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Jerry Mander, whose iconoclastic thinking led him to create advertising campaigns for nonprofits like one for the Sierra Club in 1966 to fight a plan to build two dams in the Grand Canyon and an organization to raise awareness about the dangers of economic globalization, died on April 11 at his home in Honokaa, Hawaii. He was 86.

His son Kai confirmed the death but did not provide a cause.

In 1966, Mr. Mander was working at Freeman & Gossage, an advertising agency in San Francisco, when David Brower, the executive director of the Sierra Club, asked for help in framing the conservation group’s opposition to the federal government’s construction of hydroelectric dams on the Colorado River.

The full-page newspaper ads created by the agency grabbed national attention and angered proponents of the project in Congress, who denied the Sierra Club’s claims that the dams would flood and desecrate the canyon.

“Now Only You Can Save Grand Canyon From Being Flooded … For Profit,” read the headline of one of the ads written by Mr. Mander. It included coupons with messages that readers could clip and send to public officials, including to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Stewart Udall, secretary of the interior.

The act of clipping and mailing the coupons “radicalizes the sender at least as much as it impresses the receiver,” Mr. Mander wrote in “70 Ads to Save the World: An Illustrated Memoir of Social Change” (2022). To someone in authority who receives 5,000 coupons, he added, the action “may actually have far greater impact, and bring far more attention, than, for example, thousands of tweets.”

The campaign — and other factors — led the government in early 1967 to drop its plan to build the dams. (It also caused the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the Sierra Club’s tax exemption for trying to influence legislation.)

Working with the Sierra Club helped Mr. Mander to see a future in which he could use his marketing skills for the public good, rather than to help clients maximize profits.

After Howard Gossage, the ad agency’s founder, died in 1969 and the agency later shut down, Mr. Mander helped start Public Interest Communications, which assisted nonprofits and individuals in campaigns like one to oppose development in San Francisco and another against a water project in Northern California.

He later moved to the Public Media Center, where, as a senior fellow over about 20 years, he wrote advertisements for nonprofit groups like Planned Parenthood, Public Citizen, Earth Island Institute (which Mr. Brower founded) and the Sierra Club.

One of his attention-grabbing ads for a Planned Parenthood abortion rights campaign appeared in newspapers in 1985. It featured photos of two women, accompanied by their accounts of getting illegal abortions; a photograph of a firebombed abortion clinic; a list of nine reasons why abortions are legal; and three coupons with different messages, one addressed to Attorney General Edwin Meese III.

Mr. Mander wrote a book reflecting on his concerns about the societal effects of technology, advertising and television.Credit…William Morrow

“He was a countercultural type who wanted to reset the frame of how people looked at modern life,” Jono Polansky, who was the creative director of the Public Media Center, said in a telephone interview. In the full page print ads that were Mr. Mander’s specialty, Mr. Polansky added, “He could break a problem down and say, ‘How do you tell a story to people and give them a place to do something about it?’”

Jerold Irwin Mander was born on May 1, 1936, in the Bronx, and grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., in Westchester County. His father, Harry, owned a business in Manhattan’s garment district that made linings for men’s clothing. His mother, Eva Mander, was a homemaker. His parents were not aware that their son’s name sounded exactly like the political term for manipulating election districts to favor one party, Kai Mander said.

After graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1957, Mr. Mander earned a master’s in international economics from the Columbia Business School in 1959. He briefly worked in public relations for the Worthington Corporation in Newark before moving to San Francisco, where he got a job in the publicity department of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

He soon opened his own public relations firm, whose clients included The Committee, an improvisational theater group. In early 1966, he created an audacious ad in The San Francisco Chronicle that mocked what he recalled was a planned Pentagon airdrop of toys to Vietnamese children. The ad promised that The Committee would collect war toys (two whimsical recommendations: a plastic bazooka and an atomic tank that ejects napalm) for the Defense Department and drop them on the Pentagon from a helicopter.

His full-time advertising career started soon after with a call from Mr. Gossage, who said that he loved the war toys ad and asked him to join his agency, where he became a partner.

His work increasingly reflected his suspicions about the societal effects of technology, advertising and television. Those concerns led him to write “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” (1978), which contended, among other things, that the medium isolates viewers, dulls their minds and lays the groundwork for an autocracy.

In the 1990s, he targeted economic globalization, embodied in organizations like the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

In the early 1990s, he created a think tank, the International Forum on Globalization, by convening activist leaders concerned about how the organizations’ policies adversely affected global health and environmental standards, food security and jobs around the world.

“He understood the issues, knew all the thought leaders and had a great ability to synthesize very complicated issues and make them meaningful to people’s lives,” Debbie Barker, a former co-director of the forum, said.

Over the next decade, the group published reports on various issues and held multiday teach-ins attended by as many as a few thousand people in cities where the organizations met. At the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, the police used tear gas on protesters who had blocked parts of downtown.

“We are entering the world of corporate rule,” Mr. Mander said to a crowd of 1,300 at the Seattle teach-in. He added that of the world’s top economies, 52 were corporations, and “while corporate profits are higher than they have ever been, real wages are dropping. C.E.O.s of major corporations earn 419 times more than the average line worker.”

The think tank was largely financed by Douglas Tompkins, the conservationist and founder of the Esprit and North Face clothing brands. He also hired Mr. Mander as program director of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, which is dedicated to preserving wild nature.

The forum’s momentum slowed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as many activists moved toward antiwar protests.

“Every time I talked to him, Jerry would say, ‘We have to get the I.F.G. back together,’” said John Cavanagh, who chaired the group and was the director of the Institute for Policy Studies. “Others would say it wasn’t successful because we didn’t stop those institutions. But it slowed them down and raised skepticism about them.”

In addition to his son, Kai, Mr. Mander is survived by another son, Yari, and his wife, Koohan Paik-Mander. His marriages to Anica Vesel and Elizabeth Garsonnin ended in divorce.


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