Leeds, P-O-P Ad Pioneer, Dead at 82

NEW YORK Richard H. Leeds, co-founder of a venerable point-of-purchase advertising agency, died on Dec. 25 of heart failure at North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. He was 82.

For more than 50 years, Leeds was an innovative influence in the p-o-p ad industry, pioneering the use of sophisticated mechanical and electrical displays. Thomson-Leeds, which he founded in 1952 with Chester L. Thomson, became a preeminent agency specializing in in-store communications, now an $18 billion field of advertising. The company was the first to employ interactive sound and aroma to enhance the in-store experience.

The company’s clients have included Ford, Kelloggs, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Philip Morris. Its best-known campaigns included the Miss Rheingold beer contest, whose winners included the then unknown Grace Kelly and Jinx Falkenberg. The Sony Walkman was introduced by a Thomson-Leeds contest that provided in-store headphones to listen to music. Consumers experienced Teledyne’s shower massage with a p-o-p display that invited consumers to put their hand in a glove against pulsating water to simulate the effect of the new product without getting wet. Leeds believed that experiencing a product through his displays outperformed print or television advertising.

In 1987, Thomson-Leeds was sold to Oglivy & Mather. In 1992, Leeds’ son, Douglas, purchased the company back. The firm’s slogan: “Thomson-Leeds … others follow.” Richard Leeds was inducted into the POPAI (Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute) Hall of Fame in 1998.

Richard Henry Leeds was born and raised in Westchester County, N.Y. He received a B.S. from Lehigh University. Following his discharge from the U.S. Army, Leeds joined the Einson Freeman, a leader in p-o-p advertising.

He and his wife of 58 years, Nancy Brecker Leeds, a lyricist and sculptor, lived for many years in Upper Brookville, Long Island, N.Y., where he was an avid gardener and played tennis beyond his 80th birthday. He served for 35 years on the board of the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association. At his death, he was an associate member of the board of North Shore Hospital and vice president of the board of trustees of the Nassau County Museum of Art.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two children, Douglas Leeds of New York and Constance Bennett of Dedham, Mass., and four grandchildren.