Pioneer of IMC program Stanley Tannenbaum dead at 73

Rani Gupta

Stanley I. Tannenbaum, the first chairman of Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 73.

Tannenbaum joined the Medill School of Journalism in 1983 as a professor and developed the IMC program, which he chaired from 1990 to 1994.

Tannenbaum’s colleagues praised his innovative approach to teaching.

“He was an extremely creative person who was dedicated to the business of advertising,” said Richard Christian, a professor emeritus and friend of Tannenbaum’s for more than 20 years.

Family members recalled Tannenbaum’s engaging personality and sense of humor.

“He had a nice smile,” said his daughter Nancy. “He was the kind of person who you looked at, even if you didn’t know him, and said, ‘I like that guy.'”

Before arriving at Northwestern, Tannenbaum served as board chairman of Kenyon & Eckhardt, Inc., an international advertising agency.

During his years in the advertising industry, Tannenbaum was best known for inventing the “a little dab’ll do ya” jingle for Brylcream. He also coined the term “moonroof” and was responsible for adding the cat to the Lincoln Mercury sign.

But despite his professional success, colleagues said Tannenbaum loved teaching most.

“He would have said (teaching) is the most fun he’s ever had,” said Martin Block, chairman of the IMC program. “He did not want to retire; he wanted to stay active and keep going.”

Tannenbaum was able to reach many students during his years at NU. As a professor, Tannenbaum instructed students in the creative aspects of the advertising business.

“He taught the creative courses, which are very difficult to teach and he was one of few people able to do it for more than a year or two,” Block said. “He was probably the best creative teacher in the country … but I guess I’m biased.”

Tannenbaum’s teaching style made him popular among students.

“He was something of an institution, something of a character,” Block said. “Every time I encounter former students, they always ask me about Stan.”

Christian, who taught classes with Tannenbaum, said Tannenbaum was accessible to students and other faculty.

“He was always available at any time to answer questions, help on case histories and give suggestions on homework assignments,” Christian said. “He freely shared his years of experience in the advertising business with younger faculty who probably had little real-world experience.”

Tannenbaum’s children said his love of advertising spilled over into his private life, where he talked about advertising and sought his children’s opinions.

“As a father, he was a teacher. He loved advertising and marketing so much, he tried to inculcate the values in us,” said his son Fred. “He would say, ‘How do you sell this salt shaker?'”

He is survived by his wife, Audrey, three children and four grandchildren.

Plans for a memorial service are pending.