Warwick & Legler

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Established in New York, 1939; sued Schick Inc. in precedent-setting intellectual property case, 1957-58; became Warwick, Welsh & Miller, 1973; became Warwick Advertising, 1982; became Warwick, Baker & Fiore, 1989; renamed Warwick, Baker & O'Neill, 1996; closed, 2001.

Warwick & Legler was founded in 1939 in New York by Paul Warwick and Henry Legler. The two left Cecil, Warwick & Legler and took with them all but six of that agency's clients, including Seagram Distillers and William R. Warner Co., which marketed Sloan's liniment.

In 1941, Pabst Brewing Co. awarded Warwick its Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which soon became the shop's dominant account, spending $2.5 million. Mr. Legler is credited with inventing the slogan "What'll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon" for Pabst.

By 1948, the agency had a small roster of clients generating billings of more than $8 million, most of it from Pabst, Equitable and Seagram. That same year, Warwick was chosen as the ad agency for the Democratic National Committee, to oversee the re-election campaign of Harry Truman.

In 1950, Warwick graduated to the top agency ranks, which Advertising Age then defined as any shop billing $10 million or more. In 1955, the shop lost the Pabst Blue Ribbon account, which had been driving much of the agency's growth. But a year later Warwick was back in the beer business, winning Jacob Ruppert Inc. in February 1956. In February 1957, the account moved again, only to return to Warwick in 1961, though it left again after two years.

Schick dispute

During 1957 and '58, the agency became involved in a precedent-setting and bitter legal dispute with Schick Inc. involving ownership of ideas. The dispute centered on an idea for a TV spot developed by Warwick in which a cotton ball was rubbed across facial skin shaved with a Schick electric razor. The closeness of the shave was demonstrated by the absence of cotton fibers adhering to the skin. Schick rejected the idea, offered no reimbursement to the agency for its work and left Warwick soon after.

When Schick's next ad agency presented a similar "cotton test" idea, allegedly devised independently of any work Warwick had done, Warwick insisted on compensation if the idea was used. Schick declined, authorized Benton & Bowles, its shop at the time, to produce the commercial and aired it once; there was also a single ad using the theme in Look.

Meanwhile, Warwick presented the cotton test idea to a new client prospect, Remington Rand, which agreed to buy the cotton test on condition that Schick was not permitted to use it again. In October 1957, Warwick won a temporary injunction against Schick and B&B, stopping any further use of the idea for the moment. Schick in turn filed a $1 million suit against Warwick for breach of fiduciary relationship.

The case was tried in the spring of 1958 by Judge J. Cullen Ganey in Philadelphia. There were two questions. First, did B&B have any information on Warwick's idea when it presented its own cotton test; and second, who owned the unpublished ideas generated by an agency on behalf of a client? Judge Ganey found no evidence that B&B had devised its cotton test independently. He also affirmed that unused ideas presented to Schick by Warwick during their relationship remained the property of the agency and not the client.

About the time Warwick lost Schick, it won significant business from Revlon Inc. It lost the $5 million Revlon account in 1963, but added U.S. Time Corp. at about the same time, giving it another major piece of consumer business.

Mr. Legler retired in 1959, and in 1964, Paul Warwick became chairman and his son John P. Warwick became president. John Warwick reorganized the creative department and set up a creative strategy execution committee. In the early 1970s, after some healthy growth to the $40 million level, the agency acquired stakes in ad agencies in London, Frankfurt and Paris. In 1974, it created Warwick International Partners to coordinate European activities. In 1972, John Welsh became vice chairman and Robert Miller, VP-creative director, and the agency changed its name to Warwick, Welsh & Miller in January 1973.

Losing ground

By the mid-1980s, Warwick's relative ranking among other agencies was starting to drop. From No. 30 in 1973, according to Advertising Age and with billings of $60 million, Warwick had slipped to No. 53 by 1984, by which point the name had changed to Warwick Advertising.

In 1985, Seagram's dropped Warwick from its roster. Late in that decade, the agency's name changed again, to Warwick, Baker & Fiore, as Chairman Wilder D. Baker and Executive Creative Director Robert J. Fiore put their names on the door.

With only modest growth, the agency's ranking among major agencies dropped to No. 82 by 1994. Kevin O' Neill was hired as president-chief creative officer and once again the name was changed, to Warwick, Baker & O'Neill.

Warwick, Baker & O'Neill had 2000 income of almost $24 million on billings of $160 million, about the same as in 1994. Then in 2000 it agreed to be acquired by EPB Communications, but the deal collapsed early the next year.

Subsequently, several major client departures made the agency's financial position untenable. At the same time, Fruit of the Loom went into bankruptcy and Bestfoods was acquired by a new parent. Both had been important clients.

On Aug. 3, 2001, in an unexpected move, Warwick, Baker & O'Neill closed its doors.

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