Stephen Frankfurt, the former president of Young & Rubicam Advertising and partner in Frankfurt Gips Balkind, died in New York City on Sept. 28 after a long illness. Frankfurt, 80, moved from his Madison Avenue career to work for Hollywood, creating titles and advertising for films like To Kill A Mockingbird, Rosemary’s Baby, Network, All That Jazz, Kramer vs. Kramer, Superman and Sophie’s Choice.
Frankfurt joined Y&R in 1957 as an assistant art director in what was then the agency’s new TV department and rose through the ranks to become the creative head of both print and TV. Possessing a strong design sensibility, he embraced Bill Bernbach’s creative ethos of using simple, emotional messages. Under his leadership, the agency produced memorable campaigns like Lays potato chips' “Bet you can’t eat just one,” Bristol Myers’ “Excedrin Headache,” The Urban Coalition’s “Give a Damn” and the agency’s public service campaigns for The Peace Corps, Job NYC, The President’s Committee on Mental Retardation, and Partnership for a Drug-Free America. In 1967, Frankfurt, at age 36, he became president of Y&R Advertising, the youngest president in the agency's history.
During his ad career, Frankfurt also worked at Kenyon & Eckhardt and Partners & Shevack. At his namesake agency, Frankfurt, along with Philip Gips and Aubrey Balkind, produced work for over 55 films. Frankfurt graduated in 1956 from Pratt Institute, which awarded him a doctorate in fine arts in 1975. He was named to the Art Directors Hall of Fame in 1983.
Stephen Owen Frankfurt was born on Dec. 17, 1931, in Manhattan, the first of two children of Blanche and Milton Frankfurt, a lawyer working with the Middle-Income Housing Development for New York City during the Robert Wagner administration. His brother, Michael, is a founding partner in Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, a N.Y. law firm known for its work in the advertising, media and entertainment industries.
Frankfurt is survived by his second wife, Kay Gadda Frankfurt; three daughters, Abigail, Emily and Rebecca Nadler; three sons, Peter, Jaime and Nicholas; and his brother, Michael.