After a career in advertising that began in 1923, Duane Jones started his agency in 1942 with a staff of 15 and three clients billing a total of $12 million: B.T. Babbitt's Bab-O cleanser, Mueller's macaroni and Tetley tea. To announce the opening of his shop, Mr. Jones took out page newspaper ads in which he stated his belief that awards should be given to ads that sold the most goods rather than those with the prettiest copy.
Mr. Jones acquired the moniker "Box Top King" because he was almost single-handedly responsible for making premiums a standard part of package-goods advertising. His most renowned offer was the Blarney Stone Charm. For the charms, Mr. Jones obtained stone from the same Irish quarry that produced the Blarney Stone. He had the stone fashioned into charms and jewelry that were offered to consumers for a quarter and a box top from grocery products sold by the agency's clients. Millions were distributed in connection with various campaigns.
While Duane Jones Co. suffered few account losses in 1950, 1951 saw the advent of one of the most famous lawsuits in advertising history. In 1951, several of the agency's top executives issued an ultimatum: Sell the agency to them or they would leave. When Mr. Jones refused, nine executives resigned as directors but remained employees of Duane Jones Co. temporarily.
The nine incorporated as Scheideler, Beck & Werner on Aug. 23 and eventually left the Jones agency. The exact date of each resignation proved critically important to the case. The ex-employees opened their new agency on Sept. 10, 1951, with 79 former Duane Jones employees and billings of approximately $5 million from former Jones clients Manhattan Soap, Hudson Pulp & Paper, Borden and Heublein.
Mr. Jones resigned his few remaining accounts and in January 1952 filed a $4.5 million lawsuit against his former executives for conspiracy to ruin his agency. He charged the nine with soliciting and obtaining clients of Duane Jones Co. while still officers of the agency with fiduciary responsibilities. Countercharges were filed, claiming that Mr. Jones was frequently intoxicated and that he "grossly neglected" the business. The defense also claimed that account changes were a common practice in the advertising industry.
After 30 months, a jury trial victory for Mr. Jones and two appeals, the New York State Court of Appeals awarded Mr. Jones $300,000 plus court costs. The court concluded that the defendants had unfairly solicited Jones agency accounts while still employees.
Prior to the 1950s, executives felt free to take accounts with them when starting a new agency without fear of legal repercussions. After the Duane Jones case, however, departing employees were careful to avoid using agency time or resources and to abstain from soliciting or informing clients during the planning stages.
In 1955, Mr. Jones unsuccessfully attempted to restart his agency. He died of a heart attack at a hospital near his Connecticut home in June 1961. Scheideler, Beck & Werner closed in 1956 when Manhattan Soap Co. was acquired and its account moved to another agency.