J. Walter Thompson
J. Walter Thompson is an international advertising agency headquartered in New York. It has more than 200 offices in over 90 countries. With a network of nearly 10,000 marketers, it has an influential presence in the global advertising sector.
As the fourth-largest agency network in the world, J. Walter Thompson is one of the key subsidiaries of the WPP Group (NASDAQ:WPPGY).
J. Walter Thompson traces its origins to the Carlton & Smith agency, which opened its doors in 1864, one of the first known advertising agencies in the United States. Founder William James Carlton started selling advertising space in religious magazines. Almost nothing is known about the Smith partner. In 1868, Carlton hired Thompson as a bookkeeper. Eventually Thompson found that soliciting and sales were much more profitable and he became a very effective salesman for the small company. In 1877, Thompson bought the agency for $500 and renamed it J. Walter Thompson Company. Notably, Thompson paid $800 for the Carlton and Smith furniture in the same transaction.
Thompson, who was serving as a U.S. Marine, had first been employed by Carlton & Smith to sell space in religious publications. Under his leadership, the agency became the exclusive buyer of advertising space in many American magazines and periodicals. By 1889, 80 percent of the advertising in the United States was placed through J. Walter Thompson.
Expansion followed. J. Walter Thompson became the first American agency to expand internationally with the opening of J. Walter Thompson London in 1899. The business subsequently expanded across the globe, being one of the first American agencies in Egypt, South Africa and Asia.
J. Walter Thomson was among the first agencies to employ writers and artists to create interesting advertisements for their clients, replacing the standard ads created by in-house businesses. It was also the first agency to provide a wide range of advertising services to clients, including, copy, layout, package design, trademark development and rudimentary market research. Many of these methods can be seen in notable work the agency has produced, including, work for Kraft Cheese that resulted in the creation of the grilled-cheese sandwich, a campaign for Swift & Co. that added measurements to sticks of butter, the Toys “R” Us Kid slogan and jingle, De Beers diamond ads (A Diamond is Forever) and the “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner” campaign.
The agency is credited with hiring the first female copywriter, Helen Lansdowne Resor. While with the agency, she pioneered ideas including celebrity testimonials, sex appeal and was responsible for developing its reputation as an agency where bright young women could succeed. Lansdowne went on to become the first creative director in the industry. To honor this legacy, in 2014 J. Walter Thompson announced a $250,000 scholarship opportunity called the Helen Lansdowne Resor Scholarship. It will assist and promote talented female creative advertising students who aspire to join the ranks of creative leadership.
In 1987, J. Walter Thompson was acquired by the WPP Group. In 2005, the agency was rebranded by shortening its name to JWT; but in 2014, during its 150th anniversary, it returned to the name J. Walter Thompson.
Offices and agencies
J. Walter Thompson’s network has nearly 10,000 employees in more than 200 offices in over 90 countries, who serve over 1,200 clients.
In 2015, J. Walter Thompson announced the launch of Mirum, a global company uniting 11 digital agencies spanning 17 countries and 40 offices. The agencies that merged include, Digitaria (Mirum), XM, CASA, ActivearkJWT, Twist Image, Lunchbox, i-Cherry, HeathWallace, Quirk, Clarus and X-Prime.
J. Walter Thompson has also acquired majority share in China’s largest Retail Marketing and Brand Activation agency, Always. This provides J. Walter Thompson, with all round capabilities to efficiently handle through-the-line campaigns and break into the ever growing Chinese market.
On March 2016 the agency and its parent company WPP came under scrutiny as the news of a lawsuit filed by the agency’s chief communications officer, Erin Johnson, was made public. Ms. Johnson claimed that former JWT CEO, Gustavo Martinez, had made repeated racist and sexist remarks during work related events. The investigation is still underway.
Notable clients have included:
- Air Canada
- The Secret Garden
- Eli Lilly and Company
- Johnson & Johnson
- Mad Catz Interactive SharkWire Online for Nintendo 64
- Mondelez International
- Nokia/Microsoft Mobile
- Royal Caribbean
- Tim Hortons
- Toys R Us
- United States Marine Corps
- Woodbury Soap, “A skin you love to touch” (1911)
- Ford, “There’s a Ford in your future” (1945)
- United States Marine Corps, “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.” (1972)
- Oscar Mayer, “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner” (1962)
- Oscar Mayer, “The Bologna Song” (1962)
- 7UP, “The Uncola” (1967)
- Toys R Us, “I don’t want to grow up” (1982)
- Ford Global Anthem (1999)
- The Times of India, “Lead India”; won a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival (2008).
- Samsonite “Heaven and Hell”; JWT Shanghai won a Grand Prix at Cannes (2011).
- Banco Popular, “The Most Popular Song”; JWT Puerto Rico won the Grand Prix for PR at Cannes. (2012)
- Kit Kat, “Kit Kat into space” (2012)
- Kit Kat, “Android KitKat” (2014)
- Martin Amis
- Julie Christie
- Bryce Courtenay
- Ken Done
- Judith Durham
- Athol Guy
- H. R. Haldeman
- Caroline R. Jones
- Josh Kilmer-Purcell
- Walter Lord
- Adrian Lyne
- Gabriel García Márquez 
- Peter Mayle
- Alan Parker
- James Patterson
- Stanley Resor
- Glenn Slater
- John B. Watson
- Fay Weldon
- James Webb Young
In popular culture
- 1930: JWT invents the grilled cheese for Kraft.
- 1930s: JWT sells Kellogg’s Rice Krispies with “Snap, Crackle and Pop”.
- 1931: Introduced the first paper towel for Scott Paper.
- 1933: Introduced Kraft Miracle Whip.
- 1939: Produced the first-ever TV program for Libby, McNeill & Libby.
- 1962: JWT creates “The Bologna Song” and the “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner” song for Oscar Mayer.
- 1964: Introduced the Ford Mustang.
- 1972: JWT creates the Andrex Puppy.
- 1981 J. Walter Thompson uses Sarah Michelle Gellar in controversial Burger King ad that criticized McDonald’s.
- 1982: J. Walter Thompson creates Toys R Us, “I don’t want to grow up” campaign
- 2000: Breaks the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest billboard.
- 2012: Kit Kat in space campaign by JWT London.
- 2014: The TV Show Mad Men referenced J. Walter Thompson and two of its clients