As an advertising executive in radio sales in the 1960s, Marvin Tinsley landed a prize but it wasn’t quite the million-dollar account he bargained for. It was better.
Sandy Tinsley, one of the first women to open her own advertising agency at a time in the early 1970s when men ran most firms, had left WQAM in 1967 and was working as director of marketing for Holsum Bakery. Marvin, who worked for local AM station WKAT, knew that Holsum had a million-dollar ad budget and a million smackers bought plenty of radio spots when those could be had in that era for around $10 a spot.
Marvin called on good friend George Wilson, owner and chairman of the board at Holsum, and set up a business lunch in Miami Beach. Sandy was there, too.
“He said, ‘I want this account’ and he started calling on me,” Tinsley said. “Sooner or later he kept driving me — ‘Let’s have dinner, let’s have lunch.’ I was trying not to do that. I didn’t want to show favoritism. But finally I had lunch with him. He was the consummate salesman, what can I tell you? Forty-five years later it was the best thing I ever did.”
The couple married in 1969 and were together in their Coral Gables home until his death at 89 on Monday.
“He was probably the most powerful guy I’ve ever met in my life — and I’ve met some powerful men,” Tinsley said from her office Wednesday. “He was a huge presence and certainly my rock.”
Five years after the couple married, Sandy Tinsley opened Tinsley Advertising on U.S. 1 in 1974 and the firm eventually grew into one of the largest independent ad agencies in the Southeast. A few years later, Marvin left radio to work for his wife’s agency where he remained until 1987.
“He found it became almost impossible to continue in radio sales because I was becoming a competitor to so many agencies he called on,” she said. “Even though they liked and respected him they felt their media buying plans might be discussed with his wife, which he would never have done. He was an honorable man. So I said, ‘Come on over here.’ He knew everybody in South Florida. CEOs. Owners of companies. Old college chums or his old army buddies. His poker playing and fishing buddies. To me, he was perfect for opening doors.”
Marvin Tinsley, born in Fort Pierce , graduated from Miami Senior High School and joined the army where he served during World War II from 1942 to 1945. He was awarded the Purple Heart for bravery under fire while serving a tour in Italy.
After the war, Tinsley attended the University of Miami and graduated from Stetson University. He’d spend years in radio advertising and at Tinsley Advertising where he was “a strict disciplinarian,” his wife said, laughing.
He was also an avid fisherman. Marvin was a past president of the Rod and Reel Club in Miami Beach and the couple were active members at Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables and Key Largo’s Ocean Reef Club.
“He loved to travel and would literally pull me away from work — and I mean pull me away,” Tinsley said. “Starting a business takes almost 16-, 17-hours a day, sometimes seven days a week, so he would yank me away and we’d have more fun all over Europe and the Caribbean and various places in the country. I am so glad I did that, and I finally gave in to him. Those were great memories.”
Tinsley Advertising created The Don Shula Show which would air before Monday Night Football. That endeavor, featuring the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, helped bond Marvin for more than 30 years with buddy and fellow Rod and Reel member Eddie Snow, owner of family-run Snow’s Jewelers on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables.
“They had The Don Shula Show and would give the featured player and coach of the week a special gift certificate, and he did it with us and he could have used anybody,” Snow said from the store. “He was a guy with a big heart. He was like an old-fashioned gentleman, a man’s man.”
Brother-in-law Don Cooper considered Marvin a “good role model and a good sportsman.” The family would share many fishing trips in Bimini and various tournaments. “He was a fun guy to be with.”
In addition to his wife, Marvin is survived by daughters Jeannie Duncan and Melody Tinsley, and grandchildren Christopher and Brittany. A memorial service will be held at a later date.