Compton Advertising

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Created when Richard J. Compton, Leonard T. Bush and Alfred Stanford purchased Blackman Advertising and renamed it, 1937; acquired by Saatchi & Saatchi Co., 1982; name changed to Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, 1988.


In 1935, Blackman Advertising President Richard J. Compton, Leonard Bush and Alfred Stanford purchased the New York-based agency, which they rechristened Compton Advertising in 1937. Its first VP was Marion Harper, who went on to found Interpublic Group of Cos., and its chief client was Procter & Gamble Co.

In 1944, billings reached $22 million, making Compton the No. 9 U.S. agency. In addition to P&G, whose package-goods accounts made up nearly half of Compton's total billings, other clients included Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., American Home Products, Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co. and New York Life Insurance Co. In 1948, Compton ushered P&G into TV for the first time (Blackman had created the "soap opera" genre for the marketer in radio) and made Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s Neolite rubber soles a household word. In 1949, Compton won the Tender Leaf tea and Chase & Sanborn coffee accounts from J. Walter Thompson Co.

Despite winning new accounts, Compton's billings after 1944 remained flat and, by 1950, it had dropped to No. 18. Growth resumed in the 1950s, largely on the basis of the shop's work in the pricey medium of TV; yet, while overall billings rose from $22 million in 1949 to $45 million in 1955, Compton's rank remained at No. 18.

Compton's association with demanding consumer packaged-goods marketers led it to build strengths in marketing and media and, by 1955, the agency had established a merchandising department to help clients formulate sales promotion programs. It added a direct-mail unit in 1969.

In 1958, Compton employed 750 people, had 24 clients and six offices. The agency's growth from the late 1950s through the 1960s occurred under the leadership of Barton A. Cummings, who was named agency president in 1955 and CEO one year later. Through the 1960s, the agency won work from Seagram, Kaiser Jeep Corp. (later American Motors Corp.), U.S. Steel Corp., General Electric Corp., Johnson & Johnson and Quaker Oats Co. Still, P&G was Compton's largest client.

In December 1961, P&G moved its top brand, Tide, to Compton, which was already handling the company's Gleem, Crisco, Comet and Ivory brands. Although Compton's work for P&G lacked creative flair, some campaigns were enduring. Compton's TV campaign for Comet featuring actress Jane Withers as "Josephine the Plumber" forged a strong brand identity and ran for 12 years.

Compton's international expansion began in 1960 with the acquisition of S.T. Garland Advertising Service, a small London shop founded in 1928. The agency was renamed Garland-Compton and its facilities expanded to service Compton's U.S. clients in Great Britain and Europe. By the mid-1960s, Compton had added offices in Paris, San Juan, Mexico City and Hong Kong. At the decade's end, Compton had 39 offices in 22 countries outside the U.S. Total billings, which in 1960 had been $86 million, reached $175 million in 1968, making Compton the No. 14 U.S. agency.

In October 1968, O. Milton Gossett was elected president after spending his entire career in the agency's creative ranks. He added the title CEO in 1975 and, two years later, chairman. With a background in the creative side of the business, Mr. Gossett set out to build Compton's creative resources.

In 1975, London's Saatchi & Saatchi Co. entered into negotiations to merge with Garland-Compton. It seemed a good match: Saatchi was known for its creativity, but lacked marketing skills; Garland-Compton had marketing expertise, but lacked a creative edge. In September, the agency became Saatchi & Saatchi Garland Compton. Under the agreement, Garland-Compton bought the Saatchi shop.

In actuality, however, the deal laid the groundwork for the ambitious Saatchi brothers, Charles and Maurice, to stage a reverse takeover of the older shop. In September 1975, the agency became Saatchi & Saatchi Garland Compton. In the U.S., the merger was barely noticed; Compton billed $104 million and the Saatchi name was not widely known on Madison Avenue.

But by 1977, Charles and Maurice Saatchi were approaching New York agencies in hopes of buying an established international network. Mr. Gossett became concerned that such a move would create conflicts with P&G, which remained the largest client at both Compton and Saatchi & Saatchi Garland Compton.

By March 1982, however, the Saatchis had worn Mr. Gossett's resistance down. Saatchi & Saatchi purchased Compton for $29.2 million in cash plus performance-based incentive payments to Compton executives, acquiring the international advertising network it had sought. The deal constituted the largest ad agency merger up to that time and, with combined billings of $1.3 billion, the new shop rocketed Saatchi to No. 7 in worldwide billings from No. 25.

Compton retained its name, but only briefly. To erase its persistent image as a boring soap-and-suds shop, the Compton name was subsumed under its parental moniker in 1984, and it became Saatchi & Saatchi Compton Worldwide. Four years later, the last vestiges of the Compton name were expunged, and the shop became known simply as Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising.

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