Former Kraft Exec, AAF Chairman James R. Blocki Dies

During Four-Decade Career at Food Giant, Adman Led Brand-Sponsored TV Efforts

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NEW YORK ( -- James R. Blocki, onetime senior VP-advertising and marketing for Kraft Foods and a former chairman of the American Advertising Federation (1987-1988), died Thursday after a long illness. He was 85.

Mr. Blocki joined Kraft in 1952 and eventually became responsible for all of its advertising, including TV, radio, print media and publicity programs. He was instrumental in the growth of the brand, which -- in 1988, the year before he retired -- was purchased by Philip Morris for $12.9 billion.

During his nearly four-decade tenure at the company, Mr. Blocki marketed Parkay Margarine, Kraft Mayonnaise, Jet-Puffed Marshmallows and all Kraft cheeses, including Philadelphia Cream Cheese. During Mr. Blocki's tenure, Kraft's jellies were second only to Smucker's.

He also helped build Kraft into a leader in brand-sponsored TV with the Kraft Music Hall, Kraft Theater, various TV specials and the Country Music Association Awards, in which Kraft was a primary sponsor.

The years he spent in the advertising business prior to joining Kraft are just as notable. According to his son, Richard Blocki, a marketing consultant in Chicago, in the late 1940s to early 1950s, the senior Mr. Blocki was in charge of sales and advertising for the Toni Division of Gillette. Toni made perms and shampoos, and the company became quite famous for its poster girl twin models, who frequently appeared on TV game shows and became known as the "Toni twins."

According to his son, once Mr. Blocki took the job at Kraft, he passed some of the marketing responsibilities for the Toni brand to his friend, Dan Edelman, the founder of the eponymous PR firm Edelman. Soon after Mr. Blocki moved to Kraft, the food company became one of Edelman's largest clients.

Before becoming chairman of the American Advertising Federation in 1987, Mr. Blocki was an active member of the board. He also served on the boards of the Association of National Advertisers, America's Junior Miss and the Promotion Marketing Association. He was the board chairman of scholarship funding for the doctorate and masters degrees in advertising/business program at the University of Illinois, and he served as vice chairman of the Beverly Farm Foundation for the developmentally disabled in Godfrey, Ill.

Born in Chicago in 1925, Blocki served for three years in the Navy before graduating from Northwestern University. Mr. Blocki is survived by his wife of 59 years, Virginia, his daughter, Linda Baker, sons, Richard Blocki and Dr. William G. Blocki, and five grandchildren.

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