Hertz Corp.

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John Hertz acquired Walter L. Jacobs' Rent-a-Ford in 1923 and renamed the company using his own name. Mr. Jacobs continued as the company's president and chief operating officer.

In 1925, Mr. Hertz, who wanted to expand the company, bought an ad spread in The Saturday Evening Post to enlist licensees. Mr. Hertz's "Wanted: Men of Character" ad received an enormous response and enabled him to establish a national car-rental system practically overnight. A few more Saturday Evening Post ads followed in 1926, focused on the idea that it was cheaper to rent than to own a car.

General Motors Corp. acquired Hertz Driv-Ur-Self System in 1926. When GM dealers protested the acquisition of a car-rental company—fearing competition for access to vehicles—the automaker sold the division in 1929 to a group made up of 35 members of its management team; however, in 1932, as the division continued to lose money, GM repurchased it. At about that time, GM named Campbell-Ewald to handle the rental division's advertising.

The airline link

Hertz was quick to see a potentially profitable link between flying and driving, opening the first airport car rental location at Chicago's Midway Airport in 1932 and launching the industry's first fly-drive program.

During World War II, with gas, tires and cars scarce or rationed, the car-rental business suffered. By the end of the war in 1945, Hertz owned 600 cars and 4,000 trucks, all in poor mechanical shape. But because of the shortage of vehicles immediately after the war, people lined up to rent them. Hertz began the process of replacing its aging fleet and, since there was such a demand for its old vehicles, began to sell them to the public, creating a new source of revenue.

The rental company ran scattered local ad drives until 1947, when Hertz executives convinced GM the time was right for national advertising. With a budget of approximately $250,000, Hertz began its first national ad effort, almost entirely in print. Its initial national ad depicted an angled sign over a map of North America. "This is the sign of America's only coast to coast and Canadian driv-ur-self system," it proclaimed.

Hertz showed steady growth from 1947 to 1953, with gross revenue rising from $17.2 million to $56.9 million over that period.

Fly-drive travel came into its own in the postwar period. Competitor Avis Airlines Rent-a-Car Co. began setting up airport rental locations around the country in 1946, becoming the nation's No. 2 rental car company by 1953. That year, Hertz ran co-op print ads featuring Hertz and American Airlines, TWA and Braniff International Airways. Approximately 60% of Hertz's non-resident car-rental business came from fly-drive travel.

Sale to Omnibus

In 1953, the Hertz properties were purchased from GM by the Omnibus Corp., which in 1954 renamed itself Hertz Corp. Mr. Jacobs became Hertz's first president and served in that post until his retirement in 1960. Hertz's national ad budget rose from $1 million in 1953 to $1.3 million in 1955.

Starting in 1954, Hertz's national ad fund was bolstered by funds from Ford Motor Co., which paid an undisclosed fee in return for Ford cars and trucks being featured exclusively in Hertz ads. By 1956, Hertz had a three-tiered ad schedule: Major national magazines targeted the general public, specialty publications reached teachers who traveled extensively during school breaks, and travel and transportation journals, including official airline and railway guides, targeted the travel industry.

In 1956, at the urging of C-E, Hertz switched advertising tactics, adopting a more hard-sell approach with the tagline, "More people by far . . . use Hertz rent a car" to counter similar strategies adopted by Avis and National Car Rental, another rival.

In July 1959, Hertz moved its account to Norman, Craig & Kummel, New York. In 1961, NC&K unveiled a new TV campaign using state-of-the-art visual effects that showed a man gliding through the air and into the drive's seat of a moving, open convertible.

In 1963, Avis began to air the classic, Doyle Dane Bernbach-created "We Try Harder" campaign. NC&K responded in March1964 with a newspaper ad called "The Fable of the Tiger & the Cat." Although the cat, representing Avis, grows bigger over a year's time, the tiger, Hertz, grows even more. The ad admonished consumers: "To tell the difference between a tiger and a cat, take a look at the kitty"—meaning Hertz's and Avis' respective revenues.

In 1967, Hertz was acquired by the RCA Corp. The following year, Hertz split its account, awarding domestic advertising to Carl Ally Inc. while NC&K retained the overseas business. Ally created a campaign that responded to Avis' "We try harder" claim with newspaper ads that depicted a man's hand with index finger upraised and the headline, "For years Avis has been telling you Hertz is No. 1. Now we're going to tell you why."

Ted Bates & Co., which had taken over the Hertz account from Ally in 1973, signed NFL running back O.J. Simpson as Hertz's spokesman in 1975. The campaign that ensued-showing Mr. Simpson dashing through airport terminals and hurdling suitcases—touted Hertz as "the superstar in rent-a-car."

Mr. Simpson went on to do car and truck rental spots for Hertz. In 1977, his role expanded to include car leasing and other corporate advertising.

In 1979, Hertz moved its domestic account to Scali, McCabe, Sloves, which in 1984 produced a TV spot that paired Mr. Simpson with golf legend Arnold Palmer. Hertz later had to distance itself from its spokesman when in 1995 Mr. Simpson was put on trial for murder in California.

Short-lived merger

Hertz was acquired by UAL Inc., United Airlines' parent company, in 1985. (That same year, Hertz founder Walter Jacobs died at the age of 88.) Hertz's stint under the UAL banner proved short-lived. In December 1987, Hertz was sold to Park Ridge Corp., a company formed by Ford and Hertz management. In 1988, Volvo North America Corp. became an investor in Park Ridge.

Early that year SMS added actor Jamie Lee Curtis to Hertz's roster of celebrity endorsers to reach a growing number of women renters; over the previous decade, women customers had increased to as much as 25% of the overall market.

In September 1989, Hertz moved its $25 million domestic account to Wells, Rich, Greene. When WRG became part of the BDDP Group, the account moved again, to Moss/Dragoti Advertising, a boutique shop created from within WRG. In May 1990, Moss/Dragoti launched "America's Wheels," a campaign targeted to the leisure market.

In 1993, Park Ridge Corp. merged with Hertz Corp. In 1994, Ford purchased the outstanding shares of Hertz, and the rental company became a subsidiary of the automaker. At about that time, Moss/Dragoti developed another new campaign, "Exactly," which portrayed the car-rental battles as Hertz vs. everybody else. At the turn of the new century, Hertz was still using the campaign.

Like other travel-dependent companies, Hertz suffered declines in 2001 following the September terrorist attacks in the U.S. The company pulled back some advertising, but was evaluating its markets individually after as much as a 50% drop in business immediately following the terror strikes.

In 2002, Moss/Dragoti was absorbed into the New York office of DDB Worldwide Communications, taking the Hertz account with it. In 2003, Hertz reported gross income of $228 million, up 28% from 2002. Its favorable performance continued into 2004, and the company credited it to improved rental car demand.

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