Frank J. Campbell and Henry T. Ewald opened Campbell-Ewald Co. on Feb. 7, 1911 with six employees. The early slogan for the Detroit agency was, "We care not who makes the nation's cars, if we may write and place the nation's ads." Its first client was Hyatt Roller Bearing Co.
Mr. Campbell left the company in 1917, and Mr. Ewald became president. In 1919, General Motors Corp. asked C-E to place newspaper ads for its Chevrolet line of cars. Three years later, GM officially assigned the automaker's account to the agency, including advertising work for all its marques: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oakland (which later became Pontiac), Oldsmobile and GMC Trucks.
Although the agency's success would come with GM, it also handled other advertising categories, including presidential politics. In 1924, Mr. Ewald coined the famous political slogan, "Keep cool with Coolidge."
By 1929, billings were estimated at $26 million, but the Depression hit car sales hard, and ad spending was sharply reduced. Billings at Campbell-Ewald dropped to $8 million by 1938. In 1942, when all civilian auto production ceased until the end of World War II, billings dropped to $5 million.
In addition to reducing its spending during these years, GM had earlier split its various divisions among several agencies, leaving Campbell-Ewald to focus on Chevrolet. The GM division competed with Ford and Plymouth, making up the low-priced three that formed the largest part of the automobile mass market. During the war, Chevrolet's advertising was concentrated in magazines, and GM's institutional advertising more than offset the cessation of car production for the agency. The agency also served other clients, including U.S. Rubber and Eastern Airlines, both handled through its New York office. By 1945, billings were estimated at $13 million.
Following the war, Campbell-Ewald became a pioneer in TV as it created commercials and programs for Chevrolet. In 1946, Chevrolet became the first automaker to sponsor TV programs, an effort that helped boost C-E's billings to $25 million by 1950. By the late 1950s, the agency was producing about 2,000 broadcast commercials per year, as well as variety programs such as "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" and "Pat Boone's Chevy Showroom." By 1960, thanks largely to singer Dinah Shore, "See the USA in your Chevrolet" was among the best-known ad slogans in the country.
In addition to the pioneering work done in TV and radio for Chevy, Campbell-Ewald was innovative in other media. It created the first 3-D billboard for Chevy in 1955, and in 1959, the agency won the first of four Gold Lions in five years at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes.
The 1950s were years of major change at the agency. Mr. Ewald died at age 67 in 1953. Henry "Ted" Little succeeded him as chairman and put a renewed emphasis on developing additional accounts. Although pursuit of new business was slow, Mr. Little gave opportunities to young creative people who later developed well-known agencies on their own, specifically Carl Ally and Amil Gargano. Increases in ad spending by Chevrolet boosted C-E billings to $58 million by 1955 and nearly $100 million by 1960.
After a rocky start in the 1970s (billings at the agency for 1970 were $20 million below those for 1960), the agency began adding substantial new business, including clients such as Rockwell Standard (later Rockwell International), and expanding the Chevy business. John DeLorean's arrival as head of the Chevrolet division in 1970 required adjustments at Campbell-Ewald in how the account was managed and financed. For example, Mr. DeLorean demanded that agency compensation be linked to product sales, a previously unheard-of philosophy. His impassioned desire for new advertising emphasizing brand reliability drove the agency down a creative path that ultimately led to the highly successful "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" campaign, which debuted in 1975.
Acquired by Interpublic
By the end of 1972, billings had reached almost $113 million, making Campbell-Ewald the No. 19 U.S. agency. That November, it was acquired by the Interpublic Group of Cos. The agency continued to operate autonomously but as a wholly owned operating company within Interpublic.
Interpublic reshaped Campbell-Ewald several times in the first dozen years it owned the shop. In 1975, Campbell-Ewald International, set up by Interpublic, linked Campbell-Ewald to the parent's overseas holdings. The next year, the shop was renamed Campbell-Ewald Worldwide, as the Detroit and London offices were merged with two smaller Interpublic properties, Tinker, Dodge & Delano and Clinton E. Frank Advertising. In 1978, the agency followed its chief client, Chevy, and moved its headquarters to Warren, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. In 1980, Interpublic rechristened the shop Marschalk Campbell-Ewald, which changed again to Campbell-Ewald in December 1984, when Richard O'Connor was named chairman.
The synergy between Campbell-Ewald and Chevy extended the shop's run of creative successes, culminating in the 1986 "Heartbeat of America" effort for Chevy. By 1989, the campaign had won more than 400 awards. But at the same time it was being lauded for its work, Campbell-Ewald suffered financially when GM began to renegotiate compensation with all its suppliers, including its agencies. Commissions in some cases fell to almost half of what the automotive giant had previously paid. This financial pressure, combined with the announcement that Chevrolet was decreasing its advertising budget by $80 million, ushered in the 1990s with one of the largest layoffs in the agency's history.
In 1991, the agency, by now renamed Lintas:Campbell-Ewald as a unit of Interpublic's Lintas, produced the first ads in the "Like a rock" campaign for Chevy truck.
At the outset of the 21st century the agency was ranked No. 15 in billings in the U.S. The agency, again named Campbell-Ewald Co., reported gross income of $209.4 million in 2000, up 12.6% over 1999, on billings of $1.9 billion, an increase of 16.7% over the previous year.
In 2003, the agency, again named Campbell-Ewald Co., ranked No. 15 among U.S. agencies, according to Advertising Age, with U.S. revenue of $146.3 million, down 3.3% from 2002.