Near and dear to our hearts, for decades Jim Brady wrote Ad Age's "Brady's Bunch" column, a space that was a much-sought after home for bold-face media names. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Mr. Brady, who also wrote the "In Step With" column for Parade, was described by Parade Chairman-CEO Walter Anderson as a "towering figure in American journalism." He was a decorated war hero and a prolific author, writing fiction as well as an account of his return to North Korea, "The Scariest Place in the World." He also authored "Why Marines Fight" and "The Coldest War," and at the time of his passing was finishing a new book. In November 2001, Mr. Brady was awarded the Bronze Star for action in Korea. His career took him from copyboy at New York Daily News to copywriter for Macy's to publisher of Fairchild's Women's Wear Daily and Hearst's Harper's Bazaar.
JAN. 22, 2009, AT THE AGE OF 65
Gene 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. 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. According to Bonnie Barest, exec VP-managing director at Optimedia U.S., Mr. Dewitt "was a great lover of the media business and an entrepreneur. 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." After leaving Optimedia, Mr. DeWitt led DeWitt Media Strategies, a New York-based marketing, advertising and media-consulting company he founded.
SEPT. 27, 2009, AT THE AGE OF 81
In a move that revolutionized specialty store retailing, Don Fisher founded Gap Inc. with his wife Doris 40 years ago. The Fishers, retail novices, made their foray into the space after a frustrating shopping experience. According to company lore, Mr. Fisher had difficulty finding a pair of jeans that fit properly and was disappointed by the denim selection at department stores. The first store launched in San Francisco in 1969 and tallied nearly $2 million in sales by 1970. It quickly capitalized on denim as a fundamental part of young people's wardrobes. And it kept its strategy simple: make shopping easy. Gap went on to become a major global force, counting more than 3,100 stores in 25 countries, with annual sales of more than $14 billion. Mr. Fisher was the company's chairman and CEO through 1995. He remained chairman until 2003 and continued to serve as chairman emeritus and a director until his death.
JAMES R. HEEKIN JR.
OCT. 5 2009, AT AGE 82
The father of Grey Global Group Chairman-CEO Jim Heekin, James R. Heekin Jr. was once president of U.S. operations at two Madison Avenue agencies: Ogilvy & Mather and Doyle Dane Bernbach. He got his start in the ad business by opening an agency, Peck-Heekin, in his hometown, and later joined Ogilvy in 1955. There he rose through the ranks over 14 years, from an account executive to senior VP, director and ultimately president of U.S. operations. Mr. Heekin was tapped for that role at age 39 in 1965 by ad legend David Ogilvy. In his time at Ogilvy, Mr. Heekin guided the agency toward becoming a public company in 1966 and founded its first direct-marketing unit. In 1970, he oversaw the merger of Jack Tinker & Partners and Pitchard Wood for the Interpublic Group of Cos. In 1972, he became president of domestic operations at Doyle Dane Bernbach, after which he became a marketing consultant.
AUG. 19, 2009, AT THE AGE OF 86
It wouldn't be a stretch to call Don Hewitt the father of TV news as we know it. During his time at CBS, he directed the first network TV newscast on May 3, 1948 and was executive producer of the first half-hour network newscast when the "CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite" became the first to go to a 30-minute format on Sept. 2, 1963. He was an innovator in the genre, coming up with the idea to use cue cards for newsreaders and devising an editing technique that called for cutting between two different projectors. In the 1950s, he created "supers," graphical information that was displayed in the lower third of the TV screen. And then, in 1967, he created something called the TV newsmagazine, an hour-long program called "60 Minutes." A critical and ratings success, the show not only went on to spawn numerous imitators, and it's still in CBS's 7 p.m. Sunday-night slot.
LEONARD S. MATTHEWS
MAY 31, AT THE AGE OF 87
Mr. Matthews, known as Len, was an ad veteran who spent 28 years at Leo Burnett, from 1948 to 1975, rising from marketing analyst to president and growing the company to $600 million in billings. The Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Tony the Tiger came into existence during those golden years at the agency. In 1975, Mr. Matthews was named assistant secretary of commerce under then-President Gerald Ford. He returned to advertising as president of Young & Rubicam, New York, in 1977 and two years later became president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, a position he held until 1989. He was inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Fame in 1998. In addition to his leadership roles at Burnett, Young & Rubicam and the 4A's, Mr. Matthews was a director of the Ad Council, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Consumer Research Institute.
JUNE 28, 2009, AT AGE 50
Legendary pitchman Billy Mays turned high-volume TV ads into pop celebrity and fortune. Mr. Mays' breakthrough came with ads for OxiClean in 2001, then owned by the Appel family and Orange Glo International. He helped build that business into a $200 million powerhouse before it was purchased by Church & Dwight Co. in 2006. He went on to star with longtime producer and friend Anthony Sullivan in Discovery Channel's "Pitchmen," a show seemingly built on the premise of finding the next Billy Mays. Mr. Mays was found dead in bed on the morning of June 28 at 50 years old. A medical examiner listed the cause of death as hypertensive heart disease -- and said cocaine played a role, a charge the Mays family vehemently denied. Whatever the case, not even death was enough to stop Mr. Mays' ability to sell, as direct-response marketers launched at least three new products with ads produced before his death.
OSCAR G. MAYER JR.
JULY 6, 2009, AT THE AGE OF 95
Oscar G. Mayer was the grandson of Oscar F. Mayer, who founded the iconic meat processor with his brothers in 1900. Mr. Mayer worked at the family business for 41 years, retiring in 1977 as chairman. He is credited with building the company to $1 billion in sales, and preserving the brand's unique personality. After his retirement, the company was sold to General Foods, and then to Kraft. Mr. Mayer remained involved with the business, meeting regularly with company presidents Rick Searer and Nick Meriggioli. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, despite his famous name, many local residents in Madison "didn't even know he was a real person. The company long used a midget, 'Little Oscar' as its spokesman, and the real Oscar Mayer, a tall, dignified and courtly man, rarely sought publicity." After retiring, Mr. Mayer went on to become heavily involved with philanthropy in Wisconsin.
CHARLES D. PEEBLER JR.
APRIL 18, 2009, AT THE AGE OF 72
In an advertising career spanning half a century, Chuck Peebler led Bozell Jacobs Kenyon & Eckhardt from a small-time Nebraska shop with $20 million in billings into a worldwide marketing communications powerhouse with billings of $4.3 billion. In 1997, when True North Communications acquired the agency, Mr. Peebler served as president until 1999, when he became chairman emeritus. In 2001, Interpublic Group of Cos. acquired True North Communications. That same year, Mr. Peebler was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. He also served on the boards of the American Advertising Federation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Advertising Council. Additionally, he was managing director of Plum Capital, a venture capital firm that focused on media-content investments.
ROBERT SINCLAIR JR.
MAY 10, 2009, AT THE AGE OF 77
Bob Sinclair was the second field sales rep hired in 1958 to recruit dealers for Saab Motors. The Philadelphia native was based in Manhattan as the Swedish automaker prepared for its U.S. rollout. He moved up the ladder to PR manager, advertising manager and sales manager before leaving in 1962 to join Volvo as advertising manager. After a departure, he rejoined Saab in 1979 as president of what was then called Saab-Scania of America at a time when it was a shambles, losing money and lacking a brand image. Mr. Sinclair managed to buoy both perceptions and sales while leading Saab in America from 1979 to his retirement in 1991. A longtime amateur car and powerboat racer, at the age of 75 he bought a motorcycle from an owner in Virginia and rode it solo back to his home in Santa Barbara.