35-Year Martin Agency Veteran Harry Jacobs Has Died

By Erik Oster 

Industry veteran Harry Jacobs, who some called “The Dean of Southern Advertising,” has died at the age of 87.

Jacobs is best known as the first creative director at The Martin Agency, where he also served as president after joining the agency in 1977 and was eventually named Chief Creative Officer. For the past eleven years, following his 2005 retirement, he has held the title of chairman emeritus.

He began his advertising career as an art director with Atlanta’s Cargill, Wilson & Acree in 1959 (the agency eventually merged with Omnicom’s TraceyLocke), later being named president of the agency before leaving for The Martin Agency. While with The Martin Agency he worked with clients including Coca-Cola, Hanes, Walmart, Mercedes-Benz, UPS, and Saab and led the team that won Geico’s creative account, playing an instrumental role in establishing the agency’s national reputation.

For his role in bringing attention to advertising coming out of the region in a time when most high-profile work came out of New York or Chicago, he earned the colloquial “Dean of Southern Advertising” title. He is a member of 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 and traveled as an industry ambassador as part of The Wall Street Journalʼs Creative Leadership Series.

“Harry Jacobs was one of the most elegant gentlemen I have ever known,” said The Martin Agency chairman John Adams in a statement. “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.”

“I saw Harry about a month ago, and I brought some work with me. He loved to see what we were up to. I showed him a print campaign and he gushed. Harry never gushed. When I told the team back at the office, you would have thought they had just won a One Show gold,” The Martin Agency CCO Joe Alexander told Adweek. “Harry was never satisfied, and that’s just one of the lessons he leaves with us. I’m going to miss him—he was a mentor and dear friend.”