Gary S. Levitt, 72, formerly of Philadelphia, a consummate adman whose slogans such as "If it's Frank's, thanks!" added to the local lexicon, died Tuesday, Dec. 1, of a heart ailment at his retirement home in Delray Beach, Fla.
In the 1970s, Mr. Levitt and his ad agency put a young used car dealer on the map with the slogan "Ron Levitt Sells Creampuffs."
That campaign, widely imitated, was followed by others: "Are you secure enough to spend less?" - an arm twister to get men into Mitchell Daroff clothing stores - and "The seat you'll never sit in" - an attempt to fill the arena at 76ers games.
Born in Pittsburgh, Mr. Levitt graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from Pennsylvania State University in 1964.
He spent two years as a copy writer in The Inquirer's promotions department before launching the advertising firm Sonder Levitt & Sagorsky in 1968. President and partner of the firm through 1990, he then became a solo marketing and advertising consultant.
Mr. Levitt's agency represented a who's who of clients: the Pennsylvania Lottery, Frank's Beverages, Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, the Latham Hotel, Atlantis Casino Hotel, Korman Co. Builders, and Seafood Shanty.
"I often called him Philadelphia's original 'Mad Man.' In its heyday, Gary's well-known ad agency ran some of Philadelphia's most successful political campaigns, worked for such coveted clients as Wendy's . . . and was even the inspiration for the hit TV show Thirtysomething," wrote Penn State alumna Maribeth Roman Schmidt in an online tribute.
But he also had a knack for getting people together for special events. The initial 1971 Super Sunday gathering on the Parkway drew 100,000 in the rain. His agency did the planning, marketing, and execution.
"It was a team approach. Gary provided the vision," his family said.
Long before September's visit to Philadelphia by Pope Francis shone a spotlight on carless city streets as a place for mingling and entertainment, Mr. Levitt had it covered.
In May 1971, fresh from a visit to Copenhagen, where he marveled at the city's famous walking streets and car-free plazas, Mr. Levitt and his agency decided to create Walk on Walnut Street.
This was to be a car-free promenade on Walnut from Broad to 20th Streets on a Wednesday evening after work, Jon Geeting wrote on the website planphilly.com on Nov. 11.
Before the event, the agency published a newsletter to get out the word. On the day of the walk, workers mobbed Walnut and its side streets.
Throughout his life, Mr. Levitt remained a devoted Penn State alumnus. When a group of alumni became upset over the dismissal of football coach Joe Paterno following a child sex abuse scandal involving assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the group turned to Mr. Levitt. The group needed a slogan to help rejuvenate Paterno's reputation. Mr. Levitt delivered.
"We were going out with billboards, courtesy of a generous donor, and we needed a headline," wrote Schmidt, a member of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship. "The very first one that Gary proposed still stands today as our rallying cry: 'You can't cover up 61 years of success with honor.' "
Mr. Levitt had myriad interests; he was a founder and member of a yoga research group in Philadelphia, rode and sold bicycles, played tennis, taught at a high tech school in Florida, and ran a store offering Judaic items.
In person, Mr. Levitt was fascinating company, and a person who stayed physically active and engaged with his family up until his death.
"His nickname was 'Ringling' because he was amazing to be around," said his wife, Barbara.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, BJ; a brother; and two grandsons.
A celebration of life is to be held at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the family home. Burial is private.
Memorial donations may be made to the Yoga Research Society, 341 Fitzwater St., Philadelphia 19147 in support of the Margaret S. Smith Prize for Yogic Literature and Therapy.