Vickers & Benson was formed in 1924 in Montreal by Rex Vickers and Don Benson. Mr. Vickers handled the venture's business affairs, and Mr. Benson, the creative. The shop's first client was Canada Starch, a national brand, but Seagram's proved the most important piece of business for the young agency and helped anchor billings during its formative years.
In the mid-1930s, Mr. Benson moved to Toronto to set up what became V&B's main office; Mr. Vickers remained in Montreal.
In 1952, Vickers & Benson created and placed the first TV spot in Canada, a commercial for a Montreal General Motors Corp. automobile dealership. Earlier, the shop had produced twin musical radio programs for Imperial Tobacco's Du Maurier cigarettes.
At about the same time, Mr. Benson became ill and surprised his colleagues by naming as his interim replacement an outsider, public relations executive J. Bryan Vaughan. After Mr. Benson's recuperation, Mr. Vaughan became president of the agency and, subsequently, chairman.
In the 1960s, the agency created the "Carling Red Cap Forever" campaign—complete with its own anthem and the Red Cap Forever Association for the loyal imbibers of Red Cap brew—which relaunched the Canadian Breweries label and brought unprecedented awareness, sales and market share to a brand that had been in steep decline.
At about the same time, V&B recruited Canadian comedy duo Wayne & Shuster for a campaign themed "At Gulf, we hurry." That theme was used in more than 200 TV and radio spots.
In 1967, the agency promoted Canadian history for the country's centennial celebration. The shop used musician Bobby Gimby and his song "Ca-na-da" in a two-year, coast-to-coast campaign. On behalf of the Department of National Defence's recruiting efforts, V&B capped a decade of broadcast involvement by constructing the first Canadian intercollegiate TV package in 1968.
In 1971, a group of employees, including Terry O'Malley and Bill Bremner, committed to purchased the agency. With Mr. O'Malley on the creative side and Mr. Bremner concentrating on the business, the duo dominated the agency for more than two decades. (Mr. O'Malley became the principal shareholder when Mr. Bremner died in 1993.)
Mr. O'Malley led the agency on the Dairy Bureau of Canada's "Show your cheddar more warmth, take it out of the fridge more often" effort, which evolved into the landmark "Cheese Please" campaign.
Also in the 1970s, V&B took on Weston Food's struggling Loblaw supermarket chain, creating a campaign featuring "Star Trek's" William Shatner as spokesman and the theme "More than the price is right, but by gosh the price is right." The effort moved Loblaw's from a grocery also-ran to category dominance, with more than 50% of the national market.
The agency also became particularly active in sports, public service and political advertising. In 1972, it initiated the Soviet Union-Canada hockey series and created the Team Canada name, positioning the phenomenon as an icon of Canadian culture. The agency's travel work for Canada ("Canada borders on the magnificent"), Ontario ("It's incredible") and Toronto ("Couldn't you use a little Toronto?") garnered substantial increases in tourism.
Beginning with Pierre Elliott Trudeau's ascendancy to prime minister in 1968, V&B began a longstanding relationship with the Liberal Party, including work on the successful 1990s campaigns of Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
In the early 1980s, V&B set up Carder Gray, with Paul Carder, a V&B account director, and creative director Gary Gray, to shift the agency's major package-goods clients to a new agency.
In 1985, Terry O'Malley became chairman of V&B. Among the shop's most notable subsequent successes under Mr. O'Malley were its work for McDonald's and Bank of Montreal. For McDonald's, V&B created the "News to the crews" concept that gives the franchise's employees throughout Canada advance notice of upcoming campaigns and promotions. For the Bank of Montreal, V&B developed a campaign themed "We're paying attention."
In 1998, Toronto native John Hayter acquired the agency. The other two principals were Terry Bell, head of creative services, and Jim Satterthwaite, chief operating officer. Mr. Hayter had assumed operational leadership of the agency in the mid-1990s, first as president and then as chairman. He emphasized technological capabilities essential to bolstering direct marketing and Web site design activities, as well as maxxmedia, V&B's independent media-buying entity.
In 1998, V&B established a Chicago office to service the growing needs of such U.S. clients as Harris Bank and Enesco Corp. Two years later, V&B became a founding member of Arnold Worldwide Partners, a division of Havas Advertising. In February 2001, the agency officially changed its name to Vickers & Benson Arnold. In March 2003, Vickers & Benson Arnold changed its name again, this time to Arnold Worldwide Canada.