Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove

Published on .

Reprints Reprints

Started by George Ketchum as a PR firm, Ketchum Publicity, in Pittsburgh, 1919; created its first advertising effort, 1922; changed name to Ketchum-MacLeod Advertising, 1923; became Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove when Robert Grove joined, 1923; opened a New York office, 1956; bought the West Coast's Botsford, Constantine & McCarty to create Botsford-Ketchum, 1969; Ketchum Communications sold to Omnicom Group, 1996; Ketchum advertising unit disbanded, 1999.

Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove had its formal opening in 1923, after Robert Grove joined the Pittsburgh agency started in 1919 by George Ketchum. Mr. Ketchum started out in public relations, forming Ketchum Publicity with his brother Carleton and Norman MacLeod. In 1922, the agency created its first advertising effort and a year later changed its name to Ketchum-MacLeod Advertising. The implied direction of the shop had one major, almost immediate effect: Carleton Ketchum left to run his own fund-raising organization, joined by Mr. MacLeod.

In its early days, agency survival depended on a large number of accounts requiring minimal advertising created by only a few employees. Ketchum had about seven in those days. During the Depression years, staff salaries were cut, and the principals went without pay until times improved. Clients were diverse, though largely industrial, ranging from Jones & Laughlin Steel to Westinghouse Electric's consumer appliances to a local baker of bread. The agency's billings improved every single year of the Depression except one.

The agency expanded steadily, and in the immediate post-World War II years maintained a staff of more than 200. In 1953, the agency's billings were $16 million, generated by 53 accounts. It offered its clients not only advertising but also merchandising, point-of-purchase promotions, sales and technical literature, and PR.

In 1955, Ketchum's PR department consisted of 40 people and was one of the largest such operations in the U.S. Ketchum also was noted for its formal research and training programs. In 1953, it employed 24 men and women just out of college as account assistants.

This was a period of unusual growth for the shop; its business doubled from 1950 to 1955, the year Mr. Grove retired. In 1956, Ketchum opened a New York office to help handle its growth. Total agency billings were $27 million in 1958.

As the decade ended, Mr. Ketchum reported a new trend he was seeing at his agency: Industrial marketers, which normally advertised only to other businesses or retailers, were striving to reach the ultimate consumer with more consumer-oriented advertising.

In late 1959, the agency resigned the Jones & Laughlin business because of the increasing importance of another client, Aluminum Co. of America. Westinghouse greatly expanded its accounts in 1960, giving the shop 15 additional divisions. And client Gulf Oil was the reason Ketchum opened a Houston office that year.

New accounts in the early 1960s included ACF Industries, Air Express Co., Ciba Pharmaceutical Products, McGraw-Hill Publishing, Pittsburgh Brewing Co. and the U.S. Army Recruiting Service. Closer to home, the agency signed up Pennsylvania's Department of Commerce, West Virginia's industrial and travel development departments and, on the consumer side, H.J. Heinz Co.'s beans, vinegars, sauces and mustards.

In 1963, billings grew to more than $45 million, with the business divided 60% consumer and 40% industrial, a complete reversal of the ratio 10 years earlier. The agency had recorded annual gains for 26 consecutive years.

In 1969, Ketchum bought Botsford, Constantine & McCarty, Portland, Ore. Billing $22 million in 1969 and serving major client Japan Air Lines, the West Coast agency became known as Botsford-Ketchum, and gained fame in the arenas of food and food service, among others.

International operations expanded soon after, with Ketchum buying an 85% interest in David Williams & Partners, London, and a "substantial" interest in Durana Werburg, Frankfurt, West Germany, in 1970. International billings were more than $24 million in 1972. In 1973, Botsford-Ketchum grew in Japan via an affiliation with Tokyo PR Service, the same year Mr. Ketchum retired from the agency he had founded. He died in September 1975, and Mr. Grove passed away in 1976. The year Mr. Ketchum died, billings stood at $152 million.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Botsford-Ketchum became an equal part of Ketchum. The overall agency became Ketchum Communications in 1982, with units Ketchum Advertising, Ketchum Directory Services and, of course, PR operations. But Ketchum Advertising, following a high of around $120 million in billings in the late 1980s, went into a decline, although it serviced the highly visible Acura luxury car account from American Honda Motor Co.

Ketchum Communications was sold to Omnicom Group in 1996. Billings for the advertising unit were $79 million in 1999, compared with $145 million for the Yellow Pages unit; the advertising unit was shut down over time, and the flagship office was sold in 1999 to Earle Palmer Brown Cos., Baltimore. EPB changed the Pittsburgh shop's name to Egan/St. James, marking the end for what had, for seven decades, been the city's largest ad agency.

At the same time, the PR unit thrived and under the single name of Ketchum was the No. 8 PR practice in 2001.

In this article:
Most Popular