Obituary: Keim, former Ad Council president, is dead at 82

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Robert P. Keim, who was president of the Advertising Council for more than 20 years, died June 16 in Essex, Conn., after a brief illness. He was 82.

Mr. Keim headed the Ad Council from 1966 to 1987 and was one of the advertising world's most vigorous advocates of public service messages during a career that spanned almost five decades.

After graduating with honors from Queens College in New York City, he worked briefly for Compton Advertising before joining the Army Air Corps in 1942. After serving in World War II, Mr. Keim, who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, remained in what was then the Air Force. As a public information officer based at the Pentagon, he wrote radio and TV copy for Air Force programming, working with Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow and Eric Severeid at CBS.

His Air Force work brought him into contact with the Advertising Council, and in 1954, he resigned his commission to join the Ad Council as a campaign manager. He stayed with the council until 1961, when he joined Chase Manhattan Bank as an advertising and marketing VP. While at Chase, he worked again with the Ad Council as a volunteer campaign director. In 1966, he returned to the public-service arena full time as president of the Ad Council.

"Bob Keim guided the council in its most formative period," said Advertising Age Editor in Chief Rance Crain. "Under his leadership, the council created some of its most memorable and impactful campaigns."

These campaigns included "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" for the United Negro College Fund; "Take a bite out of crime" with McGruff the Crime Dog for the Crime Prevention Coalition; "Drinking and driving can kill a friendship" for drunk-driving prevention; and the "Crying Indian" campaign for Keep America Beautiful.

"Bob was a workaholic who took charge of the Ad Council and really made it hum," said Dean Fritchen, who served as an exec VP of the Ad Council and was a longtime friend of Mr. Keim. "He shook the place up and got a lot of young advertising turks on the board."

Mr. Keim recently completed a book on his Ad Council years, titled "A Time in Advertising's Camelot: the Memoirs of a Do-Gooder." The book was excerpted in Advertising Age's April 29 Special Report marking the 60th anniversary of the council. Mr. Keim directed that all proceeds from the sale of the book to go the Ad Council.

Mr. Keim is survived by his wife, Gloria, a son, a daughter, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Services have been held, and burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery.


Name: Robert Keim

Age: 82

Legacy: Mr. Keim headed the Ad Council for over 20 years. During his tenure, the group produced ads for the United Negro College Fund, Keep America Beautiful and others.

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