Johnston, who served as director of media research at Grey Advertising prior to the spin-off of MediaCom as a separate media services agency, and before Grey was sold to WPP Group, was an acknowledged leader in the media research industry, and mentored some of Madison Avenue's brightest research minds along the way.
"For over 40 years, Helen Johnston has helped make sure our clients are getting what they want: the right audience at the right time. Her no-nonsense analysis has earned her the respect of her industry. She's had our respect and affection right from the beginning," former Grey Advertising CEO Ed Meyer wrote in a company memo in 1997 celebrating her 40th anniversary with the agency.
"It is always sad to lose a titan of media research," said Tony Jarvis, a consultant and former executive vice president-global research at Clear Channel Outdoor, who succeeded Johnston at Grey/MediaCom in 2000. "While a pragmatist she also was watchful regarding the quality of the research in relation to the value of the marketing or media decision. I believe she would be appalled by much of what is produced today under the guise of research. And for that lesson I for one am truly grateful."
Johnston was also part of something of a royal couple in the media research industry. She was married to Timothy Joyce, a founder of Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI), who died in 1997, but who also had a profound impact on the field of media research.
During her career, Johnston was elected chairman of the Agency Media Research Council three times, and served three years as chairman of the Media Research Committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. She also was president of the Radio TV Research Council and worked on a number of research committees of the Advertising Research Foundation.