Creator of Tony the Tiger Dies

Don Tennant left Leo Burnett more than 30 years ago, but he was among those who shaped a legacy that still inspires the agency, said the shop’s current U.S. chief creative officer, Cheryl Berman.

Tennant, who headed Burnett’s creative department in the mid-1960s, died of congestive heart failure earlier this month. He was 79.

“He was very much a part of what made this agency great,” Berman said. “He was around at a time that the agency was creating great icon brands, and that’s something that we still believe in.”

Tennant spent 20 years at the Chicago shop, beginning in 1950, when he was hired as Burnett’s first radio and TV writer. He is credited with creating the Tony the Tiger character for Kellogg Co.’s Frosted Flakes brand in 1952. And he helped fashion jingles such as, “You get a lot to like … filter, flavor, flip-top box,” for Philip Morris’ Marlboro cigarettes.

“He looked upon [his Burnett years] as the golden age of advertising because of the freedom that existed then,” said Tennant’s son, Tim, president of Aspect Ratio Design, Los Angeles. “Those were the times when brand value was god.”

Don Tennant started his own agency in 1973 with clients such as Serta and Ralston Purina. He sold the shop to Nobel Communications, Springfield, Mo., in 1987.

He could “tap into whatever the cultural beat of the moment was,” Tim Tennant said. “He was very good at making things simple.”