The roots of Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn go back to March 15, 1891, when George Batten opened the George Batten Co. in New York with one secretary and no clients. In 1892, Mr. Batten hired William Johns as his assistant; Mr. Johns later headed the agency and, in 1917, became the first president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
After 17 years of steady growth, the agency opened offices in Boston and Chicago in 1908, and continued to prosper through World War I with such clients as Boyle waxes, Mallory hats, Regal shoes, Stevens-Duryea cars, Lehn & Fink Riveris talcum and Armstrong Cork Co., which made linoleum ("For every room in your house"). When Mr. Batten died in 1918, Mr. Johns became president of the agency.
Meanwhile, Bruce Barton, Roy Durstine and Alex Osborn met while working on the United War Work fund-raising effort during World War I. Messrs. Barton and Durstine opened their own agency, Barton & Durstine Co., on Jan. 1, 1919, in New York. Mr. Osborn joined them on July 1, with his Buffalo, N.Y., agency becoming an office of Barton, Durstine & Osborn. Clients included Scribner's, Wildroot hair tonic, McGraw-Hill and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In New York, Mr. Durstine managed the business while Mr. Barton took the lead writing ads. Mr. Osborn ran the Buffalo operation and in 1949 authored a successful book on advertising, "Your Creative Power." Mr. Barton, however, would become the most celebrated partner. The ads he wrote helped bring prominence to the agency. Among his most famous was one for the Salvation Army—"A man may be down but he is never out."
During the 1920s, Batten Co. and BDO ranked among the country's leading agencies. BDO attracted some of America's most prestigious marketers as clients, including General Electric, General Motors, Consolidated Edison and Du Pont ("Better things for better living through chemistry"). In 1927, BDO moved into the building already occupied by the larger Batten Co. On Sept. 21, 1928, the two agencies announced their merger, becoming Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn.
Mr. Barton became chairman of the newly merged company; Mr. Johns, president; and Mr. Durstine, VP-general manager. Mr. Osborn continued to oversee the Buffalo operation. BBDO employed 600 people and, according to figures provided by the agency to Sales Managemen, billings for the agency's first year were $32.6 million.
In 1931, BBDO acquired Bisell & Land, a Pittsburgh agency, and bought Harrison Guthrie Agency, Minneapolis. In 1933, two key executives, Ralph Campbell and Raymond Mithun, left to form Campbell-Mithun and took every account in the Minneapolis office with them except Hormel. Other famous advertising people to come out of BBDO include Ralph Ammirati, Ted Bates, William Benton, Chester Bowles, Jock Elliott, Stirling Getchell, Jim Jordan, Ed Ney, David Ogilvy and Hal Riney,
BBDO in 1927 became the first agency to write, cast and produce programming for network radio. Among the shows created by the agency were "March of Time" for Time in 1931, which dramatized major news events of the week. The agency created several music programs for GE, including Guy Lombardo for General Baking Co., and "The Burns and Allen Show" for Hormel, Lever Bros.' Swan soap and B.F. Goodrich. To support its growing radio business, BBDO in 1937 opened an office in Hollywood.
In April 1939, Mr. Durstine left BBDO to form his own agency and Mr. Johns became BBDO's chairman. In addition to its 1939 win of Lever Bros., the agency also took the Chrysler DeSoto division away from Ruthrauff & Ryan in 1944. That year, billings hit $33.7 million, the highest level since 1929, and made BBDO the No. 6 U.S. agency, according to Advertising Age.
The next generation
Mr. Johns died in 1944, the first of the founding partners, which signaled a need for a second generation of leadership under Bernard "Ben" Duffy. (Mr. Durstine died in 1962, Mr. Osborn in 1966 and Mr. Barton in 1967.) Mr. Duffy joined BDO in 1919 and was promoted to the media department in 1920. By 1928, Mr. Duffy was running the combined media operation. In 1938, he was elected VP and in 1944, exec VP. The following year he became general manager. In 1946, Mr. Duffy became president.
In 1948, on hearing that Foote, Cone & Belding had suddenly resigned the $12 million American Tobacco account, Mr. Duffy contacted the marketer and locked up the business within hours of the resignation announcement. (To avoid a conflict, BBDO resigned its Brown & Williamson business, which it had had since the early 1930s.) BBDO took over production of the popular "Jack Benny" show and the "Lucky Strike Hit Parade" and began to develop what became the long-running "Be happy, go Lucky" ad campaign.
(As the Lucky Strike name began to weaken in the 1960s, another American Tobacco brand, Herbert Tareyton would begin to rise aggressively. With its name shortened to Tareyton, the brand became one of the big sellers of the decade as BBDO devised one of the most famous cigarette campaigns: "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.")
From 1947 to 1948, BBDO's billings grew from $59 million to $71 million. By 1950, the agency had 11 offices, more than 1,100 employees and $4 million in billings in the new medium of TV.
When Dwight D. Eisenhower became the Republican Party's nominee for president in 1952, BBDO worked with Kudner Agency on the campaign. BBDO departed from the normal practice of lining up broadcast clearances for campaign speeches and developed a format for a series of 60-second spots in which a "typical voter" put a question to Gen. Eisenhower and the candidate responded. These spots are generally considered to be the first presidential campaign TV commercials. BBDO returned for the 1956 campaign and Richard Nixon's unsuccessful run in 1960. The agency was also active in Ronald Reagan's campaigns in the 1980s.
Moving into TV
BBDO was among the strongest agencies in the early days of TV. It brought "Your Hit Parade," "Jack Benny" and the "Cavalcade of America" from radio to TV, and developed "The General Electric Theater" around Mr. Reagan and "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx for Chrysler Corp.'s DeSoto and Plymouth marques. The agency acquired the Revlon account in January 1955 and had limited involvement in "The $64,000 Question," which the company sponsored. But Revlon dropped BBDO in September 1957, nearly a year before the quiz show scandal broke.
By 1956, BBDO was billing $194.5 million, second to JWT by only $500,000. That year, Mr. Duffy suffered a serious stroke at age 54, ending his decadelong reign. Charles Brower became president in 1959, and Mr. Duffy became vice-chairman, Mr. Duffy became chairman after Mr. Barton's death in 1967; he died in September 1972.
Although BBDO International was established in 1954, the agency did not acquire its first major international position until 1960, when it bought Dolan Duckworth Whitcombe & Stewart, London.
That year, BBDO also won the Pepsi-Cola business, which pushed billings to $243 million. Three weeks after President John F. Kennedy proclaimed in his 1961 inaugural address that a new generation had come to power, BBDO went after that generation on behalf of Pepsi, rolling out the campaign that would define the soft-drink brand for the rest of the century—"For those who think young."
In 1965, the positioning evolved into "Come alive, you're in the Pepsi generation," and the "Pepsi generation" became a common cultural reference point. (In 1999, Advertising Age ranked "The Pepsi generation" campaign No. 21 among the century's 100 most influential ad campaigns.) By the 1980s, creative director Phil Dusenberry had become an industry star via his work on Pepsi. He brought much attention to the brand and to BBDO by signing pop star Michael Jackson for a Pepsi campaign launched on the Grammy Awards.
Another long-lived campaign to come out of BBDO at about the same period was "Ring around the collar" for Lever Bros.' Wisk detergent (ranked No. 68 on Advertising Age's top 100 list).
In 1964, BBDO was the world's No. 4 agency. That year it bought Burke Dowling Adams, Atlanta, its first domestic acquisition since 1931. On Jan. 1, 1966, it acquired Clyne Maxon, whose billings were 85% dominated by Gillette and GE; two years later the merger was reversed at Clyne Maxon's request and the agency became independent again, though BBDO retained most of the Gillette business.
Campbell's Soup scandal
An ethical scandal shook the agency late in the decade. For many years BBDO had handled Campbell Soup Co. In the 1930s, it created the company's "M'm! M'm! Good" campaign (No. 25 on the Advertising Age list of top campaigns). In 1968, BBDO introduced Campbell's Chicken & Stars soup, a broth containing pasta stars, small chicken chunks and vegetables. In photographing the product for print ads, however, a problem developed when the solid ingredients sank to the bottom. Art director Robert Ballantine solved it by putting clear marbles in the bowl to support the chicken and pasta. Such artifice was not considered unethical in advertising at the time any more than special lighting or photo retouching is today.
The campaign broke in April 1968 and promptly produced an inquiry from the Federal Trade Commission, acting on a complaint from an unknown source, later revealed to be H.J. Heinz Co., a Campbell competitor. A representative of the Bureau of Deceptive Practices visited BBDO and was shown how the soup was "propped" for photography with the marbles. His report to the FTC stated that the advertising misrepresented the amount of chicken and pasta in the soup. In November 1968, Campbell and BBDO agreed to stop using such propping techniques. The matter seemed closed. In February 1969, however, FTC Chairman Paul Dixon made the details public and instituted a formal proceeding against Campbell. For the next several years, new petitions and appeals involved 14 federal judges in the matter. In December 1972, the FTC dismissed the complaint.
BBDO ended the 1960s with billings of $336 million. BBDO International became a holding company in 1971, while Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn continued as the name of the agency operation. Tom Dillon succeeded Mr. Brower as president in 1964. He pursued aggressive international expansion and took the company public in October 1973.
Bruce Crawford succeeded Mr. Dillon as president in 1975 and, by 1979, the company ranked No. 7 among U.S. agencies, with worldwide billings just short of $1 billion. Also in 1979, BBDO acquired Arthur Meyerhoff Associates, a Chicago agency long associated with Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. and, in 1980, Doremus & Co., a financial marketing specialist. Expansion through the 1970s, despite slow periods, proved impressive. By the time Mr. Crawford's presidency ended in 1984, BBDO had become a $2.3 billion giant.
Despite its size, BBDO found its position threatened in a decade that was seeing the merging of giants and the aggressive acquisition activity of the U.K.'s WPP Group and Saatchi & Saatchi. BBDO was not the only agency concerned with these developments. In 1985, Doyle Dane Bernbach, New York, and Needham Harper Worldwide, Chicago, were worried about the same things.
On April 25, 1986, after seven months of talks, Keith Reinhard of Needham, Barry Loughrane of DDB, and Allen Rosenshine, who had succeeded Mr. Crawford as chairman-CEO of BBDO the year before, agreed to form a new entity called Omnicom, a holding company that consisted of a merged DDB/Needham and BBDO.
Mr. Rosenshine became chairman-CEO of Omnicom, while Norm Campbell became chairman of the new BBDO Worldwide, the larger of the agencies after the merger. Mr. Reinhard headed DDB/Needham Worldwide. Two years later, he moved back to head BBDO, while Mr. Campbell took over Omnicom.
In 2003, BBDO Worldwide had U.S. revenue of $279.1 million, an increase of 10.8% over the previous year, and ranked No. 4 among U.S. agencies. Worldwide revenue was $1.24 billion for 2003, an increase of 16.4% over the previous year.