Herbert Schmertz

Herbert "Herb" Schmertz (March 22, 1930  January 17, 2018) was a vice president of public affairs for the Mobil Corporation whose advocacy for sponsoring programs on PBS significantly influenced the relationship between PBS and major corporations.

Herbert Schmertz
Herbert Schmertz in 2015
Born(1930-03-22)March 22, 1930
DiedJanuary 17, 2018(2018-01-17) (aged 87)
EducationUnion College
Columbia University School of Law
RelativesEric Schmertz (brother)

Early life

Schmertz was born in Yonkers, New York on March 22, 1930 and grew up in New Rochelle, New York with his brother, Eric.[1] He received a Bachelor of Arts from Union College in 1952 and a Bachelor of Laws from Columbia University in 1955.[2] For two years, from 1955 to 1957, he worked for the United States Army's intelligence efforts in Washington, D.C. Schmertz further received a Doctor of Law degree from Union in 1977.[3]


Schmertz was first employed by Mobil as "manager of the corporate labor relations department" in 1966. He was later promoted to "manager of corporate planning coordination" in 1968, then to "vice president for public affairs" in 1969 and "president of Mobil Shipping and Transportation Co." in 1973, before choosing to return to his previous vice president position in 1974. He first joined the Mobil company board after his promotion in 1969 and was also elected to the Mobile Oil company board in 1976.[2]

From the initial joining of Mobil in 1966 to his leaving of the company in 1988, Schmertz oversaw a number of advertisements placed into the Op-Ed section of The New York Times, beginning in 1970. These were used to explain Mobil's position on issues concerning the United States and the company, along with criticism of Mobil's opponents.[4][5]

In 1970, Stan Calderwood of WGBH-TV approached Mobil to see if the company was interested in funding a production of The Forsyte Saga on PBS. Schmertz supported the idea, as it would allow Mobil to buy 39 hours of television on PBS for a far cheaper price than it would otherwise cost. This continued for further programs and led to the use of what Schmertz called "affinity-of-purpose marketing", where audiences began associating successful television shows with the companies sponsoring them.[6]

The sponsorship of Masterpiece Theatre in 1971 was a major public relations success for Mobil, and it allowed Schmertz, as an underwriter for the show, to build relations with various artists and media executives, even those opposed to Mobil's views.[4]

In 1983, former president Ronald Reagan nominated Schmertz to be on the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for a term lasting until 1985.[2]

In 1986, Schmertz authored Goodbye to the Low Profile: The Art of Creative Confrontation,[7] a meditation on his experiences with the news media while working for Mobil Oil.

Schmertz began his own consulting business, Schmertz Co., after leaving his Mobil position in 1988.[8][9][10] He was hired as a volunteer for Edward Kennedy's 1980 presidential campaign as a volunteer, and later worked with Bob Dole's 1988 presidential campaign.[11][1][5]

Personal life

Schmertz has five children and six grandchildren. He died on January 17, 2018 in West Palm Beach, Florida.[3]

See also


  1. Staff writer (February 2, 1988). "Mobilized: Cigar-chomping fire-breathing Herbert Schmertz". The Day. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  2. "Nomination of Herbert Schmertz To Be a Member of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy". The American Presidency Project. University of California, Santa Barbara. December 13, 1983. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  3. Genzlinger, Neil (2018). "Herbert Schmertz, Innovative Public-Relations Man, Dies at 87". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  4. Barnaby J. Feder (January 26, 1988). "Schmertz, Mobil's Warrior, Said to Plan Own Business". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  5. Quinn, Sally (1979-11-28). "Herb Schmertz, Kennedy's Mobil Superflack". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  6. Ledbetter, James (1998). Made Possible By...: The Death of Public Broadcasting in the United States. Verso Books. pp. 144–146. ISBN 1859840299. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  7. Schmertz, Herb (1986). Good-bye to the low profile : the art of creative confrontation (1st ed.). Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0316773662.
  8. Feder, Barnaby J. (1988-01-26). "Schmertz, Mobil's Warrior, Said to Plan Own Business". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  9. Barnaby J. Feder (December 6, 1998). "PRIVATE SECTOR; The Other Shotgun In an Oil Marriage?". The New York Times. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  10. Roberts, Sam (1988-05-02). "Metro Matters; Parting Shots By a Molder Of Public Images". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-20.
  11. Staff writer (November 21, 1979). "Big Oil's Champ To Aid Kennedy". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
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