Genius, mentor, and… comedian. These are but a few ways the advertising community might describe Milwaukee’s long-time adman, Steve Eichenbaum.
Steve got his start in the ad business as a copywriter with a small local agency. But very early in Steve’s career, his boss was forced to close up shop. He asked Steve if he wanted to try to make a go of it on his own with the few clients that remained. So Steve suddenly assumed the additional roles of creative director, marketer, media buyer, account executive and entrepreneur. As his agency grew, Eichenbaum quickly gained a reputation as one of Milwaukee’s leading creative minds, developing some of the city’s most memorable ad campaigns. From the long-running Koss headphones billboards and V-Richards radio campaigns featuring John Cleese, to his use of up-and-coming comic, Jerry Seinfeld for Suburpia Subs, Steve’s work racked up hundreds of national and local awards. Although arguably, his most notable success arose out of his campaign work for then State Senator Russ Feingold who, despite almost insurmountable odds, won a US Senate seat in 1992 – and landed Steve on the cover of Milwaukee Magazine and a guest appearance on the The Today Show.
Despite the industry accolades, Eichnbaum’s greatest achievement might well have been the development of young talent, many of whom have since opened up their own shops or went on to work for nationally known agencies. The creatives he mentored in the 80s and 90s read like a who’s who of Milwaukee’s most celebrated writers, art directors and future Hall of Famers. He challenged them to be creative and conceptual thinkers, and excel at their craft, whatever it was.
Of course, to the end, Steve continued to hone his stand-up act – with employees, vendors, clients, and just about anyone he met. Humor was part of virtually everything Steve did, and showed up in much of his work. He believed it was a powerful tool in breaking through a lot of bland advertising, and helped make the client more likeable and genuine to their audience. Steve simply loved to make people laugh… and laugh, and laugh.
Steve suddenly and tragically passed away on October 20, 2015 at the age of 61. No doubt he would have something clever, inspiring, and yes – funny – to say about that, too.