NEW YORK James Robson Heekin Jr., selected by David Ogilvy to serve as president of Ogilvy & Mather in the U.S. at the age of 39 in 1965, and who went on to hold the same post at Doyle Dane Bernbach, died on Oct. 5.
Heekin, who was 82, is the father of James R. Heekin III, chairman, CEO of WPP’s Grey Group.
During the elder Heekin’s four-year tenure as president, O&M went public in 1966; set up its first direct marketing unit in 1967; and won key clients like Merck, Gillette, General Cigar, Hershey and Contac cold capsules. The latter was called “the biggest single chunk of business since the agency landed Shell Oil (in 1960),” according to The New York Times.
At the time of Heekin’s appointment, David Ogilvy gave up his title as chairman to assume that of creative director. Heekin quipped, “I consider (David) one of the most promising young copywriters in the business. But if he doesn’t produce…”
Born in Cincinnati, Heekin served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and graduated from Williams College in 1948.
He founded Peck-Heekin in Cincinnati and joined O&M in 1955, rising from account executive to senior vice president, chairman of the plans board, director and ultimately president, U.S. operations during his 14 years there.
After leaving O&M, he oversaw the merger of Jack Tinker & Partners, one of New York’s creative hot shops. He then led Pritchard Wood for IPG as president. He went on to Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1972 and became president of its domestic operations.
In 1974, he joined marketing consultancy Canter, Achenbaum, Heekin as a partner, spending seven years with the firm.
In 1985, Heekin and his wife moved to Williamstown, Mass., where he launched James Heekin Associates and worked with local Berkshire-area businesses. He also became deeply involved in developing a leadership curriculum program at his alma mater, Williams College.
Heekin enjoyed a special bond with his son, James III, who also works in the business. Amid speculation that the younger Heekin was in line to become president, CEO of McCann-Erickson Worldwide, the son said, “The future will take care of itself.” When the appointment was announced, the first fax he received was from his father saying, “Well, I guess the future has taken care of itself.”
The elder Heekin and his wife who survives him, Jane Jessup Heekin, were married for 61 years. In addition to James R. Heekin III of Stamford, Conn., he also leaves two daughters, Margaret Kensinger of State College, Pa., and Elizabeth Bartels of Williamstown; and a son, Timothy Heekin, of Manchester, Vt. Eight grandchildren, two great grandchildren and his Irish setter, Paddy, also survive him.
Funeral services will take place on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Patrick’s church in Williamstown. Burial will be private and there are no calling hours.
Memorial donations can be made to the North Adams Regional Hospital, in care of the Flynn & Dagnoli-Montagna Home for Funerals, West Chapels, 521 West Main St., North Adams, MA 01247.