Rahul Sachitanand
Jun 5, 2020

Obituary: Don E. Schultz, 86, integrated marketing communications pioneer

Across four decades, 43 books and 70 journal articles, he shaped our understanding of advertising and IMC.

Don E. Schultz, Professor Emeritus, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and President of Agora Inc
Don E. Schultz, Professor Emeritus, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and President of Agora Inc

Don E. Schultz, a pioneer in the field of integrated marketing communications (IMC) and advertising, passed away on Thursday at the age of 86. He is survived by his wife Heidi. 

Over the past four decades, Schultz's work has seen IMC evolve from a good idea, to a workable concept, a theoretical presence, and into an international study area. Schultz is one of the most cited advertising academics and his research has helped shape advertising and IMC through publications in academic journals, textbooks and business books.

From 1977 to 2019, Schultz published over 70 journal articles and 43 books including textbooks and books aimed at the industry. His scholarship was recognised by the American Academy of Advertising Ivan L. Preston Outstanding Contribution to Research Award in 2014.

Schultz started his teaching career, alongside his PhD study, as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1974. He moved to Northwestern as an assistant professor in 1977 and spent the rest of his teaching years there, rising to professor emeritus at the institution.  

Schultz fostered education leadership at Northwestern as the Department Chair from 1985 – 1989, Associate Dean from 1989 – 1993 and as a member of the Medill Executive Committee from 1992-1995.

"He brought his understanding from working in the advertising and media industry for many years, augmented this with his academic integrity to research and discover new ideas and concepts, added his love of teaching and sharing ideas, and overlayed all of this with a kindness and generosity that made everyone feel special," says Professor Gayle Kerr, School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology. 

With Gayle Kerr at a conference

He was a long-serving member of the American Academy of Advertising (AAA) and attended its conferences and special sessions for over 40 years. His most important service to the AAA was as a catalyst for new thinking and an agitator of change. His ideas have not always been well received, but his voice has been listened to and has empowered many other AAA members to think differently and question convention. 

His research was integrated into his teaching, by developing IMC as a new teaching and practice area, first at Northwestern University in the USA and then internationally. IMC Education is now taught in many undergraduate and graduate programs around the world.

In 1991, Schultz was part of a team at Medill which in conjunction with the AAA began the first empirical study designed to investigate how IMC was being used by practitioners The study focused around understanding the concept and the importance of IMC and also to analyze the extent in which IMC was practiced in all major US advertising agencies.

This study was replicated across other countries and demonstrated that IMC was far from a "short-lived managerial fad but a very clear reaction by advertising agencies and their clients as they are affected by many factors such as new forms of technology, media fragmentation, client desires for interaction/synergy, and global and regional coordination.

In 1993, Schultz and his team published the first text-book dedicated to IMC, simply named Integrated Marketing Communications, which described this field as a totally new way of looking at the whole area of marketing communications, rather than looking at each of the parts separately. That year, Schultz and the Medill School at Northwestern University changed their curriculum to include a focus on this new idea of integrated marketing communications rather than the traditional program which had emphasized advertising.

"Don was the model university professor—he excelled in teaching, scholarship, and service to his university," says Charles H. Patti, Ph.D. Cox Chair in Customer Experience, Senior Fellow/The Cable Center. Denver University. "We will miss all of those contributions, but we will most miss his passion, mentoring, and friendship."

Besides his academic credentials, Schultz was a sought after voice the corporate world too. He was president of Agora Inc., an advertising, marketing and communications consulting company and consultant to corporations, associations and other groups, including Andersen Consulting, AT&T, Dell, Ford Motor, Hyatt, IBM, 3M,  Nestle and Visa. In ad land, he consulted with a range of agencies and industry bodies including Leo Burnett, BBDO-Europe, McCann-Erickson,  American Association of Advertising Agencies and Fedma.

Schultz was a sought-after visiting professor, across the world. He was invited to be an adjunct or visiting professor at 12 Universities in Europe, Asia and Australia mentored many upcoming academics through this collaborative research, which often augmented his teaching role.

"He had connections and projects and engagements with so many people in so many places.  And he never seemed to have an off switch," reccounts Alice Kendrick, AAF Distinguished Educator, Faculty-in-Residence, Loyd Commons Temerlin Advertising Institute, Southern Methodist University. "He certainly left his mark on our discipline."

Schultz also educated the advertising and marketing industry about IMC as a columnist for Marketing News (1992-2017), INDUSTRY WEEK (1997-1998), Integrated Marketing & Promotion Magazine (1998-1999) and Marketing Management Magazine (1999-2017).

Don E. Schultz died at 86 years of age in Chicago. 

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