Ross Roy, a successful automobile salesman, founded his own agency in 1926 in Detroit. His sales record at a Dodge dealership in Janesville, Wis., had attracted the attention of Dodge Brothers Corp. executives, who were impressed by Mr. Roy's use of competitive product information as a sales tool.
In 1927, when Chrysler Corp. acquired Dodge Brothers, Ross Roy's sales approach was extended to all Chrysler Corp. dealers. The agency continued to grow with Chrysler, specializing in sales training and merchandising and, during the 1930s, producing education and training films.
Ross Roy became a full-service ad agency in 1940 when it acquired the Dodge truck division account, for which it created the successful "job-rated" theme.
The agency had barely begun to hit its stride when the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941. Ross Roy had 82 people on its payroll at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; a week later, the agency had cut that number in half and was set for a long siege, as commercial auto production stopped.
As war orders poured in to the automakers, however, those companies, Chrysler among them, realized they not only had to provide automotive and other products for the war effort but also operational, training and service manuals. Ross Roy was poised to produce these materials. By the end of the first quarter of 1942, the agency had rehired all those who had been let go; at the war's end, it had 180 employees.
Chrysler Corp. continued to be the agency's largest client in the immediate postwar years. In 1947, it had billings of $5.9 million; by 1950, this had grown to $9.8 million. Ross Roy's work included merchandising and sales training for the Chrysler, Dodge, DeSoto and Plymouth brands and work for Dodge trucks, the parts division and Canadian operations. By the mid-1950s, the agency also had offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Windsor, Ontario.
Billings for the decade peaked in 1953 at $18.9 million, when the agency ranked No. 35 among U.S. shops. In addition to Chrysler, clients included American Steel Wool Manufacturing Co., Dana Perfume, Eljer Co. (a marketer of plumbing fixtures), Esquire socks, Lake Central Airlines and Radio Corp. of America's custom records and recorded program services.
In 1950, Ross Roy absorbed the C.C. Fogarty agency in Chicago and Zeder-Talbot on the West Coast. An even larger and more significant acquisition came a decade later when, in July 1960, Ross Roy merged with fellow Detroit agency Brooke, Smith, French & Dorrance, creating an operation known briefly in the early 1960s as Ross Roy-BSF&D.
The combined shop, with annual billings of about $25 million, melded Ross Roy's strengths—merchandising, selling aids, sales training and direct mail—with BSF&D's long suit—creativity. John S. Pingel, who was exec VP of BSF&D before the merger, became president of Ross Roy four years later.
Growth continued in the 1970s with the addition of two longtime Detroit agencies, Zimmer, Keller & Calvert in 1970 and Gray & Kilgore in 1974. By the middle of the decade, billings had risen to $92 million, ranking the shop No. 19 among U.S. agencies. Many Chrysler Corp. divisions and components continued to dominate the agency's client roster, but others on the list included Greyhound Food Management; Michigan Tourist Commission; Kelsey-Hayes Co.; Owens-Illinois' Libbey Glass Division; Parke, Davis & Co.; Storer Broadcasting Co.; and Uniroyal.
Separately, the New York operation, which was billing $9.5 million, handled Bacardi & Co. and General Electric Co.'s Plastics Business Division and Silicone Products Department, among others.
In 1980, daily operations of the agency, now billing $191 million, were turned over to Glen Fortinberry, who resigned as vice chairman of J. Walter Thompson Co. to become president-chief operating officer of Ross Roy. He presided over a decade in which the Ross Roy Group added agencies, including Griswold, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and Calet, Hirsch & Spector, with offices in New York and Clearwater, Fla.
Mr. Roy, the agency's founder, died in August 1983 at the age of 85.
Late in the 1980s, the agency moved from its longtime headquarters in Detroit to suburban Bloomfield Hills, Mich. By the end of the decade, billings of the Ross Roy Group, fattened through the absorption of Calet, Hirsch & Spector and other agencies, surpassed $650 million, and its client list, although still dominated by Chrysler accounts, now included Kmart Corp., Detroit Edison, La-Z-Boy Chair Co. and Michigan Bell Telephone.
Mr. Fortinberry, then the agency's CEO, died of leukemia in August 1993, at the age of 65. At the time of his death, the agency had billings of more than $700 million. During his tenure, the agency had broadened its national presence and expanded its capabilities in areas such as direct marketing, Yellow Pages, public relations and franchise marketing. Peter Mills, who assumed the titles of chairman, president and CEO, succeeded Mr. Fortinberry. Mr. Mills had most recently been president-chief operating officer of BBDO North America.
In 1995, Omnicom Group, parent company of BBDO, acquired the company; then known as Ross Roy Communications, it had become one of the largest independent shops in the U.S. After the acquisition, the agency resigned its other accounts to concentrate on the business of Chrysler Corp. and, later, of DaimlerChrysler.
On Jan. 1, 2000, the agency changed its name to InterOne Marketing Group; moved its headquarters to Troy, Mich.; and reinvented itself as a customer relationship management agency. BBDO later folded the unit into the agency in late 2001 and discontinued the InterOne name.