Former AAF President Howard Bell Has Died At 91

Some sad news today from the American Advertising Federation. Howard Bell, the former president of the organization has died. He was 91. 

Bell served as the founding president of the modern AAF that resulted from the 1967 merger of the Advertising Federation of America and the Advertising Association of the West.

During his 24-year tenure as president, Bell 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 credited with the developing the practice of advertising self-regulation, widely recognized in the industry today, for his central role in the creation of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (then called the National Advertising Review Council).

Bell was also responsible for moving the AAF's Headquarters from New York City to Washington, D.C., which helped establish the organization as the "Unifying Voice for Advertising in matters before our government," stated James Edmund Datri, current AAF President & CEO in a statement the group issued confirming Bell's death. 



Upon his retirement as president of the AAF in 1991, then AAF Chairman David Bell said: "There are few people who have had as large an impact on our industry as Howard Bell." He remained involved with the organization after his retirement as president emeritus and as a member of the group’s board of directors.

Upon Bell's retirement, President George H.W. Bush said: "...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."

Advertising Age named Bell one of the 100 most influential advertising leaders of the 20th century. In 1996, he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

“Let me say personally,” added Datri, “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.”

Bell began his career as sales promotion manager for WMAL AM-FM/TV in Washington, D.C., and in 1951, he moved to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). There, Bell helped draft the Television Code and formulated the blueprint for the Television Bureau of Advertising. In 1963 Bell, was appointed director of the NAB Code Authority and was responsible for the administration, interpretation and enforcement of the radio and television codes. 

After retiring from the AAF, Bell joined the Washington, D.C., law firm of Wiley Rein & Fielding LLP in 1992, where he continued to pursue his legal expertise on advertising issues. Bell participated in a number of U.S. Supreme Court commercial-speech cases in which the High Court ruled in favor of First Amendment protection for advertising.

Bell served numerous industry organizations, including on the Advertising Council board of directors and executive committee, the board of directors of the American Society of Association Executives, the National Advertising Review Council, the Advertising Educational Foundation, the American Advertising Museum advisory board, the Smithsonian Advertising Center board, James Webb Young Foundation of the University of Illinois, public relations committee of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the U.S. Information Agency marketing advisory committee.

In 1984, Bell received the Honor Award and Gold Medal for distinguished service in journalism from his alma mater, the University of Missouri School of Journalism, in recognition of his "...more than three decades as a catalyst, conscience and counsel for the profession of advertising..."

He is also the recipient of the Key Award, the highest honor in the association community, from the American Society of Association Executives for his leadership in the field of association management.

Bell's wife Corine Chandler Bell, who was also active in AAF affairs, died in 2008. 


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