Doremus & Co. was started by Clarence W. Barron, a financial editor and publisher who had purchased Dow Jones & Co. in 1902 along with the company's leading national financial publication, The Wall Street Journal.
On May 14, 1903, Mr. Barron began a financial-notice ad agency in a corner of Dow Jones' office in New York with an assistant, Harry W. Doremus, from the Journal's ad department. Mr. Barron named the new subsidiary Doremus & Co., even though Mr. Doremus had no equity in the company and left two years later after being blamed for authorizing editorial staff to sell advertising (most likely Mr. Barron's own decision).
Daily management of The Wall Street Journal was overseen by Mr. Barron's wife, Jessie, freeing Mr. Barron to manage Doremus, among other ventures. At its inception, Doremus placed primarily classifieds and tombstones as financial notices of business deals for just nine accounts. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I in Europe, Mr. Barron took official control of Doremus, assuming the title of president, and took on the company's first major campaign, the U.S. government's massive advertising effort to sell Liberty Bonds to raise money for the war effort.
Shortly after the war, Doremus & Co. helped start a special classifieds section of display ads in The Wall Street Journal that recruited personnel for executive and highly skilled positions; the purpose of this venture was to help returning soldiers find work. The innovation proved to be a top revenue-earner for the paper, and the practice was adopted by other major national newspapers.
Doremus began offering broader services in the 1920s, including stockholder and public relations. New offices were established in Chicago and San Francisco. In Boston, Doremus absorbed the ad agency business of the Boston News Bureau, which Mr. Barron had started before he bought Dow Jones. It also took over the business of another Barron news service, the Philadelphia News Bureau Advertising Agency, in 1929.
Mr. Barron died in 1928, and leadership was assumed by a younger team that included William H. Long, a VP who had joined the company in 1919. Mr. Long was a Princeton University alumnus, and his school ties proved beneficial in winning major accounts such as Dillon, Read & Co. in 1919 and Morgan Stanley in 1935.
In the early part of the 20th century, Wall Street banks and brokerage firms had been publishing entire prospectuses in national newspapers. However, in the 1930s, the Securities & Exchange Commission enacted restrictions preventing companies from making unfounded claims. The SEC allowed only the salient points of the cover prospectus and limited necessary information to be published, along with a notation to the effect that the placement was not a solicitation for business. This financial notice advertising, still Doremus' primary specialty, required a great deal of knowledge of the SEC, the stock exchange and brokerage laws. Doremus was dominant in this particular advertising niche; only Albert Frank-Guenther Law, New York, was a direct competitor.
Under the direction of Mr. Long, Doremus became independent of Dow Jones in the early 1930s. He continued to oversee the company through the next three decades. In 1968, the year Mr. Long retired, Doremus announced its own initial public offering, having grown to 236 employees, with billings of $28 million and a roster of more than 500 clients in six offices.
In 1974, BBDO International, New York, bought Doremus, and in 1986, combined it with agency networks Doyle Dane Bernbach and Needham, Harper & Steers to form the Omnicom Group.
In the churning economy of the 1980s and early 1990s, companies did not advertise their every financial move, and corporate and municipal bond advertising dropped dramatically. Doremus' long client list shrank dramatically as banks and investment houses began to consolidate.
In 1986, BBDO International executive Carl Anderson joined Doremus and was promoted to president by 1992; he was eventually elevated to the position of CEO in 2000. Mr. Anderson expanded Doremus' work to include corporate and consumer advertising and launched corporate campaigns for existing clients. Doremus has executed corporate branding strategies for ITT Industries, Corning Inc. and longtime client Morgan Stanley.
Edgier campaigns portrayed Doremus' use of humor to gain attention, such as a print campaign for financial publisher Bloomberg. One ad showed a New York subway rider holding a copy of Playboy wrapped around a Bloomberg magazine. The copy read, "Satisfy your second most basic instinct."
Doremus also invested in newly available technologies. This investment, coupled with many client headquarters shifts to New York through consolidation, allowed for the streamlining of the agency. By the end of the 20th century, a single New York office handled much of the business in the U.S., aided by a San Francisco office that opened in mid-1999.
In addition, Mr. Anderson drove an overseas expansion. By 2004, Doremus had offices in London (opened in 1981), Frankfurt, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
In 2003, Doremus had U.S. revenue of $23.5 million and worldwide revenue of $29.2, both a 0.5% increase over 2002 figures.