Stewart Greene, who helped shape TV advertising, dies at 91

The cause was cardiac arrest from complications of lung cancer, his daughter, Lisa Greene, said.

Stewart Greene, who helped shape TV advertising, dies at 91

The cause was cardiac arrest from complications of lung cancer, his daughter, Lisa Greene, said.

Greene was a founder of Wells Rich Greene, a small agency whose commercials, seen during prime time when almost all television-watching eyes were on one of the three broadcast networks, contributed to the transformation of TV advertising in the 1960s.

He first made his mark as a creative director at the agency Jack Tinker & Partners, where he was in charge of the art department. It was there that he met Mary Wells Lawrence (then known as Mary Wells) and Dick Rich.

The three left Tinker in 1966 to start Wells Rich Greene, nabbing high-profile clients like Proctor & Gamble, Samsonite, American Motors and the City of New York, for which they developed the “I Love New York” campaign. By 1971, their company was billing its clients $120 million a year (about $758 million in today’s dollars) and had become one of the top 25 advertising agencies in the country, The New York Times reported that year.

Greene’s artistic talents helped make the company’s advertisements distinctive. For Braniff, an airline that flew to South America and Mexico, he envisioned brightly colored airplanes and a line of flight attendants posing freely, the blues, yellows and reds of their uniforms, designed by Emilio Pucci, blending into one another.

For Alka-Seltzer, he made quick cuts from round bellies to toned midriffs in the “No Matter What Shape Your Stomach’s In” commercial, a unique visual for the time.

And for Benson & Hedges 100s, an extra-long cigarette, he illustrated a print campaign that showed the cigarettes bent at the tip, alongside the words “America’s favorite cigarette break.”

Stewart Greenbaum was born June 24, 1928, in Brooklyn to Harry Greenbaum and Etta (Katz) Greenbaum. The family later moved to the Bronx, where he grew up. He would later shorten his name because, he said, he wanted to avoid anti-Semitism on Madison Avenue.

Greene showed artistic talent from a young age. Upon noticing his skills, an aunt helped pay his tuition to Parsons School of Design, which he attended for a while. But when his parents insisted that an art degree would not lead to a stable career path, Greene enrolled at New York University, earning a bachelor’s degree in education in 1949.

He never taught, instead moving right into the advertising business. He retired at 46 and devoted his time to sailing.

“I had the time, the money and the boat,” he told The Washington Post in 2002. “Why not?”

He took his boat — and his wife, Iris Muriel (Katz) Greene — to New Zealand, across the Atlantic Ocean and through Scandinavian waters, mapping out his adventures by drawing lines on an inflatable globe.

Greene also sailed competitively. In 1972, he won two trophies in a race from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda, finishing a hefty four hours before the next boat in his division.

In the mid-1970s, while on a trip through the Caribbean, his boat went off course and ended up in Cuba. He and his crew were detained by the Cuban police and held for a week, but Greene tapped into his government connections, which helped secure their release.

In addition to his daughter, Greene is survived by his son, Eric; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2015.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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