Source: www.cheapstrat.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Malcolm X liked the poster featuring the black child so much that he had himself photographed alongside it.” — The New York Times

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    8 Comments on “Levy’s ad campaign: “You don’t have to be Jewish” (1961–70s)”

    1. I’m looking for the poster that preceded the “You don’t have to be Jewish” campaign. It showed a giant sandwich with many kinds of meat and many kinds of vegetables with a wood skewer stuck in it with a pickle on the  skewer.  The copy just said “Levy’s Rye Bread”.  It has excited my foodist brain ever since.  How do I contact the the Levy’s company or the advertising company to ask about it?

    2. I am looking for the You Don’t Have to Be Jewish To Love Levy’s Jewish Rye Bread posters in general, to purchase! I have found a few and am searching for yet others!  Would love the Cop, The Native American, etc.  how come only a few are available?

    3. There is one on sale via ebay! Looks like it’s gonna be sold soon though.

    4. My aunt was married to the Native American gentleman in the ad. He was a Penobscot Indian. A great man that taught us about nature.

    5. Pat Alder says:
      Nov 12th, 2020 10:31 am

      Loved the ad campaign, especially using Buster Keaton. Still enjoy the Rye bread too!

    6. This is a long shot, but Shirl if you see this… I’m a journalist and would love to learn more about your aunt’s husband. It would be great to tell his story!

      [Andrew’s email address is known to the Fonts In Use team. If you want to get in touch, please contact us. – Moderator]

    7. Andrew Silverstein wrote a great article about Levy’s rye bread campaign for Forward. Most impressively, he managed to track down the identity of the Native American man featured in one of the ads: his name is Joseph Stanley Attean.

    8. jane hallaren says:
      Feb 19th, 2022 7:19 am

      I used to live with the photographer who photographed this whole campaign and it was through DOYLE, DANE & BERNBACH advertising agency, so you might want to give them a call.

    9. William Goodrich says:
      Apr 1st, 2022 7:49 pm

      Saw the great ad campaign and 4-color framed posters in the Galleria area of Houston at Kenny and Ziggy’s Deli along the back wall.

      Loved the Native American and little Chinese man the best. Laugh every time I go there from out of state. Very creative and joyful.

      How would I pay for and acquire some of these if they are still available and in print somehow?

    10. Richard Lawrence says:
      Apr 5th, 2022 1:08 am

      As a native New Yorker growing up in the ‘50s, I’ve always loved this campaign. 

      goes along with Doyle Dane’s campaign for El Al:

      a beaming mother with the headline: My son the pilot.

    11. charles and I were classmates & friends

      he was a nice kid. (black kid)

      what a cutie he was.

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