The McCann Time Capsule: Playing in Los Angeles and Houston
With the World Series focused on the competitive match-up between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, it brings to mind that the McCann U.S. network at one time encompassed many full-service agencies throughout the country, including in both of those baseball cities. Both cities became part of the McCann network operation during important expansion periods.
McCann Los Angeles is the older office. It was opened in the early 1920s during an expansion period that also included Denver (1922) and Chicago (1924). Although company records show activity in L.A. in late 1923 for Tucson Sunshine Climate, Los Palos Verdes Estates, and Thomas Ince Pictures (Thomas Ince was a silent film producer and director), the office’s official opening date was in 1924. McCann by then already had offices in New York, San Francisco and Cleveland, as well as Toronto and Montreal. The major account anchoring the LA office was Pacific Coast Borax Co., which became a client on June 1, 1925, and would become the sponsor of the McCann-produced “Death Valley Days,” the long-running “Old West”-themed program that launched on radio in 1930 and on TV in 1952 to support the client’s 20 Mule Team Borax brand of natural laundry booster.
Unlike other McCann offices, the LA agency’s earliest accounts, with the exception of Pacific Coast Borax, tended to be very local: Rancho Santa Fe, the Arizona Wonder Circuit Tours, and promotional campaigns for the cities of Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson and El Paso. The office would transform into more of a national force winning accounts many year later such as Lockheed and Hilton. Because of the agency’s involvement in radio programming, a Hollywood office was opened for radio production in 1943, and broadcast executive J. Neil Reagan joined the next year, ultimately becoming head of the LA office and retiring in 1973 after a long career with McCann. He was also the connection that led to McCann handling advertising for the successful 1966 California gubernatorial campaign for his brother, Ronald Reagan.
McCann Houston was part of the next wave in the agency’s U.S. network expansion. In 1933 McCann won most of Ford Motors’ dealer territories across the country, which led to setting up many new offices and field service operations. A Portland office had already been established that year, but a new Detroit agency would be formed with the Ford account win along with affiliates in Atlanta (Eastman, Scott & Co.), New Orleans (Walker Saussy) and Houston with Franke-Wilkinson-Schiwetz.
In a further wave of McCann USA expansion in the 1950s, the agency acquired the Houston agency then known as Wilkinson, Schiwetz & Tips in 1954 as part of its consolidation of the Esso--Standard Oil of NJ; today this is the ExxonMobil business--which was McCann’s founding client in 1912. WS&T’s largest client was Humble Oil in Texas, which was majority-owned by Standard Oil and would be fully acquired by the oil giant in 1959. McCann Houston, like McCann Los Angeles, would become a major cornerstone of the McCann U.S. network until the early 2000s.
From its earliest days, starting with the U.S. network and then encompassing the global network, McCann has been dedicated to the client-focused concept of a collaborative network with many locations. This philosophy was apparent even in house ads that the agency was running in the mid-1920s, soon after the Los Angeles expansion. As the 1925 copy says:
“A ‘National’ Agency in the Truest Sense
“Each of the eight McCann Company offices is an advertising agency in itself, rendering full service to client in its section, including analysis and study of the client’s business, the preparation of plans and the creation and placing of the advertising.
“Yet a client of one McCann Company office is a client of all, and each office cooperates with the others in (1) reporting on local marketing conditions, (2) keeping in touch with salesmen, branch houses and distributors, (3) making investigations in its territory and (4) preparing local advertising, if necessary.
“This, we believe, makes the McCann Company a national advertising agency in the truest sense.”