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The Advertising Century

Ad Age Advertising Century: Top 100 People

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What does it take to land on Advertising Age's list of the top 100 players in advertising history? Impact.

Having one's name on the door is not a requisite nor is heading a major advertiser. Shaping the course of advertising history is.

William Bernbach
William Bernbach

And so the legends of the industry are obvious. In the triumvirate of greats, Bill Bernbach is the hands-down winner, taking the No. 1 honor for devising the creative yardstick by which most advertising today is measured. Marion Harper Jr. follows for his creation of the agency network system. Leo Burnett takes the No. 3 spot for giving birth to advertising's most memorable and effective icons.

Purists may quibble about some of the placements. Indeed, ranking Harper above David Ogilvy, for example, could be debated ad nauseum. Still, there's little disputing that both belong in advertising's top 10 pantheon.

With impact as our barometer, there are some on the list with more controvertial contributions. Al Achenbaum, the former agency executive who as a consultant later hammered away at the industry's 15% media commission, and Robert Jacoby, whose $110 million windfall from the sale of Ted Bates Worldwide still hovers over some advertisers' agency pay decisions, aren't heroes but their influence is manifest.

Then there are some less predictable inclusions. Dick Lord, for one, whose symbolic war of independence against Martin Sorrell in the buyout frenzy of the 1980s, foreshadowed the ensuing battles between independent agencies and behemoth holding companies. And though the list primarily focuses on admakers, there are marketers and media makers, and even those tangential to the industry, such as Michael Ovitz and Michael Jordan.

There's retailer John Wanamaker, who lands in the top 10 for hiring the industry's first full-time copywriter, and Apple Computer creator Steve Jobs, whose close relationship with agency creative Lee Clow resulted in continued breakthrough, award-winning work.

As for the messengers of the message, everyone from Bill Paley, who helped usher in TV's golden age, to Henry Luce, for his creation of a magazine empire, to Steve Case, whose America Online provides a new vehicle for advertising in the next millennium, gets their due. Worthy all.

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