RANCHO SANTA FE — Eighty-seven-year-old Len Matthews, titan of the advertising profession for decades under whose leadership endearing symbols such as the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Dough Boy and Tony the Tiger were created, has died in San Diego.
The cause of death, said son Jim Matthews, was pneumonia.
In 1981, U. S. News & World Report named Matthews among the United States’ “most influential persons.” In addition to his impressive 28-year career at Leo Burnett Worldwide Advertising Agency, Matthews was also a president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Ford Administration.
In 1998, he was inducted in the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Fame.
During Matthews’ career at Burnett, he worked with companies such as Allstate Insurance, Green Giant Foods, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, Pillsbury and United Airlines. When Matthews joined Burnett in 1948 as a marketing analyst, it was billing $12 million. When he left in 1975 as its president, the company billed $600 million.
When, in 1975, Matthews took a sabbatical to join President Ford’s cabinet as assistant Secretary of Commerce, he described the experience as a “crash course in international trade, which compressed four years experience into one.”
In 1977, he returned to advertising as president of Young & Rubicam in New York. There he managed a group of 10 subsidiaries providing a variety of marketing services to hundreds of U.S. companies.
As president of American Association of Advertising Agencies from 1979 to 1989, he built and maintained relationships within the advertising industry in all free-market countries and more than doubled the size of its membership. In 1984, he led the initiation of the Partnership for a Drug-free America. He expanded its services to members, took an activist role in government relations and increased cooperation among the profession’s organizations — the American Advertising Federation and the Association of National Advertisers.
Matthews also served as a director of the Advertising Council, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Consumer Research Institute. He served on the boards of a Chicago-area Boys Club, the Chicago Educational Television Association and the Wheatridge Foundation.
In 1990, Matthews moved to Rancho Santa Fe, where he offered his wealth of experience in various consultative endeavors including Capener, Matthews & Walcher, a full-service, downtown San Diego advertising firm run by his son Jim.
Matthews is survived by his wife Dorothy, daughter of Nancy Ulrich of La Costa, and sons Jim Matthews of Del Mar and Douglas Matthews of Sherman Oaks. He also leaves 10 grandchildren: David, Amy, Elizabeth and Jonathan (Cami) Ulrich, and James Jr., Taylor, Charles, Chase, Daniel and Julia Matthews.
A memorial Web site in Matthews’ honor can be found at http://memorialwebsites.legacy.com/leonardmatthews/Homepage.aspx.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. June 20 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 925 Balour Dr., Encinitas. For those who knew and loved Len and Dottie Matthews, join a celebration of Matthews’ life at a reception at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe from 1 to 4 p.m., 5951 Linea Del Cielo, Rancho Santa Fe.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests well-wishers to make a donation to United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego, 8525 Gibbs Drive, #100, San Diego or go to http://www.ucp.org/ucp_local.cfm/45 and click “Support UCP.”
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