Mr. DeWitt founded DeWitt Media in 1984, and later created Optimedia U.S. by combining the core of DeWitt Media with the media departments of seven other Publicis Groupe U.S. advertising agencies, according to Mr. DeWitt's LinkedIn profile. He was chairman-CEO of Optimedia from 2000 to 2002 and president-CEO of the Syndicated Network Television Association from 2001 to 2003.
He also managed the media departments at McCann Erickson Worldwide; BBDO; and Rosenfeld, Sirowitz & Lawson, where his clients included AT&T, BMW, British Airways, Coca-Cola, Chrysler, Discovery Channels, DuPont, General Electric, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal, McDonald's, Pepsi-Cola, Sears and The Wall Street Journal.
"Gene was a great lover of the media business and an entrepreneur," wrote Bonnie Barest, exec VP-managing director at Optimedia U.S., in an internal e-mail to Optimedia U.S. employees today. "He believed that strategic creativity was critical to media planning and buying. He used to say he ran an advertising agency whose clients outsourced creative."
'Important part of the DNA'
"He was a pioneer and, of course, responsible for establishing Optimedia in the U.S. He absolutely believed in creative strategy, which very much remains an important part of the DNA here," said Antony Young, president of Optimedia U.S. "A lot of people here have a lot to thank him for really leading and launching us here in the U.S."
For the past six years, Mr. DeWitt had led DeWitt Media Strategies, a New York-based marketing, advertising and media-consulting company he founded. He also kept a lively and active blog at genedewitt.com, where his tagline was "Tomorrow's media ideas today."
"I certainly read his blog, and right up until his last days he was quite active and very much a thoughtful leader in the business," Mr. Young said. "It's very much a sad day for us."
Mr. DeWitt leaves behind his wife, Dianne; his daughter, Kate; and his four stepdaughters and their husbands, Stacey and Remy Bertin, Elexis and Christopher Lewis, Jacqueline Mariash, and Anna and Andrew Silverman. He is also survived by his grandson, Cooper Silverman.
A memorial service will be held tomorrow at 3 p.m. at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan.