Founded in 1935 in Chicago by Will C. Grant, Grant Advertising quickly grew into a worldwide network, opening its 25th overseas office—in Bangkok—just 21 years later. By 1959, Grant had 42 offices worldwide, further expanding what it claimed in 1952 to be the largest network of wholly owned advertising agency offices.
The agency got off to a fast start, signing Mars Inc. as one of its first accounts. Within a few years, it had added Old Dutch Cleanser, J.A. Folger & Co., Bendix Aviation Corp., Florists' Telegraph Delivery Association and American Chicle.
One of the agency's primary accounts throughout most of its existence was Chrysler Corp.; it supplied both domestic and foreign advertising for the automaker. Grant opened an office in Detroit in 1956 to handle Chrysler's Plymouth and Dodge brand advertising. In 1957, trucking and rental company Ryder System tapped Grant as its first ad agency.
Grant acquired a portion of Chrysler Corp.'s Canadian account from Ross Roy Inc. in 1959 when the automaker split its account in that country. At the same time, Grant acquired responsibility for all Chrysler Canada TV work from Leo Burnett Co. and geared up Dodge's campaign to introduce its Dart line.
In 1960, Grant purchased Los Angeles-based Robinson, Fenwick & Haynes and Chambers, Wiswell, Shattuck, Clifford & McMillan, the No. 3 agency in Boston. By the end of the year, however, Grant and Robinson Fenwick announced they were parting ways.
In 1961, Dr Pepper Co. expanded its U.S. account with Grant to include responsibility for Canada, taking the business away from Kenyon & Eckhardt. U.S. Time Corp., however, moved its Canadian Timex brand advertising to Ronalds-Reynolds, costing Grant an estimated $250,000 in billings.
In 1964, Grant jumped on the bandwagon of ad agencies going public, announcing an initial public offering for its international operations. In papers filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Grant claimed $22.1 million in international billings. Gross billings, which totaled $37 million in 1966, had reached $49.8 million by 1969, of which $41.9 million was from non-U.S. operations.
By 1971, Grant's international operations were in the red, and worldwide operations had shrunk to 30 offices in 22 countries.
A year later, Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn's Comcore Communications subsidiary purchased Grant, which had billings of approximately $60 million the previous year. Mr. Grant was relegated to the role of consultant, while Comcore President David Gillespie assumed the role of president for Grant's U.S. operations. Joe G. Wren continued in the role of president of Grant International.
Grant's domestic operation, which accounted for approximately $5 million in billings, was sold in 1974 to a group headed by J. Richard Harris, exec VP of Comcore's U.S. operation. Grant International, the company once billed as the largest in the world, was reported as insolvent in November of that year.
Two years later, Harris-Grant, the parent of Grant Advertising, closed its doors. Billings had dropped to about $4 million, payments from clients were slow to come in and projected billings increases failed to materialize. That forced the three remaining offices—in New York, Chicago and San Francisco—to close as well.