Longtime adman Leo-Arthur Kelmenson died at his home in Remsenburg, N.Y., on August 30. He was 84.
Mr. Kelmenson was perhaps best known for his work in auto advertising, where he worked on major accounts including Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and Mitsubishi. He was a friend and advisor to former Chrysler executive Lee Iacocca. In 1979, during his tenure as CEO of Kenyon & Eckhardt, he picked up the accounts for the ailing Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge brands, after Mr. Iacocca moved the work from longtime agencies Y&R and BBDO. The accounts amounted to $120 million in consolidated Chrysler ad spending and necessitated that K&E resign its $75 million Ford account. At the time, it was the largest account shift in U.S. history.
Aside from his time at Kenyon & Eckhardt, Mr. Kelmenson had tenures at a long list of agencies, including serving as chairman of Bozell Worldwide, and chairman of Foote, Cone & Belding. He began his advertising career at Norman, Craig & Kummel and Lennen & Newell, working his way up the ladder to eventually hold senior management positions. He also served as executive advisor to David Bell, one-time chairman and CEO of Interpublic Group of Companies.
Mr. Kelmenson was born in New York in 1927 and served in World War II with the U.S. Marine Corps. First Parachute Division in the Pacific Theatre, South Pacific operations. He was awarded the Navy and Marine medal, the Bronze Star, two purple hearts, a Meritorious Unit Citation for bravery on the battlefield and was a Reserve Lieutenant Colonel. He graduated from Columbia University and studied at the Career Diplomat School of the University of Geneva. He is also the author of a book of poetry, "Epilogue," a collection of poems based on his wartime experiences.
He is survived by his wife, Gayle Abrams, their daughter, Philippa Ruthe, his sons, Todd and Joel, and two grandchildren, Lana and Kyle.