The advertising and production industry are among the many mourning the March 6 passing of 53-year-old Jeff Labbe earlier this month, a highly accomplished and popular director on the national level who called Destrehan his home.
Labbe passed away March 6 due to health complications, leaving behind his wife, Andrea, and their two children, Bronte and Cadow. Before he died, he built a legacy in the advertising industry through his creativity and his award-winning projects.
“Someone who spoke at his funeral who worked with him in advertising described Jeff as uncompromising,” Andrea said. “And that’s so appropriate. He was like that in every aspect of his life. He wouldn’t compromise what he was doing for time restrictions, he always wanted to do the very best he could.”
He was behind several ad campaigns with lasting appeal. One example was a Nike baseball commercial featuring Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire that coined the catchphrase “Chicks dig the long ball.”
In that spot, the two pitchers, both notably less hulking than McGwire, see the positive attention the latter is getting for his displays of power in the batter’s box—during a batting practice, he hits a ball out and looks into the stands to get a smile from actress Heather Locklear — and openly discuss their resentment. It went down as one of the most famous baseball commercials of all time and the catchphrase quickly earned its way into pop culture.
It was far from his only memorable contribution to the industry. He directed ads for several major companies, including Levi’s, Adidas, Volkswagon, KFC, Heinz and many more. He won awards for his campaigns, including Nike’s “Beautiful” and Fox Sports’ “Beware of things made in October.” Labbe earned numerous other top awards in advertising including multiple D&AD pencils, Cannes Lions and the Cannes BEST New Director award. He was also named as a Top 20 A-list Directors of the craft by several publications.
Labbe is a Louisiana native who has traveled often for his work. He and his family moved to Destrehan early last year to be closer to his family — on his mother’s side, many of them live in the Destrehan/Norco area.
“We wanted our son to be raised around his cousins, aunts and uncles who are just wonderful people,” Andrea said.
He was clearly beloved not just by that family, but by so many others. A GoFundMe page (titled CadowCollegeFund) was set up following Labbe’s passing by his brother Chris, the intent to set up a college fund for 11-year-old Cadow. More than $40,000 was donated within the first week of its posting.
“It’s just an outpouring and reflection of respect and love so many people had for Jeff,” said Andrea, who called it overwhelming. “It’s such a tribute to who he was as a man and the type of people he associated with.”
She said Cadow has a lot of ambition, as well. A member of the St. Charles U-12 soccer team, he wants to continue to play soccer when he grows up. He also wants to direct, following in the footsteps of his father.
On the day of Labbe’s funeral, Cadow’s soccer team had a game on the same day. His teammates showed up in uniform to show support for their friend.
“It was so great. That’s his world right now,” Andrea said.
Labbe overcame adversity to find his success. Andrea said he battled health issues throughout his life, and at one point was the recipient of a kidney transplant.
“He always took care of himself, whether it was watching what he’d eat or what he was going to do,” Andrea said. “He had his kidney for decades. But at the end, it was something he couldn’t recover from.”
He passed as result of a pulmonary restriction, compromising his lungs. After he was admitted for hospital care, he passed after a day-and-a-half.
Andrea said it’s been a difficult time but that the support of friends and family have helped with coping.
“There are so many people around us checking in, supporting us, asking what they can do to help,” she said. “But he leaves a huge hole. He was such a force. There’s this hole in our family, where he’s supposed to be, and it’s just not filled. We take it day to day.”
But one thing that’s provided some solace is how clear it’s been that her husband earned the admiration and respect of so many people, both as a friend and a colleague.
“To know how many people respect him, who do what they do in his field, I have a lot of pride in that,” she said. “He was very humble. He knew he was good, but he never belittled anyone else or his ideas. He had so much passion for it, and I think he inspired other people to strive to create the very best.”
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