Clifford Howard Davis of Fresno, who died June 18 at the age of 91, shaped Fresno’s advertising industry for nearly 60 years with his dedication to his clients and his service to the Fresno community.
Mr. Davis rose each morning, donned his tie and coat, walked down his hallway to his office, “Davis Advertising,” and sat down to work. He repeated this ritual every day until he retired at age 87, said his son, Kip Davis.
“He was one of those guys who had his sights set on a higher goal,” Kip Davis said. “He was an ethical and conscientious individual, a rare quality now. He cared about performing the task and helping his clients, friends and the community more than monetary gain.”
Mr. Davis helped his client and friend Barry Kriebel when he needed all the advice in the world.
At the age of 36, Kriebel became president of Sun-Maid Raisins in 1986 during a period of financial difficulties for the company. But he couldn’t restore the company alone.
“Cliff was willing to give you the best advice,” Kriebel said. “He was a great tactician, adviser and communicator to the public.”
Mr. Davis functioned as a goodwill ambassador, taking on the small projects and communication efforts that helped raise the company’s profile.
“He was really good, thoughtful and in-depth, qualities that come around rarely now,” Kriebel said.
Kriebel has been Sun-Maid Raisins’ president for 30 years. His office still has the couch Mr. Davis occupied for 20 years as adviser and friend.
Mr. Davis handled some big accounts, from Sun-Maid Raisins to Kentucky Fried Chicken to Ronald Reagan’s campaign for governor. But he didn’t let it go to his head. Kip Davis, his son, said young professionals looked up to him as they would to an old sage for his integrity, honesty and passion.
Kip Davis remembered how his dad would spend hours learning about his clients’ businesses to represent them as best he could. Mr. Davis’ best advice was this: You have to become the client to market them effectively.
He lived and breathed advertising and is likely now pitching a new strategy to the Big One upstairs.
Kip Davis, son
The Fresno Advertising Federation honored Mr. Davis with lifetime membership, inducted him into the Central California Advertising and Marketing Hall of Fame in 1997 and awarded him the first AAF Silver Medal in 1965. He was also a two-term president.
But the accolades didn’t prevent Mr. Davis from occasionally dabbling in mischief.
One TV commercial he produced was the talk of the town for four days – before it got pulled.
That TV commercial parodied “Ring Around the Collar,” a detergent ad from the 1970s. Mr. Davis rigged a toilet seat with a fishing line so that it appeared to say the slogan “ring around the toilet bowl.” The TV stations deemed it inappropriate.
Before he launched his prolific advertising carer, Mr. Davis was an Army Air Corps navigator during World War II. In 1944, the Brooklyn native stopped briefly at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore. He had orders to ship out to Hawaii in the next few days.
A shy 19-year-old, he initially declined the invitation to the final dance before leaving for Hawaii. So his commanding officer ordered him to dance just one dance – the most fortuitous order he ever received.
Mr. Davis and Norma Webster locked gazes during a round-robin dance, when couples dance in a circle and move from partner to partner.
Mr. Davis stopped grumbling and started dancing. They fell in love that night.
The couple didn’t let being separated by the Pacific Ocean stop their courtship, which they sustained with a flurry of letters. Mr. Davis illustrated many of his letters and poems.
They married in 1946 and settled in the Sunnyside area of Fresno, where they raised a son and daughter. Norma Davis died in October.
Mr. Davis inserted himself into the thick of community-improvement efforts, from bringing a baseball diamond to the area to attending every Rotary Club meeting – even when he was out of town.
“Cliff was the kind of guy Fresno would be proud to have,” Kriebel said.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly reported which military branch Mr. Davis served in and also incorrectly reported he was stationed at Lemoore Naval Air Station.
Clifford Howard Davis
Date of birth: Aug. 15, 1924
Date of death: June 18, 2016
Occupation: Owner of Davis Advertising
Survivors: Son Clifford “Kip” H. Davis Jr. of Santa Rosa, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Services: Private services will be held Friday at Fresno Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: John Reed King Scholarship, c/o Fresno Advertising Foundation, 2913 N. 10th St., Fresno, California 93703