Harry Jacobs, chairman emeritus of The Martin Agency, dies at 87

The "Dean of Southern Advertising" helped build the national reputation of the Richmond, Virginia, agency

Harry Jacobs, chairman emeritus of The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., has died.

Jacobs, 87, passed away on Sunday at his Richmond home.

"Harry Jacobs was one of the most elegant gentlemen I have ever known," said John Adams, chairman of The Martin Agency, who worked with Jacobs for 35 years. "But he was also one of the most fierce. His standards for the work were unrelenting. I’m convinced that the success of our company is due, in no small measure, to the high creative bar Harry set and one that we’re continually working towards. We are heartbroken about this news. But Harry and his legacy will live on here for years to come."  

Jacobs, who joined The Martin Agency in 1977, was considered the "Dean of Southern Advertising." As president and chief creative officer, Jacobs helped build the agency into a nationally recognized creative force and worked on clients including Coca-Cola, Hanes, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, Geico, Ping, UPS and Walmart.

Born and raised in New Bern, North Carolina, Jacobs studied design at East Carolina University and the Cocoran College of Art and Design. He began his advertising career in 1952 at Bradham and Co. in Greensboro, N.C. He was drafted into the Army in 1954 and served as communications specialist and draftsman in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff at the Pentagon. In 1959, he joined Cargill, Wilson & Acree, where he worked for nearly a decade, first as an art director and later as president, helping the shop grow into the South’s largest advertising agency during the 1960s. He received the American Advertising Federation’s silver medal as Advertising Man of the Year in 1972.

During a career that spanned five decades, Jacobs was inducted into four industry halls of fame: The One Club Creative Hall of Fame, the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Advertising Hall of Fame and the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame.  Jacobs was a founding board member of the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter and lectured about creativity around the globe as part of The Wall Street Journal’s Creative Leadership Series.

Jacobs and his wife of 53 years, Bobbi, had three children, Kathryn Jacobs Wessell, Chris Jacobs and Letitia Jacobs Caudle. He also had two children from a previous marriage, Page Jacobs Riccardi and William Franklin Jacobs.

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