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When Arthur Tatham and John Kenneth Laird began their advertising agency in the aftermath of World War II, they set themselves a goal they had no desire to exceed: annual billings of $10 million.

Indeed, if anything, that goal in 1946 probably seemed overly ambitious to the Chicagoans when they cobbled together start-up capital totaling $45,000. Then it may have appeared unreachable at the end of their first year, when the Tatham-Laird balance sheet showed net profits of $15.67.

But things began happening quickly after that, as business from Parker Pen USA (butane lighters), General Mills (Kix), Swanson & Son (frozen foods) and Admiral Corp.(kitchen appliances) tumbled through the doors, joining initial client Bendix on the shop's roster. Less than eight years after opening for business, Messrs. Tatham and Laird had exceeded their $10 million goal and never looked back.

The ensuing years at the agency are a microcosm of the advertising business: The landing of a prized package goods client (Procter & Gamble Co.); the creation of a pop culture icon (Mr. Clean); rapid growth in the '50s; acquisitions and mergers in the '60s; downsizing and an international partner in the '80s.

There were, along the way, the all-but-inevitable series of name changes: From Tatham-Laird to Tatham-Laird & Kudner to Tatham/RSCG to Tatham Euro RSCG and, last month, to Euro RSCG Tatham, with the last change made to stress the global reach of an agency that had 1995 billings of $365 million.

That's not bad for an enterprise whose founders worked without salary until the venture could pay its way.

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