75 Years of Ideas

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Advertising Age is celebrating its first 75 years of service to the ad industry. We'll be sharing these moments in the pages of Ad Age on the way to the 75th anniversary issue appearing March 28. Next week: top ad moments No. 50-46.

55 Compensation consultant at IBM

Blue-chip marketer Big Blue rocks the agency world in January 1990 by hiring consultants Arthur Anderson and Lee Ann Morgan to assess how IBM Corp. compensates its agencies. It would prove a major blow to the commission method of compensating agencies, not to mention opening the door wider for outsiders to influence how marketers pay their ad-makers.

The two consultants have already made a name for themselves by having recommended a radical proposal: agency payment schemes based, in part, on performance. At the time, only 13% of advertisers include performance incentives in agency compensation plans, according to a 1991 survey by the Association of National Advertisers. By 2003, an ANA survey determines only 10% of advertisers pay commissions.

54 Mary Wells' WRG raises the bar

Hours after leaving Jack Tinker & Partners on April 4, 1966, Mary Wells, Richard Rich and Stewart Greene open their agency just a block away in a room at the Hotel Gotham. They take Braniff Airways as their first client, and Mary Wells' mother works the phones. Wells, Rich, Greene goes on to create such iconic lines as Alka-Seltzer's "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" and the disposable-lighter brand's "Flick my Bic," and makes Mary Wells an advertising legend. Mary Wells, who eventually weds Braniff CEO Harding Lawrence, takes the agency public in 1968 and becomes the first female CEO of a New York Stock Exchange-traded company before taking her agency back private in 1977. She gives up control in 1990 and sells to France's BDDP. As it will turn out, this move marks the beginning of the end of Ms. Lawrence's agency. In 2002, she publishes her autobiography, "A Big Life in Advertising."

53 Census 2000: a wake-up call

The 2000 U.S. census shifts ethnic marketing from the periphery toward the mainstream, affirming the importance of minorities to American companies. No surprise to anyone, Hispanics are the biggest story. Numbering 35.3 million and rising to 12.5% of the population (up from 9% in 1990), Latinos had become the country's largest minority group.

African-Americans and Asian-Americans, however, also gain ground. The Census 2000 numbers have a bearing on everything from which products are launched and how they're distributed to how marketing dollars are allocated. Observers say it's no coincidence that, based on figures from the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, marketing dollars dedicated to Latinos hit $3.4 billion by 2003 from $1.9 billion in 1999.

52 Nike signs Michael Jordan

Nike never spent $2.5 million smarter than when it inks a five-year deal with Chicago Bulls rookie Michael Jordan in 1984. Students of the game knew Mr. Jordan was special when he joined the National Basketball Association. But no one could have predicted his record-smashing career or the global appeal that persists even after Mr. Jordan retires and re-enters and retires and re-enters and retires from the NBA. Nike benefits enormously from the association: The "Air Jordan" campaign strengthens its position as the No. 1 athletic shoe. This success also fuels the popularity of using athlete endorsers as marketers search for "the next Michael Jordan."

The Nike ads from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., also contribute to Mr. Jordan's image. Particularly standing out is work featuring Mr. Jordan and filmmaker Spike Lee playing Mars Blackmon, his Jordan-worshipping character from "She's Gotta Have It." Nike's success with Mr. Jordan inspires other marketers to sign him as a spokesman, including McDonald's Corp., Coca-Cola Co., Sara Lee Corp.'s Hanes and Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade.

51 Marlboro Man saddles up

In the early 1950s, Philip Morris' Marlboro cigarettes are practically stamped out. Marlboro, imported from the U.K. and branded and advertised as a cigarette for women, barely has 1% of the market. Then along comes Leo Burnett, father of so many memorable ad icons. For Marlboro, Mr. Burnett's agency creates an image and character that end up attracting worldwide attention, and derision.

Not only does the legendary adman and his eponymous shop change the advertising, they reconstruct the whole philosophy of the Marlboro brand. Out with the gals, in with the guys. Big, rugged, Stetson-wearing males. Burnett introduces the Marlboro Man in 1954. In 1955, the Marlboro brand begins to be exported, and the range-riding Marlboro Man becomes a global icon. In a short amount of time, the Marlboro brand grows to be the world's best-selling cigarette.

But in 1964, when the U.S. Surgeon General determines that smoking is hazardous to health, a slow burn begins. The Marlboro Man remains an icon but takes on various forms in campaigns, including "Marlboro Country." Competitors begin to attack the icon, and opponents even use him in spoofs that show the Marlboro Man suffering from emphysema. But the Marlboro Man still stands tall as Advertising Age in 1999 names him the No. 1 ad icon of the 20th century.

Contributing: James B. Arndorfer, Mercedes M. Cardona, Hillary Chura, Lisa Sanders, Rich Thomaselli

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