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Stanley Elkman, ad agency founder

Stanley Elkman, 90, a lion among Philadelphia advertising agency owners of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, died Tuesday, Dec. 18, of kidney failure at a hospice in Delray Beach, Fla.

Stanley Elkman
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Stanley Elkman, 90, a lion among Philadelphia advertising agency owners of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, died Tuesday, Dec. 18, of kidney failure at a hospice in Delray Beach, Fla.

Mr. Elkman founded Elkman Advertising in 1954, a time when, spurred by the rise of consumerism following World War II, the big agencies of Philadelphia were coming into their own.

The age spawned Aitkin-Kynett, Lewis & Gilman, Kalish & Rice, Gray & Rogers, Spiro & Associates, McAdams & Ong, J.M. Korn, and Reimel Carter. By the early 1980s, Elkman's firm had more than 100 employees.

It was known as "the McDonald's agency," handling the fast-food chain's regional advertising for three decades, according to Allan Kalish, founder and CEO of Kalish & Rice.

"In those days the average length of an account relationship was seven years," said Kalish, who competed with the Elkman firm for clients. "The impression I had was that they took care of you and made you know they cared."

"Fast-food marketing is not easy," said Bryn Mawr-based advertising specialist Brian P. Tierney. "You have to ... keep the cash registers ringing, day after day."

A well-organized businessman, Mr. Elkman understood mass marketing and how to adapt television and radio to meet his clients' needs.

"When I started, this was an uncomplicated business," he was quoted as saying in a company history. "You did the 'marketing' thing by instinct." As the industry became more complex, "we leaned more heavily on research."

With Mr. Elkman at the helm, the agency drew clients such as Friendly's, the Flyers, Buena Vista Distribution Co. (Walt Disney films), Herr's potato chips, Garden State Racing Association, and the American Diabetes Association.

The firm foundered in the early 2000s. By that time renamed Elkman/Alexander & Partners, the agency shut its doors in 2003. Then-president Bernadette Alexander blamed poor economic conditions.

Born in West Philadelphia, Mr. Elkman graduated from Edward Bok Vo-Tech High School and went to college briefly before joining the Army Signal Corps in 1944. He spent a decade at the Gelula & Associates advertising agency before starting his own firm.

Mr. Elkman lived in Drexel Hill and then settled in Bala Cynwyd 45 years ago. He and his wife, the former Lois Rosenblit, met at overnight camp; they were married for 70 years and kept a second home in Florida.

His granddaughter, Wendy Schwartz, said Mr. Elkman was generous with his time, money, and advice. He donated to an after-school center in Israel, and helped create the Shamrock Shake campaign to support the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia.

"Everyone whose life he touched, he helped," Schwartz said. "I'm the richest person in the world just to have him as a grandfather."

Mr. Elkman's daughter, Carol Elkman Schwartz, 66, died of thyroid cancer Oct. 1. Mr. Elkman "rocked her to sleep and said it was OK for her to go," his granddaughter said.

Surviving in addition to his wife and granddaughter, is a son, Stuart; two granddaughters; and seven great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at Joseph Levine & Sons Memorial Chapel, 4737 Street Rd., Trevose. Interment is in Har Jehuda Cemetery.

Donations may be made to the Carol Schwartz Fund for Thyroid Cancer Research, with checks payable to the Abramson Cancer Center, 3535 Market St, Suite 750, Philadelphia 19104.