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Doremus celebrates 100 years

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Doremus & Co., which is celebrating its 100th birthday today with a big bash in New York, has thrived over the years by adapting to ever-changing market and economic conditions. The b-to-b agency has been through two world wars, the Great Depression, the advent of television and the Internet, and the dot-com crash. Through it all, it has continued to transform itself to meet changing client needs and deliver relevant advertising.

"Successful companies have the foresight to understand what’s going on in the marketplace and look at their existing structure to see what they need to do internally to address those trends in the marketplace," said Carl Anderson, president-CEO of Doremus, which is owned by the Omnicom Group of Cos. "Then they have to have the nerve to take action."

Over the years, Doremus has changed its organizational structure and services as the advertising business has evolved.

The agency was founded in 1903 by Clarence Barron, a Wall Street Journal correspondent who purchased Dow Jones & Co. from its co-founder Edward Jones. Barron created Doremus as an in-house agency to work with financial companies that wanted to advertise in the Journal. It was named after Barron’s assistant, Harry Doremus, who stayed at the agency for only two years.

In 1914, Doremus landed its first major account—a Liberty Bonds campaign for the U.S. government to raise money for World War I.

Following the war, with so many soldiers returning home and looking for jobs, Doremus launched a special classified advertising section in the Journal, creating a major new revenue stream for the paper and a new business model that other newspapers soon adopted.

"They saw what was on the horizon and modified their offering accordingly," Anderson said of his predecessors at the agency.

In 1930, the agency created a global campaign for Curtis Wright Corp., congratulating Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne, on a 30,000-mile flight in a plane powered by a Wright Cyclone Engine.

With only six days to create the ad before the couple was due to land in New York, the agency used inter-office teletype connections and cable between its London and New York offices, as well as radio photography, to create an ad that reached 9.5 million readers of 69 publications in 21 countries.

Doremus also pioneered the use of the tombstone ad format beginning in 1935, when the Securities and Exchange Commission no longer required banks and brokerage firms to publish entire company prospectuses in national newspapers.

In 1968, Doremus had an initial public offering and used the funds to expand both its scope of services and its client roster. "The agency saw an opportunity to serve clients in a number of ways beyond just ads, and beyond financial clients," said Anderson, who joined Doremus in 1986.

Doremus clients over the years have included Barclays, Corning, The Financial Times, Goldman Sachs Group, ITT Industries and United Technologies Corp.

"They are particularly well tuned to the b-to-b market," said Tom Martin, senior VP-corporate relations at ITT Industries, which hired Doremus in 1997 for a corporate rebranding campaign. "They have shown a consistent ability to deliver a very creative product."

Martin said ITT, which manufactures products for aerospace, defense, wastewater treatment and other industries, wanted to break out of the mold of industrial advertisers and come up with new, creative ways to talk about its products. Doremus created the tagline "Engineered for Life," and used humorous, creative advertising to communicate the ITT brand identity.

One of Doremus’ first ads for ITT was a TV spot featuring fish and marine mammals singing "The Hallelujah Chorus," promoting the company’s water technology products.

This year, as Doremus analyzed how its clients were affected by the recession and changes in technology, the agency repositioned itself as a "c-to-c" company, providing "corporate-to-culture" communications.

"The way we see it going today, it is less about ads and execution and more about communications, strategies and partnership with clients," Anderson said. The ultimate goal of the c-to-c strategy, he explained, is to infuse a client’s corporate message, in the most creative way possible, into the culture of its key constituencies.

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