Ray Mithun and Ralph Campbell opened their ad agency in Minneapolis in 1933 with $3,000 in borrowed money. Both had left the Twin Cities office of Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn.
Mr. Campbell, the agency's first president, died of a heart attack in 1949. Mr. Mithun, named president in 1943, stayed on until his retirement in 1983, when the agency was billing $250 million; he died in 1998, at the age of 89. Mr. Mithun in 1950 recruited Albert Whitman to be agency VP. Mr. Whitman became president in 1960 when Mr. Mithun moved to chairman. The agency grew steadily and had $43 million in billings at the time, with offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
A key account in Chicago was the American Dairy Association, which the agency had taken over in 1943 from Lord & Thomas. Other major accounts, handled by Mr. Whitman, were Pillsbury Co. and Theo. Hamm Brewing Co. (for which it created the "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters" campaign). In 1961, C-M got its first automobile account, Mercedes-Benz, the German automaker whose sales in the U.S. were handled by Studebaker; however, it kept the account only about three years.
In an unusual claim to fame, Campbell Mithun in 1962 acquired outdoor advertising businesses in St. Louis, which was said to be the first time an ad agency had purchased an ad medium. But the bylaws of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, of which C-M was a member, proved a problem for the shop, and it sold the outdoor operation to agency stockholders to get around the Four A's rules.
Around this time, C-M gained acclaim for handling the Hong Kong tourism account, which it had won as a result of its work for Northwest Orient Airlines.
Cleo W. Hovel, who joined the agency in 1949 and who is credited with creating the Hamm's bear, left the agency in 1963 to develop animated TV characters at Leo Burnett Co. He returned to C-M in 1966 as exec VP-director of creative services and in 1969 was elected agency president, succeeding Mr. Whitman.
In 1968, Pillsbury, a 16-year client, shifted its remaining business out of the Minneapolis shop; that year C-M acquired business from the flour miller's cross-town rival, General Mills. It would retain that account into the next century.
Mr. Hovel died suddenly, at age 48, in 1970. He was succeeded in 1971 by Richard Bowman, a New York adman. That year also saw George Gruenwald join C-M as an exec VP; he became agency president in 1972, when Stan Blunt moved to chairman. The agency billed $72 million that year.
Mr. Gruenwald later served as chief creative officer, after Bill Dunlap had followed Mr. Blunt into the agency's top management. Mr. Dunlap, who joined the shop in 1981 as president, became CEO and then chairman, holding that post through several agency ownership changes and into the new millennium. Early in 2001, Les Mouser was elected president-CEO.
Campbell Mithun was sold in 1979 to New York-based Ted Bates & Co., but continued as an autonomous unit within Bates. In 1986, Bates was taken over by Saatchi & Saatchi, London, for $450 million, a price that sent the advertising business into a frenzy. The deal eventually resulted in other mergers, as Saatchi & Saatchi acquired numerous U.S. agencies; it combined Campbell Mithun with William Esty Co. in 1988, creating Campbell-Mithun-Esty, with $800 million in billings.
The deal got C-M back into the car business; Esty's Detroit office handled Chrysler Corp.'s Jeep account after the Chicago-area Oldsmobile Dealer Association dismissed the Chicago office. CME won numerous creative advertising awards in the 1990s for its Jeep advertising.
In 1990, CME linked up internationally with Saatchi & Saatchi's KHBB, London. But the arrangement came apart when the Minneapolis-based agency bought itself back from Saatchi in 1995 with the help of New York-based Interpublic Group of Cos. Interpublic supplied the initial funds, but CME management soon reacquired a majority share of its stock.
In summer 2000, the agency dropped Esty from its name, calling itself Campbell Mithun and, in July 2001, absorbed Bozell Chicago office in a realignment within Interpublic. In 2003, Campbell Mithun had U.S. revenue of $95.7 million, about even with 2002 figures, and ranked No. 21 among U.S. agencies, according to Advertising Age. The agency's Web site is www.campbellmithun.com.