Saturday, February 28, 2009
One hundred years ago this week, a small group of advertising men in Fort Worth banded together and founded the Fort Worth Advertising Men’s Club. It was the same year explorers reached the North Pole.
Thirteen years later, women were allowed to join the club, two years after women were given the right to vote.
Newspapers were the prime advertising medium back then, but along came radio, television and then the Internet. Membership in the Ad Club fluctuated over the years as the industry went through low times and golden years.
But just a few years go, membership in the now-named American Advertising Federation -- Fort Worth was diminishing.
That, coupled with the malaise of some members, added to the possibility that the city’s oldest civic organization wouldn’t reach its 100th anniversary this week.
"I was worried about it for a while there," said Susan Cook Adkins, principal of Adkins & Associates, a 25-year member and past president. "We’ve definitely had some struggles."
But just as advertising has changed since the organization was founded Feb. 19, 1909, so has the club. Steeped in tradition, it has gone through three name changes, recovered from a controversial vote a decade ago to switch to monthly from weekly meetings, and most importantly, survived technology changes.
Not to mention the evolution of the local industry. Gone are many of the big-name agencies that for years accounted for most of the club’s members — and coffers — only to be replaced by smaller shops and freelance operators who were finding the "club" unappealing and meaningless.
In the end, technology changes and willingness of some members rescued the club, putting many management functions online, finding a better way to keep track of members and making sure that they were paying dues, for example, officers said.
"Membership in the Ad Club has always been a moving target," says Kent Dean, director of field marketing for the Bobby Cox Cos. Dean served as president in 2007 and pushed for many of the changes to keep the group going.
Improving programming was also vital, and officers made sure those who wanted to serve on the board were actively involved and that being a board member was not just titular, Dean said.
"We raised the bar quite a bit the past couple of years," said Mike Roundtree, principal of Roundtree Advertising and Marketing and the group’s current president.
Adapting to how advertising is created and presented has challenged agencies over the years. It’s a never-ending issue that Ad Club members face every day, said Roundtree, an advertising professional for 30 years.
"I’ve seen it come from everything being done with a typesetter and pasted up on boards, to integrating everything into the computer," Roundtree said. "Everything can be done faster now."
In the beginning, print advertising was king. When radio came along and advertisers wanted to be there, everyone thought that print advertising was dead, Roundtree said.
Then came television and now the computer and the World Wide Web, he said.
The computer complicated things, but it also opened up a new world, not only in reaching the masses, but also in terms of how creative a campaign can get, Roundtree said.
"The Web is absolutely new territory," he said. "When you think of a campaign, you don’t just think of print and broadcast — you think of print, broadcast and the Web."
As a result, the job of adman has also changed, said Mike Wilie, president and chief executive of Witherspoon Advertising, which, at 63, is the city’s oldest agency. He’s been there 33 years.
Gone are the days of a person being just a copy writer or an artist. Now, professionals are generalists and wear more than one hat, he said.
Because profit margins are tighter, creative decisions tend to be based on cost, Wilie said.
"It’s not just picking out a pretty color," Wilie said. "Clients want to know your success record with products. John Witherspoon, our chief financial officer back in the ’70s, used to say, 'Make a little on every job and never a lot on one job.’ Client service and creative work builds over time and profit builds over time. There is no quick fix. This fundamental value of deferring gratification to one of instant gratification seems to be the rule now."
Twenty-five advertising men chartered the organization in 1909, but it took nearly four decades for membership to grow to about 100. At its 50th anniversary, it had a little fewer than 200 members. In recent years, it has dipped to around 50. Today, the membership roll lists 92 names.
In 1922, the club’s name changed to the Advertising Club of Fort Worth and women were admitted to membership. It wasn’t until 1957, though, that a woman won one of its "Elmer" awards. Today, the club participates in the ADDYs, an award program of the national American Advertising Federation.
The current name was voted on in 1998 to better reflect the organization’s strong professional heritage and to steer away from it being just a social organization. Its Christmas parties are legendary for their frivolity.
"We had a lot of fun, but we did a lot of work." Adkins said.
The group has always conducted civic projects. During World War II, it bought war bonds, and at one time, agencies took turns selecting a nonprofit to work with pro bono. Today, members work at the Tarrant County Food Bank, raise money for Limbs for Life, and they build with Habitat for Humanity.
"We’re looking for these kinds of things to bring more meaning to what we do," Roundtree said.
The place to be
Elevating advertising is still the organization’s mission. The group honors the best creative work annually in the Addy awards and, since 1959, the group honors one of its own with the Silver Medal, an award that recognizes one’s efforts in advancing the advertising profession.
Its meetings are still considered the best resources for hearing about best practices in the industry, with many of them featuring local, regional and national advertising professionals and experts. Members are to bring ideas to the meetings and share them, a custom that began with the club and something that still continues.
"It was the place to be on Wednesdays at noon," Jim Stuart, principal in the former agency Stuart Bacon and a past president, said of the meetings. "That’s where you saw everyone and made contacts."
In its 50th-anniversary booklet, the group described the weekly meetings this way: "Conversation over luncheon tables brings out spirited interchange of ideas among members who work in various phases of advertising. Serious comments are liberally laced with good-humored repartee."
Said Frank Burkett, a retired ad professional who joined in 1954, "It was the place where you went every week to find out what was going on."
Making a comeback
The organization celebrated heydays in the 1980s and the early 1990s, a time when agencies here ranked among the largest in the Southwest. But the recession in the early 1990s caused most of those larger agencies to go out of business. Advertisers were cutting back, so the agencies scaled back.
"It’s a completely different atmosphere now," Adkins said. "Being involved in Ad Club really is on your own time now, not the company time."
In 1998, the group had a record number of 856 Addy entries, an unscientific measure the group uses to judge the health of the local industry. The entries reached a low of about 380 entries in 2007. This year, it’s picked up to about 740 entries.
Roundtree said there’s a new generation of advertising professionals who see the benefits and networking opportunities the group can provide.
"I’ve watched the Ad Club over the years," Roundtree said. "People with similar backgrounds and businesses can still come together and actually talk about some common issues."
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Red Productions is one of three finalists in the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce 2009 Small Business of the Year Awards. This award seeks to recognize and honor businesses that have demonstrated "Best Practices" of entrepreneurship such as, sound business planning, fiscal responsibility and work process innovation in operating their business. Red Productions was entered in the category for 1-10 employees. The winner will be announced at the Mayor's State of the City Address Luncheon on February 12, 2009.
Consideration for this award comes in addition to the incredible growth that Red Productions has already experienced this year. At the beginning of 2008, they were the first company to "graduate" from Tech Fort Worth's Business Incubation program and moved into a new creative studio. "It is exciting to be considered for this award, especially as such a young company. There are so many great small businesses in Fort Worth and we are honored to be considered," said Red Sanders, President.
Red Productions was chosen as a finalist based on written applications that were submitted to the chamber. At the beginning of the year a team of judges came out for a tour of the studio and interviewed Sanders further on his experience in entrepreneurship. All of the finalists were also interviewed by Shivaun Palmer on BizRadio, to hear the interview follow this link http://tinyurl.com/azu8cm
Monday, February 9, 2009
This program is a partnership between TCU’s Alumni Relations, Career Services, Development, The Schieffer School of Journalism and Student Affairs.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
Witherspoon Marketing Communications is pleased to announce the return of James Ware as Senior Art Director at the agency. Ware will work with Witherspoon clients to deliver creative and effective communications solutions for business-to-business and business-to-consumer accounts.
"We are pleased to have James back on board," said Mike Wilie, president and CEO of Witherspoon. "His creative leadership and ability to match award winning design with strong messaging, will deliver superior results for Witherspoon clients ."
Prior to rejoining Witherspoon, Ware served as a senior art director for a leading Dallas agency, where he worked in the agency's business-to-business unit. "It is really great to be back in Fort Worth," says Ware. "The creative energy, fueled by the city's growing cultural district, is bringing a lot of regional attention to Fort Worth's advertising community. Witherspoon has always been the city's gold standard, holding great esteem throughout the Southwest advertising community. It is great to be working at such a vibrant and creative shop."
A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Ware has more than two decades of experience in communication design. During his career, he was won numerous local, regional and national ADDY and AIGA awards, and received a prestigious "Telly" award for his work on a civic campaign for the city of New Orleans.
Ware is a graduate of Louisiana State University, holding a bachelor of arts degree from the university's College of Design.