STEPHEN FRANKFURT: In memoriam for a visionary advertiser and movie marketer

Stephen Frankfurt

I read the obituary of Stephen Frankfurt in yesterdays Times. He was a giant of the industry–indeed of several disciplines within the industry of advertising. I’ve provided some links to better bios than I can offer here (see bottom of the page), but I did want to highlight his visual creativity in service to movie marketing (branding, promotions, advertising), as one of those individuals who changes the world he inhabited, a person whose career illuminates the field of inquiry artistically, economically, culturally and historically. I’ve written about the work of such luminaries as Saul Bass and Andy Kuehn at length; Frankfurt is a peer.

A fine artist by training and education, Frankfurt worked as a background painter, before joining Young and Rubicam as an art director, rising from the creative side of the business to become its second youngest president. In the 70’s, he left Madison avenue for Hollywood, where he continued his trajectory as a visionary creative, producing classic marketing campaigns for such important films as Rosemary’s Baby, Superman, Kramer Vs. Kramer, Network, All That Jazz and Sophie’s Choice.

Despite enormous cross pollination between traditional advertising and movie advertising, the disciplines are very different and mastery of one doesn’t necessarily translate to competence in the other. Frankfurt, in his capacity as President of Young and Rubicam and then founder/principal of a variety of trailer boutiques in NYC and LA bearing his name, is the exception to that probably exaggerated rivalry. He operated in both worlds: his pioneering work in titles, graphic design, branding and a/v advertising for entertainment products in the second half of his career follows upon an era defining career in traditional advertising in his first.

Here, you can see the title sequence from To Kill a Mockingbird, which I’ve only been able to find on the Art of the Title Website. (All the versions on Youtube have been re-scored as student projects by composers in training!)

After you’ve digested this beautiful title sequence, here’s a short video (1:40) in which Mr. Frankfurt discusses his idea and implementation for that very project:

At Art of the Title, there’s also a meditation on the composition and interpretation of that sequence. Check it out here.

If you still want more, watch this BBC Documentary INSIDE AMERICA from 1967 in which Stephen Frankfurt, then President of Young and Rubicam (the real life model for Don Draper is the subject of this English attempt to understand American by examining its advertising.

“Advertising sells people things they don’t really need,” Frankfurt acknowledges before connecting it to other “non-essentials” like art, literature & music.

Globe & Mail

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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One Response to STEPHEN FRANKFURT: In memoriam for a visionary advertiser and movie marketer

  1. Pingback: Titles Sequences: To Kill a Mockingbird | Sharp Egg, Inc

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