Geyer Co. was founded in Dayton, Ohio, in 1911 by Charles J. Geyer and his son, Bertram Birch "Pat" Geyer. In 1915, Geyer began acquiring significant business from electrical and industrial clients, which led in the 1920s to the Delco Light and the Frigidaire Division of General Motors Corp. accounts. (Pat Geyer reportedly invented the modern ice cube tray and sold it to GM for $1.)
In 1933, Geyer Advertising, as it was then called, it bought Paul L. Cornell Co. in New York. Two years later, it became Geyer, Cornell & Newell when H.W. "Hike" Newell joined as a partner. Paul Cornell left soon after for a career in Connecticut politics, but his name remained on the door.
In 1935, the agency moved its headquarters to New York, though it maintained an office in Dayton. That September, it also opened an office in Detroit to handle the Nash Motors Division of Nash-Kelvinator, the marketer of Nash and LaFayette automobile brands. During this period, the agency was primarily a print shop, although it handled network radio for Nash.
When the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Nash-Kelvinator, like many other advertisers during the war years, kept its brand prominent through ads about its war materials production. In 1944, the agency's billings soared 50% to an estimated $8 million, much of it due to Nash's wartime ads in addition to new business from the Continental Oil Co. and the Army Air Force account. Work for Calvert Distillers Corp. and Eureka Vacuum Cleaner also helped boost the agency's billings.
That same year, Geyer, Cornell & Newell bought the New York office of Tracy-Locke Co., which helped it surpass the $10 million mark in 1946 and climb into the ranks of America's top ad agencies.
Meanwhile, Robert M. Ganger, who had been with the agency since 1935, worked his way into upper management as a VP at the company, which in 1945 became Geyer, Newell & Ganger. He had played a key role in winning business from P. Lorillard Co., which awarded the agency its new Embassy cigarette account in 1947. (In March 1950, Mr. Ganger joined Lorillard and rose to become its president.)
A significant rupture occurred on June 1, 1952, when Mr. Newell, after a failed merger attempt with Lennen & Mitchell, left Geyer to join L&M, which became Lennen & Newell. Geyer lost not only Mr. Newell but also seven VPs, 15 other staff members and the P. Lorillard business to L&M.
In September 1952, Geyer acquired the remnants of W. Earle Bothwell Inc., which had been in business for 19 years, in a secret transaction that resulted in a civil conspiracy suit that was settled out of court in 1953.
Geyer's billings held steady in the low-$20 million range through most of the 1950s. In 1955, Mr. Newell died, and in 1956, Pat Geyer sold 50% of his equity to a group of 40 employees that included Sam Ballard, an exec VP who succeeded Mr. Geyer as president. In 1957, Emerson Foote, one of the founders of Foote, Cone & Belding and subsequently an exec VP at McCann-Erickson, made what at the time was described as "a substantial investment" in Geyer and became chairman; however, he left after seven months.
On Jan. 1, 1959, Geyer merged with Morey, Humm & Warwick. Morey's largest client was Sinclair Oil Corp.; Geyer's was American Motors, the successor to the Nash Motor Division of Nash-Kelvinator. The combined agency was called Geyer, Morey, Madden & Ballard. Edward Madden, who resigned from Keyes, Madden & Jones Advertising to become vice chairman of the new Geyer configuration, provided the fourth element of the name.
Geyer Morey was launched with $30 million in billings, acquiring another $2 million from B.T. Babbitt Inc. A fifth merger, this time with the Chicago-based Caples Co. in December 1960, contributed more assets to Geyer Morey. Within two years of the 1959 merger, billings hit $42 million. Mr. Madden left in 1960, and the company was rechristened Geyer, Morey, Ballard in May 1962.
Geyer ranked No. 26 among U.S. agencies in 1965 on billings of $58.6 million. That year, the agency resigned American Motors' $15 million account, and lost Kelvinator and Lehn & Fink Products Corp. In October, the agency shuttered its original office in Dayton. The following year, Geyer Morey acquired the Detroit agency Maxon Inc.
In October 1967, the agency underwent yet another name change, becoming Geyer-Oswald. Advertising Age estimated its billings for 1967 and 1968 in the mid-$30 million range, well below the mid-$50 million billings level the agency claimed in both years. In 1969, it acquired Feeley & Wheeler, a small New York industrial agency, but its billings continued to decline.
In March 1970, Geyer-Oswald was acquired by Lennen & Newell, ending the nearly 60-year history of the Geyer name in advertising. But Lennen & Newell, which billed $160 million in 1970 and dropped to about $30 million in 1971, was badly overextended. In April 1972, the agency closed its doors.