Tracy-Locke Co.

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Incorporated as Tracy-Locke-Dawson Advertising by Shelley Tracy, Raymond Locke and Joe Dawson, 1923; reorganized as Tracy-Locke Co., 1943; merged with BBDO International to form Tracy-Locke/BBDO, 1982; merged with DDB Needham Worldwide, assuming the name Tracy-Locke, a DDB Needham agency, 1992; Tracy-Locke name dropped, with agency retaining the name DDB Needham, Dallas, 1996.


Tracy-Locke-Dawson Advertising was formed in 1923 out of Southwestern Advertising Co., with Shelley Tracy as president, Raymond Locke as first VP and Joe Dawson as second VP.

One of the agency's early accounts, acquired in 1926, was the small Dallas-based Dr Pepper Co. The slogan "Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2 and 4 [o'clock]" was coined under Mr. Locke's leadership. When Dr Pepper severed the relationship in 1949, Mr. Locke retired, leaving the agency in the hands of Morris Hite, who became president.

Service is paramount

Like the founders, Mr. Hite believed that service—including the account exec—was paramount. He inherited an agency of about 35 employees and annual billings of slightly more than $1 million.

Mr. Hite's leadership coincided with a flood of new business, including Maryland Coffee Club, Tex Sun Citrus Exchange, Frito Co. and Chance-Vought.

The 1960s was a decade of remarkable growth for Tracy-Locke. From 40 employees and $10 million in billings in 1960, the agency grew to nearly 200 employees and $27 million in billings by 1969. Tracy-Locke introduced Doritos in 1966, but it was the 1968 campaign for the product that put the agency on the map nationally. The advertising tripled sales the first year. Within two years, Doritos topped $100 million in sales and the product was hailed as one of the best brand introductions of the 1960s.

The mid-1960s also saw a push by Tracy-Locke to become a total communications company through diversification into allied fields such as research, public relations, broadcasting, film production and photography. The first subsidiary, M/A/R/C (Marketing & Research Counselors), was a result of the spin-off of the research department in 1965. Point Communications began in 1970 as a Tracy-Locke graphics design subsidiary. (Both M/A/R/C and Point separated from Tracy-Locke when in 1982 it merged with Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn to become Tracy-Locke/BBDO.)

By the early 1970s, Mr. Hite realized a need for a new line of succession. Bob Brown, Norm Campbell and Stewart Mitchel assumed exec VP titles and managed as a triumvirate: Mr. Campbell oversaw corporate development, Mr. Mitchell oversaw account services and Mr. Brown oversaw creative and administrative services.

In 1971, Tracy-Locke lost three major accounts—Pearl Beer, Southwest Volkswagen and Frontier Airlines—within 90 days. The losses shook the agency and triggered a change as Mr. Campbell took over as president, with Mr. Hite continuing as chairman. In 1971, the shop ranked No. 43 among U.S. agencies, with billings of $32.7 million. That September, Tracy-Locke went public.

By the time Tracy-Locke turned 60 in 1973, the agency had expanded its roster, with clients such as Texas International Airlines, Phillips Petroleum Co., Korbel wines and meat marketer Wilson & Co.

Merger with BBDO

While new business was good, there were fewer lucrative regional accounts to pursue. To make the leap to even larger national and global accounts, Tracy-Locke needed an affiliation with a national or international agency. In 1982, Mr. Campbell facilitated the merger of BBDO and Tracy-Locke into Tracy-Locke/BBDO. With its new worldwide capabilities, the agency acquired Pepsi Light, Taco Bell and Labatt Importers of Canada.

In 1981, Mr. Campbell became chairman and Senior VP Howard Davis became president; Mr. Hite was killed in an automobile accident in 1983. In 1991, Senior VP Mike Rawlings took replaced Mr. Davis as president.

In 1992, Tracy-Locke was acquired by DDB Needham. The merger created the Southwest's largest ad agency, with billings of almost $500 million. Both agencies were part of Omnicom Group. The Tracy-Locke name was initially retained, but on March 19, 1996, the Southwest's oldest advertising name was retired, and the shop began doing business as the Dallas office of DDB Needham.

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