This morning I came to the realization that the thought of writing about him like this one day never crossed my mind. There’s nothing shocking about the fact that this post is being written by someone younger than him, when considering life’s silent and necessary progression of death by succession. I think the shocking fact is that Atilla Aksoy possessed a soul more youthful than those who were younger than him. If I had received the news of his passing twenty years later, I would have felt the same sense of absurdity.
He was the head of our agency and my mentor and friend. In a sector where increasingly large fonts highlighted adjectives like ‘prestige,’ ‘distinguished,’ and ‘elite;’ where jingles appealed to a primary school level; or where banality and rowdiness had become the norm, Aksoy had en entirely different worry: quality. And that’s because, to me, he believed that quality was very much exclusive of and more important than wealth. True wealth, from an economic standpoint, is not the ability to finance a habit of eating papaya every morning, but the ability to choose the best from among the unassuming and simple Amasya apples for example, and to enjoy it. No matter what the budget or the circumstances, Aksoy was always after meaning, truth, and honesty toward oneself.
At the end of a presentation composed of successful ad campaigns from around the world and excerpts and tactics from many advertisement gurus, what did Aksoy decide to put on the last slide, do you think? An egg. On an infinite background, a sole small egg. He later explained that this utterly simple product represented perfection to him in every way. Both in terms of content and form, without deficit or surplus, the egg was a ‘complete,’ thing. From Atilla Aksoy I learned that the simplest and most common thing can deeply affect a person’s perception. I say I learned, but I’m sure that if he saw this post (that only reflects a tiny fraction of my memories, thoughts, and emotions for him) I’m sure he would have told me to cut it down to half its size and sent me away. For him, learning and teaching was a never-ending endeavor.
Let’s say about a half hour later I returned to him with my edited piece like an enthusiastic student. There he would be, sitting at his computer with his much loved cigarette resting in an ashtray—his moustache that added just a hint of lark to every word, and his shrewd gaze, enlarged by the lens of his short sighted glasses— enthralled by something entirely new, a brand new article, book, or song. And with his voice, that surpassed any musical artist, he would say “Amazing!” His excitement youthful, his interest indomitably fresh, and always a few steps ahead of us young people.
One of my favorite sayings belongs to Miles Davis who replied to the question “have you done anything important in your life?” with “well, I’ve changed the course of music five or six times.” All his peers, who battled to produce something better without relinquishing to banality not only in advertisement but also in life, close friends, and endless students who benefited from his dedication, came together for his funeral, the bitterness of which has still not left me. Nevertheless, a voice within me is convinced that he’s definitely somewhere dimly lit and smoky, with a glass of wine in his hand, finally conversing deeply with his soul brother Miles Davis.
To be commemorated as such is a privilege that could only belong to Atilla Aksoy.