During his 40-year career at Harvard Business School, Neil Borden's impact on the understanding and practice of advertising management was truly significant. Although he never held an executive position at an agency, advertising or media firm, he shaped the knowledge and attitudes of thousands of advertising leaders.
As professor of advertising, Borden repositioned the Harvard Business School’s advertising management course from one that was principally research oriented to one with the nation's strongest managerially oriented content. His numerous case studies of advertising management emphasized the linkage between advertising and marketing, a perspective continued to the present. His widely used Problems in Advertising text influenced the teaching of advertising at many other schools. His ideas were communicated to decades of students and to legions of executives he taught in the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.
During the Great Depression, when advertising's economic role was widely questioned, he undertook the massive and comprehensive study that eventually led to the classic 970-page volume The Economic Effects of Advertising (1942). Another major research effort resulted in National Advertising in Newspapers (1946). Separately, a long-lasting Borden contribution was his development and articulation of the seminal concept of the marketing mix. This remains today a foundation of marketing management teaching and practice.
Even after his death in 1980, Borden's legacy lives on not only in his writings and ideas, but in the actions and behavior of those still-active executives to whom he imparted wisdom. In the long history of advertising education, he is one of a handful of greats and the one with the greatest effect on managerial practice in advertising.