WESTMINSTER, Vermont — John “Jack” Keil, the advertising executive who led the team that created McGruff the Crime Dog and who voiced the character, has died.
Keil died Aug. 25 at home in Westminster West, Vermont, his family said. He was 94.
Keil was creative director at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample advertising agency when he and his team created the trench coat-wearing animated dog, with Keil himself saying the slogan “Take a Bite Out of Crime.”
McGruff, the National Crime Prevention Council’s mascot, first appeared in public service announcements in 1980. Since his creation, the raspy-voiced dog has appeared in newspapers and on radio, television and the internet.
In the mid-1980s, the character was urging people to join neighborhood watch groups and to clean up streets and parks to dissuade criminals, the council said. Today it’s used in a variety of campaigns to support safety and crime prevention.
“He was one of the giants in the advertising industry and shared his talents in support of crime prevention,” the council said in an emailed statement.
Keil was involved in other high profile ad campaigns and also wrote two books on creativity.
His son said his father never had formal training. He majored in economics in college.
“But he was a guy that wanted to be an actor so he kind of channeled that sense of drama and being the ultimate extrovert into everything he did. It was back at a time when you know that got you a fair distance,” said Nick Keil.
He was born in Rochester, New York, and attended the University of Rochester until he enlisted in the Air Force during World War II. He flew 50 missions over Europe as a bombardier and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, his family said. Afterward, he graduated from the university in 1944.
During his advertising career, he and his wife lived in Grand-View-On-Hudson, New York, for 58 years. They moved to Vermont in 2006, where they had owned property for many years.
In recent years, Keil, a lifelong performer and lover of jazz, enjoyed guest appearances singing with the Brattleboro-area Butterfly Swing Band.