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Ad Age Comes of Age: A Timeline of Classic Covers

By Published on .

The new Ad Age redesign represents our biggest change in the last two decades. Don't believe us? Take a dive into our archives and see how our design and our stories have led Ad Age to where we are today—still important to important people.

Jan. 11, 1930
Advertising Age prints its first issue early in the Great Depression. The mission of the "National Newspaper of Advertising" is to "present the news of advertising, a business of widespread interests and ramifications, involving expenditures of $2 billion a year." Our first cover features a woman, with a story on a federal expert advising food advertisers to "get a housewife's view."

Jan. 4, 1943
Ad Age's contribution to the war effort is a V for victory symbol flanking both corners of our logo. The bulletin in the top corner also hints at the coming collapse of the 15% commission that was to come, with a story in which Foote, Cone & Belding founder Fairfax Cone denounces reports that client American Tobacco is paying below the going rate.

Oct. 15, 1945
A printer's strike paralyzes Chicago—but not Ad Age. Unable to print the Oct. 8 paper, Ad Age instead hand-types an eight-page "pony issue," the smallest in our history. The following week, Oct. 15, we get back up on the horse with a 32-page issue, also typed and replicated by "photo-lithography."

Jan. 4, 1954
The ad times are clearly changing. The industry gears up for the advent of color television. And those warnings that cigarettes may cause cancer? They might just be true, which could wreak havoc on one of advertising's mainstay categories. Even then, Ad Age was highlighting important people who make news. One pick is Henry Ford II, who spent an astounding $2 million on advertising. Readers get a lot for the 15-cent cover price.

Nov. 28, 1965
Ad Age produces its first issue with color—at least 16 pages of 109 of it. Our story says "A tinted tide of revenue is rising, and it may become a flood."

Dec. 11, 1972
Color also seeps into the Ad Age logo and, by 1972, we adopt the signature blue that remains our hallmark through today's relaunch. This issue also marks the (first) death of Life magazine.

Jan. 16, 1984
It seems Apple is going to introduce a computer called a Macintosh with some futuristic ad called "1984," according to our cover story. Little did we know it would become one of the most famous commercials of all time.

Jan. 31, 1985
Can't get enough Ad Age? We publish twice a week in 1985, on Monday and Thursday. This issue talks about the addition of new features to Thursday, with its scripted logo, which began life nine months earlier. Ad Age Thursday is later retired, though the date of its folding appears to be lost in our archives.

April 22, 1985
Coca-Cola introduces New Coke, perhaps the biggest marketing whoops of all time. Our cover story is one of the first to break the news. Just three months later, we report that Coke is retrenching and introducing Coke Classic. Coke Classic'scan design is accomplished in just 48 hours.

April 28, 1986
The combination of Doyle Dane Bernbach, Needham Harper & Steers and Batten Barton Durstine & Osborn into Omnicom reshapes the ad agency world forever, in what beces known as "The Big Bang." Ad Age had the story first, but in those analog days the story could not publish until Monday. Word leaked that we had the story, forcing the agencies involved to hold a press conference over the weekend confirming it.

Aug. 8, 1987
Ad Age documents a terrible tragedy—the death of five prominent ad executives in a river rafting trip on the Chilko River in British Columbia, Canada, including then-Procter & Gamble VP of Advertising Robert Goldstein. Columnist Jim Brady's dispatch is titledSp "A Long Way Away to Die."

Feb. 19, 1990
The Berlin Wall falls and once again Jim Brady is on the spot, giving readers a look at East Germany in its wake and the business potential of this new market. The headline reads in part, "Euphoria Fading, Now the Labor Pains of Change Begin."

March 26, 1990
The Ad Age logo morphs yet again, with a new chunky style. So cyber! And speaking of change, those guys on the cover? Yes, that's the almost unrecognizable team of Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein with then-partner Andy Berlin, who later struck out on his own.

May 21, 1990
"Murdoch Shops TV Guide." Our lead story rattles the publication's then-owner Rupert Murdoch so much that he bets then-Ad Age Editor-in-Chief Rance Crain $1 million that it was incorrect. We're still waiting for Rupert to pay up.

Nov. 12, 1990
Talk about an epic split. Volvo fakes an ad in which a monster truck runs over one of the company's models and does not crush the car, but crumples rivals. It was later discovered the Volvos were reinforced to withstand the pressure while the others were structurally altered to make them collapse, triggering a Federal Trade Commission investigation and a legendary ad scandal. The automaker and its agency each end up paying a $150,000 fine.

Jan. 14, 1991
No one is right 100 percent of the time, and we are really wrong with our assessment that the "Gulf War Could Delay Super Bowl." We're still cringing from that one.

Jan. 13, 1992
In this historic editorial, Ad Age takes a stand in a heated debate by demanding that then-R.J. Reynolds Tobacco's popular brand mascot, Joe Camel, be permanently marched out into the desert. Our assertion that Old Joe does tempt kids into smoking makes us very unpopular with tobacco marketers and the agencies that subsist on their business. And that was before weed marketing.

Feb. 15, 1993
As the ad world becomes more global, Ad Age begins covering the change in a new publication, Advertising Age International, which reports on events like this issue's cover story on marketers targeting Vietnam. Eventually, a separate publication no longer makes sense, and AAI folds into Ad Age in the late 1990s.

Oct. 17, 1994
As ad scandals go, this is one of the biggest. Campbell Soup wants to make an ad showing how good its soup looks, so in 1968 it put marbles in the bottom of the bowl to lift up the noodles and stuff. That landed the company in the soup with the FTC. This Advertising Age cover story, which we publish more than two decades later, offers the inside scoop from a BBDO creative director who was then on the account.

April 24, 1995
This cover is a watershed in Ad Age history. Our turn into popular culture goes way too far when we try to make some sense of Timothy McVeigh's attack on Oklahoma City's federal building. The result: A Time magazine-style package opining that it's the end of innocence for a country heretofore untouched by terrorism (complete with the lyrics of the title song "Oklahoma" interspersed throughout the story) is roundly booed by readers. They want us to stick to what we do best—report on advertising—and we resume doing just that.

1999
Does that design sensibility look familiar? It should. For our special issue looking back at the ad century, we entice "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening to do this incredible cover.

March 28, 2005
For our 75th anniversary, we revisit some of our greatest hits in the "75 Years of Ideas" issue. Where else on one cover can you see former Y&R chairman Ed Ney, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, soap star Susan Lucci, Joe Camel, Rosie the Riveter, MTV's Moonman and the Pets.com sock puppet?

April 5, 2010
After a quarter-century of infuriating some creatives (or, as he was fond of calling them, the black shirts) and delighting others with his barbed and trenchant humor, Ad Age's longtime ad reviewer Bob Garfield hangs up his whip.

Sept. 10, 2012
Ad Age's last major redesign shrinks its size from tabloid format and shows that we are on top of the trends: We run a story on media rebates four years before the issue becomes a huge bone of contention between the Association of National Advertisers and the 4A's that still sticks in the industry's craw today.

May 12, 2014
Touted as the merger that will reshape the ad world forever, the pending marriage of Publicis and Omnicom screams from business publication headlines and dominates industry conversations for weeks. And then it fails to happen. We struggle to come up with the perfect headline. We nailed it.

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