In 1916, Mr. Resor and a group of associates purchased JWT, and he became president of the agency, a position he retained for 39 years. In 1917, he cofounded the American Association of Advertising Agencies and married coworker Helen Lansdowne, who became one of the most prominent copywriters of the time. In 1955, at the age of 76, Mr. Resor became chairman of JWT. He retired in 1961 and died on Oct. 29, 1962.
Under Mr. Resor's leadership, JWT became the largest advertising agency in the world, a position it retained for nearly 50 years. Yet Mr. Resor's influence extended beyond the boundaries of his own advertising agency to the profession as a whole. His legacy is best captured in three achievements: He pioneered the use of advertising to fuel consumer desire for products and services; he passionately advocated the position that advertising was a science; and he worked to raise the stature of advertising to professional status.
During Mr. Resor's youth, his family's financial situation declined. Historian Stephen Fox has argued that this experience, as well as his wife's similar circumstances in her childhood, influenced the couple's development and use of the "emulation style" of advertising, in which goods and services are made desirable through their association with the lifestyles of the upper class.
During the 1920s, the Resors revived the form of advertising known as the testimonial. They solicited endorsements from society doyennes, celebrities and royalty for a wide range of beauty products. One campaign, which used the headline "She's engaged. She's lovely. She uses Pond's," featured debutantes whose engagements (as well as their use of Pond's cold cream) were described in detail.
Mr. Resor's insistence that advertising be viewed as a science also shaped his business practices. He filled the ranks of JWT with like-minded, college-educated employees at a time when a college degree was still a rarity at agencies. Mr. Resor began commissioning research studies as early as 1912 and, by the 1920s, his agency was publishing a census of retail trade in the U.S. that reportedly was used by more than 2,300 companies. That census has been heralded as the beginning of the field of market research.
Mr. Resor also published extensively on advertising, and his articles reflected his belief that human behavior was governed by laws that advertisers should seek to understand.
Another of Mr. Resor's favorite "scientific" devices was the "Thompson T-square"—five basic questions that had to be addressed before a marketing plan could be formulated for a client. These were similar to the "who, what, when, where and why" mantra of journalism and were designed to help the agency gather factual information about a brand and its competitors.
Mr. Resor's attempt to elevate advertising to the status of a profession influenced not only the internal workings at JWT but also the ways he interacted with the advertising community. When new employees arrived at JWT, they began a rigorous two-and-a-half-year training program to familiarize them with the inner workings of the entire agency.
Also, as a means to professionalize advertising, Mr. Resor refused to present speculative creative work when the agency was involved in a new-business presentation. He believed speculative pitches were highly unethical and would only harm the reputation of the agencies that participated in them.
Perhaps Mr. Resor's most enduring professional activity, however, was his co-founding of the Four A's in 1917. The following year, Mr. Resor developed the Four A's code of ethical standards. He served as president of the organization from 1923 to 1924. As well as the Four A's, Mr. Resor was also instrumental in the development of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Advertising Research Foundation and the National Outdoor Advertising Bureau.
Born in Cincinnati April 30, 1879; received degree in classics from Yale University, 1901; began working as a salesman at Procter & Collier, 1904; hired by J. Walter Thompson Co. to open a Cincinnati branch of the agency, 1908; headed group that bought agency and became president of JWT, 1916; married co-worker Helen Landsdowne, 1917; cofounded the American Association of Advertising Agencies, 1917; became chairman of JWT, 1955; retired, 1961; died Oct. 29, 1962; inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame, 1967.