Longtime Ad Age Editor Fred Danzig Dies at 85

Remembered as Sharp Observer of an Industry and True Gentleman

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Longtime editor of Advertising Age Fred Danzig died Thursday. He joined Advertising Age in 1962 as senior editor in the New York bureau, became executive editor in 1969 and served as editor from 1984 until 1994, retiring in 1995. He was 85.

Fred Danzig
Fred Danzig

He was known as a sharp observer of the industry and a fierce competitor when it came to breaking news. But he was equally known as a gentleman, full of energy and quick with a cheerful word.

"Fred was a news guy -- he was the TV reporter at the old UPI -- and he loved nothing better than chasing big stories and later mobilizing the troops for an all-court press on Friday, our deadline day," said Ad Age Editor in Chief Rance Crain.

Former Ad Age Editor Scott Donaton called Mr. Danzig "a friend and mentor who believed in me before I believed in myself. As a journalist, [Fred] was fiercely committed to the highest level of ethics and thrilled by the scoop. The best words you could say to him were, 'We have this first.'"

Among the big Ad Age scoops of his day: in 1986 breaking the news of the "Big Bang," when three large agency networks, BBDO, Doyle Dane Bernbach and Needham Harper, merged to form Omnicom. And in 1992, under Mr. Danzig's leadership, Ad Age ran a bold editorial titled "Old Joe must go," arguing that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. should stop using the cartoon character to help sell Camel cigarettes. The company pulled the campaign five years later.

Prior to coming to Ad Age, Mr. Danzig was a reporter for UPI. He was the first entertainment reporter to interview Elvis Presley, when Mr. Presley early in his career made a trip to New York, and he amassed an extraordinary collection of the singer's early 45s. Perhaps because of Mr. Danzig's experience as a TV and entertainment reporter, he injected a pop-culture sensibility into Ad Age when he arrived in 1962.

"He was so good at pointing out popular-culture trends and how they might affect the advertising business," Mr. Crain said.

In a prescient observation on the eve of his retirement, he talked about the opportunities the decline of mass media and the rise of globalization would afford marketers and agencies.

"Look at today's options in an entertainment-oriented environment," he told Mr. Crain in 1994. "Media demassification (through video rentals, new employment patterns, cable, sports and leisure activity) and the remote wand have loosened the Big 3 networks' power, spawned new broadcast and cable networks and ironically given life to the emerging targeted interactive highway."

He went on: "We have a global economy that's receptive to the introduction of Western brands into new free market systems and destined to bring about a new golden age for American marketers, media companies and, yes, agencies as well."

While today's editors and journalists are figuring out how to take advantage of the explosion of digital- and social-media outlets, Mr. Danzig, too, presided during a technology-enabled evolutionary era, during which Ad Age began to present news and information in a variety of new formats, including via the Daily Fax and the Advertising Age Online Edition on Prodigy. Then-publisher Ed Erhardt recalled Mr. Danzig as being particularly interested in how technology could be used to drive the business and create value for readers beyond the printed page. "Fred was a keen observer of what was current," Mr. Erhardt said.

After Mr. Danzig's retirement in 1995, Mr. Crain said he used to call him from time to time to get his take on things. "I could always count on him for having an interesting and cogent point of view. I will miss making those calls."

While Mr. Danzig was a force in the newsroom and a giant in the advertising industry, he was also known among his colleagues at Ad Age as a mentor and a friend.

"As a person, he was a gentleman in the truest sense, dedicated to his family, his country, his friends and everyone he worked with," Mr. Donaton said. "He was kind and warm and wise. I'm heartbroken but grateful to have had my life intersect with his."

Mr. Crain recalled his earliest interaction with Mr. Danzig: "I first met Fred Danzig when I moved from our Washington office in 1962 to New York. Fred was one of the first reporters I met. [He had just joined from UPI]. When I asked him how he liked it, he said 'I've found a new home.' Indeed he had."

Advertising Age Player
Fred Danzig sits down with Ad Age Editor in Chief Rance Crain and Editor Abbey Klaassen.

Mr. Danzig had served as an occasional Ad Age contributor since his retirement. In 2005, as Ad Age celebrated its 75-year anniversary, he penned a piece recalling his memories and Ad Age's role covering the industry during the time he was an editor, including a trip to Moscow to present an advertising workshop just as the Cold War was winding down.

Last year Mr. Danzig joined Mr. Crain in our offices to school us youngsters on the history of this fine industry in celebration of Ad Age's 80-year mark, which we recorded as an audio podcast.

Mr. Danzig, who was born in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 17, 1925, graduated from Rye High School and received his journalism degree from New York University. He served his country in the 29th infantry division in WWII where he received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. His journalism career began in Herkimer, N.Y., with the Evening Telegram and continued with The Portchester Daily Item before joining UPI and, subsequently, Ad Age.

Mr. Danzig is survived by his wife of 59 years, Edith, his children, Steve and his wife, Maureen, and Ellen Kay and her husband, Mark Grisar. He was a loving and devoted grandfather to Jenna, PJ, Noah and Paige. He is predeceased by his parents and brother Irving.

The memorial service will be held Sunday, May 1, at noon, at the Mount Vernon Riverside Memorial, 21 W. Broad St., Mount Vernon, N.Y. The family will be receiving people between 11 a.m. and noon.

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