After co-founding Marsteller Advertising with William Marsteller in 1951, Richard Christian turned his attention to developing it into the largest specialized agency in the United States for industrial, agricultural, business, financial and corporate advertising. In 1953 along with Marsteller and Harold Burson, he founded Burson-Marsteller, which became one of the largest public-relations agencies in the world.
In the 1960s, the company expanded overseas, and the company merged with Young & Rubicam Inc. in 1979. Christian became a member of its board an executive committee.
In 1984 he retired from the business to pursue his interest in advertising education. He became associate dean and tenured professor of advertising at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. At Medill he helped develop the innovative integrated communications program.
Christian joined Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1986 as associate dean of administration and external affairs. During his five-year tenure, he helped direct a capital campaign, which raised over $41 million. Business Week judged Kellogg the number one business school in the United States in two consecutive evaluations, in 1988 and 1990. In 1991 he returned to Medill as associate dean and professor of advertising, chairing its strategic planning committee.
While in the advertising business, Christian gave time to many organizations including the American Association of Advertising Agencies, National Advertising Review, Business Publications Audit of Circulation Inc., National Webb Young Advertising Fund, University of Illinois, Business/Professional Advertising Association of Chicago and the Museum of Broadcast Communications, also located in Chicago.
He was awarded the first Distinguished Service Award by the American Academy of Advertising, the State of Ohio Governors Award, BPAA Hall of Fame Award, and three Northwestern Medals for Service, Merit and Alumni. Christian was also awarded an honorary doctor of laws from the National-Louis University.