When you heard John Dorritie’s hearty laugh from across the room, you turned to hear who was having such a good time. And there would be John in a circle enjoying a joke or just having delivered the punch line himself. He was a joyful optimist and his zest for life extended into his business career and contributed to his success.
John’s path to medical advertising began with a degree in chemistry from Iona College. After graduation in 1955, he spent 2 years in the army serving in military intelligence. He then joined Sandoz as a sales representative, moving up in the company through the market research department to become an assistant advertising manager. In 1965, he took a job as an assistant account executive at Sudler & Hennessey. In only 3 years, he had become a vice president, account supervisor.
S&H in the late 1960s had a deep, talented creative and management staff. Dorritie may have felt the ladder to the top of the agency was too crowded, but more likely he decided to go out on his own because he had an idea that appealed to his entrepreneurial goals. He founded Stat Kit Inc.—a company which assembled and distributed emergency medical kits to physicians. For the next 3 years, Dorritie sought sponsors and products for Stat Kit among healthcare companies, energetically promoting it to industry executives and developing relationships that would be valuable to him in the future.
In 1971, Dorritie, seeing the limits of the venture, rejoined S&H and began working on the Pfizer account, supervising such important products as Sinequan and Minipress. His responsibilities at the agency expanded and, by 1979, he had become executive vice president.
In that year, S&H was confronted with a recurring agency dilemma—product conflict. At issue was business from two antihypertensives. The choice S&H management made suddenly put the Pfizer account “in play.” Dorritie with Mike Lyons, one of the agency’s top creative directors, saw an opportunity to fulfill every ad man’s dream—opening an agency. They successfully pursued Pfizer and founded Dorritie & Lyons with it as their first account.
It was an ideal time to be working for Pfizer. The company’s pipeline was rich with important products and D&L was center stage for such breakthrough brands as the calcium antagonist Procardia, the second generation nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Feldene, and the antibiotic Cefobid. The agency prospered, adding to its credits over the years of Dorritie’s leadership the launches of Genentech’s Activase and Protropin and Wyeth-Ayerst’s Suprax.
Dorritie will be remembered for his knowledge of pharmaceutical marketing, his ability to mobilize promotional techniques to make a product a success, and his effective salesmanship in representing his agency’s programs—all qualities he had in common with other agency leaders. He is best remembered for the kind of man he was: big hearted, tolerant, and gregarious. He created an atmosphere that brought out the best in those around him. He was willing to talk and listen to everyone, and by taking the time, he conveyed to you a sense of the value of your ideas and your importance to him.
John died in 1991 of a sudden heart attack at 57. His death was a tragic loss to his family, friends, and all of us in medical advertising.