Bob Barocci, Former Leo Burnett Exec and ARF Head, Dead at 72

Ad Exec Was a Tireless Activist for Advertising Research and Measurement

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Bob Barocci, an advertising executive who climbed the ranks to become President, Leo Burnett International and led the Advertising Research Foundation to new heights, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 72.

Bob Barocci
Bob Barocci

Mr. Barocci was a Phi Beta Kappa Graduate of the University of Wisconsin in 1963 and later graduated in 1965 with a Master's in Business Administration from Harvard. The summer before graduating from Harvard, he worked as an intern at the Leo Burnett Company and was immediately taken with the company. The internship prompted him to write a popular editorial his senior year at Harvard that espoused the virtue of choosing a company over a specific career path and detailed his own love affair with Leo Burnett.

He followed his own advice and joined the training program at Burnett. There, he distinguished himself by becoming the agency's expert on Brand Rating Index.

By the age of 37, he was the Managing director of Leo Burnett London and by 41 had ascended to President of International. He also became the youngest member of the board of directors. In a 1979 Campaign profile on Barocci, Managing Director Roger Edwards said, "Clients love him [Barocci] so much because he works bloody hard on their business," and Burnett's vice-chairman Dennis Barham called Barocci "the best all-around advertising man I have ever worked with."

After not being tapped for CEO in 1986, Mr. Barocci departed Leo Burnett, returning stateside to ride the third creative wave of advertising, partnering with Tom McConnaughy to form MBB. That agency's first television commercial won a Gold Lion at Cannes and the company's enduring "Choose Chicago" campaign slogan—that is still running—is its legacy.

His love for global advertising led him to take a position as Area Director for Central and Eastern Europe at Young and Rubicam just after the breakup of the Communist bloc. Within three years, Mr. Barocci had built the largest network of advertising and promotions organizations in eight countries, and the new mini network won assignments from major brands including Nike, Colgate and Kodak.

A tireless activist for advertising research and measurement, Mr. Barocci used his position as the CEO of the ARF to advance those causes. During his tenure, he tripled the revenues of the ARF and goaded an often-reluctant industry to develop new methods. Jack Wakshlag, Chief Research Officer for Turner Broadcasting and a member of the ARF Board of Directors, said of Mr. Barocci, "perhaps the greatest gift Bob has given to the ARF is an extraordinary strong platform that will continue to grow and be relevant for the foreseeable future." A nationally ranked competitive runner throughout the 1980's , Barocci had a tremendous passion for outdoor adventure and fitness, something he shared with his wife Mary Anne Moloney. He climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro at the age of 65 and Mt Hood at 67.

Mr. Barocci is survived by his best friend and wife Mary Anne, two children, Candace and Rob and four grandchildren.

David Bell, Chairman Emeritus Interpublic, started his career on the same day and in the same place as Mr. Barocci, and the two remained close. "I'm proud to have watched and applauded Bob's many achievements and to have known the incredible person he was. His contribution to the industry, through the ARF, will long be felt and remembered," Mr. Bell said.

This article's author, Andrew Bell, is Director of Advertising at Columbia Journalism Review

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