It is with tremendous sadness that I inform you of the passing of Howard Bell, who served as President of the American Advertising Federation for 24 years. In passing he follows his beloved wife Chan, known affectionately to many AAFers as “Ma Bell”, to whom Howard was married for 61 glorious years. That they are both now no longer with us marks the end of an era for our organization and for our industry.
Howard was selected and served as the founding President of the modern AAF that resulted from the 1967 merger of the Advertising Federation of America, the predecessor organization of the AAF, which traces its roots back to 1905, and the Advertising Association of the West.
During his visionary 24-year tenure, Howard established and built many of the signature national programs that make up the AAF today, including the American Advertising Awards and the National Student Advertising Competition. He is also widely viewed as the father of advertising self-regulation, for his central role in the creation of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (then called the National Advertising Review Council), which today operates independently out of its offices in New York City, and is seen around the World as a model of successful industry self-regulation.
Howard was also responsible for moving the AAF’s Headquarters from New York City to Washington, D.C., which helped establish our organization as the “Unifying Voice for Advertising” in matters before our government.
Upon his retirement as President of the AAF in 1991, then AAF Chairman David Bell said of Howard: “There are few people who have had as large an impact on our industry as Howard Bell.”
President George H.W. Bush said in 1991: “…the Federation under Howard’s leadership acted upon the axiom that prosperity without purpose means nothing. And for that, I thank him and commend him.”
These words ring as true today of the legacy Howard Bell leaves as a leader and as a person as they did in 1991.
Advertising Age named Howard one of the 100 most influential advertising leaders of the twentieth century.
And in 1996, he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.
Let me say personally that Howard was a mentor, a dear friend, and, to the end, a valued advisor I trusted and admired both for his incredible talent and vision, and for his humanity, which shined through so brightly to all who met him.
On behalf of the entire American Advertising Federation, and indeed our industry and nation, I express our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones on this enormous loss, and our gratitude for their sharing Howard with us.
James Edmund Datri
President & CEO
American Advertising Federation