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Tributes pour in after Gerry Rubin, co-founder of RPA, passes away aged 83

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By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

October 23, 2023 | 5 min read

In their remarks, Rubin’s friends and colleagues recall his ‘larger-than-life’ character and the ‘profound impact’ he had on their careers.

gerry rubin

Gerry Rubin: 1940-2023 / Credit: RPA

Gerry Rubin, co-founder of indie agency Rubin Postaer and Associates (RPA), has passed away aged 83.

Rubin’s contributions to advertising comprise a significant portion of his legacy. An American Advertising Federation Hall of Famer, he is known for co-founding RPA in 1986 alongside his creative partner, Larry Postaer, after BBDO Worldwide, DDB and Needham Harper Worldwide merged to form Omnicom. He also served as chairman of the Southern California chapter of the 4A’s and the Western Region’s Board of Governors and held board membership with the Country Music Association.

Within four years of RPA’s inception, the Western States Advertising Agencies Association jointly recognized Rubin and Postaer as the Co-Leaders of the Year. By 2003, Rubin and Postaer brought home the first-ever Lifetime of Leadership Award from the Los Angeles Advertising Agencies Association. Under Rubin‘s leadership, RPA created countless notable campaigns for its clients, from ‘Paper,’ an Emmy-nominated Honda commercial, to ‘Imaginary Friend Society,’ a series of animated shorts for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation that explores cancer-related topics in a kid-friendly way.

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Aside from his external achievements, Rubin’s colleagues note his caring and charismatic character. At RPA, he fostered a respectful workplace culture, never missing an employee’s birthday or anniversary. In the wake of Rubin’s passing, many current and former RPA employees took to LinkedIn to express their thoughts.

“RPA has and always will be a special place to me. One of the things that made it special was the larger-than-life presence of Gerry Rubin,” wrote Mike O’Malley, a senior client partner at Saatchi & Saatchi who got his start working at RPA. “Gerry was a true showman. He used to captivate audiences, whether in the confines of a meeting room, intimate courtyard or large theatre on the Promenade. Gerry was also masterful at relationships ... In an industry where culture is at times defined lazily by free bagels and unlimited PTO, RPA’s culture was personified with a hand-drawn card from Gerry for every associate’s anniversary (he drew candles, too).”

Peter Imwalle, president and chief executive officer of RPA Advertising, wrote: “Gerry hired me 30 years ago. I still quote him frequently. He was larger-than-life and a big personality. He taught us the power of independence. He taught us how to respect people as individuals and not just as employees, clients or vendor partners ... Those of us who knew him have spent the last 24 hours recalling stories and great memories. Lots of them. We’ll miss you, Gerry.”

Brett Bender, executive vice-president and chief operating officer at RPA, added: “It’s hard to put into words the profound impact Gerry had on me ... Making connections with people was his superpower. I would watch him in meetings and at events and knew I was getting a masterclass each time he was giving a presentation (or had his favorite tool, a microphone, in his hand) ... His passion for the business never relented; long after he had retired, I would still get check-in calls from Gerry. How are our [associates] doing, how are our [clients] doing, how was I doing. It was all about the people. Gerry was a true leader, a performer, a mentor, an icon and a legend. He will be sorely missed.”

Yama Rahyar, vice-president and creative director at RPA, remarked: “I’ve worked at a lot of agencies. There’s only one I would consider staying at forever or hiring myself if I were a client. And it was started by two plainspoken Midwestern guys who found themselves out on the coast through an accident of fate. They created a place that’s managed to never lose its soul in an often soulless business, that resists the pull of flash and gimmick, that rewards goodness instead of meanness. And in an era when agency initialisms keep getting more convoluted and less meaningful, ‘RPA’ still means something unique and special. Thanks for giving me a home, Gerry.”

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