The McCann Time Capsule: Agency PR and Our First New Business Win
In the spring of 1912, a few months after The H. K. McCann Company opened its doors on Jan. 2nd, the agency brought on a new executive in a new type of agency role —a kind of marketing/ PR/ thought-leadership role designed to help the fledgling agency win new clients. His name was Herbert N. Casson, still relatively early in his well-known career as a business management and efficiency guru, who joined as one of the agency’s few VPs.
Casson, who would ultimately write some 70 business books, only had a few to his name in 1912, including “History of the Telephone” (1910) and “Ads and Sales” (1911), one of the earliest business books on advertising. Since Harrison McCann had been ad manager of New York Telephone for four years before becoming ad manager of Standard Oil of NJ in 1911, it’s not clear which of those two books had attracted his interest and led to his becoming a personal friend of Casson’s.
As described in an internal agency memo, Casson was “a noted speaker, [and] writer of books on advertising and business” who, as such, helped raise the agency’s profile in order to expand its business opportunities. He was sent out on a speaking tour on behalf of the agency that also brought in its first new account that wasn’t part of the Standard Oil family of clients that McCann had launched with.
Casson’s role and contribution were described as follows:
“Mr. Casson, with his repute as a lecturer and writer on advertising, was a welcome addition to our personnel. It was generally admitted within the organization that becoming known was an important necessity if we were seriously to work for any big expansion of our business, and the securing of Mr. Casson’s services was the first definite step taken toward this end. Mr. Casson spent the greater part of his time traveling and lecturing before civic bodies, commercial and professional organizations and educational institutions as a vice president of our Company. In this way he served to make the H.K. McCann Company known generally and favorably in a much shorter time than would have otherwise been required.
“In addition to general propaganda work Mr. Casson devoted his services to the immediate securing of new business. The first result of his activities along these lines was the account of the Rumely Products Company of LaPorte, Indiana, which was secured late in 1912. This company manufactured a complete line of agricultural and power farming machinery, including tractors of various kinds, shredders, plows, gas and oil engines, ensilage cutters, etc. In the few years just preceding 1912 it had gone through a period of most rapid expansion and in that year did a business of over $19,000,000.
“Rumely was our first big account. Its scope embraced a phase of merchandising with which we were totally unfamiliar, although of course, we had had experience in advertising to rural communities along somewhat different lines. But our handling of the business and the quality of the product we turned out were subject to favorable comment and attracted attention to us as an agency.”
Just one year later, Rumely would run into financial problems, reorganize, and move its account to another agency. It did bring to the agency L. W. Ellis, Rumely’s ad manager, who would join McCann Cleveland as Manager.
Casson himself would remain with the agency only through June 1914, at which time he, a Canadian, would move to England, start his own firm and keep very busy writing. But he remained in contact and Harrison McCann, in a 1919 internal note on the agency’s General Manager George Murnane, referred back to Casson as someone who had been “associated with me in the ownership and management of The H. K. McCann Company” and who called him by the nickname. . . Mac.
As Mr. McCann wrote, Herbert Casson in 1912 had approached him, saying” Mac, I have been talking with young George Murnane up at 15 Dey Street. He wants to get into some live young concern where he can be a real factor, and where he won’t be hedged in with too much routine. I should like to see George here with us. Unless I am much mistaken that boy has unusual executive ability. If he has a chance to develop his talents, I prophesy that in ten or fifteen years he will be capable of running a railroad or heading some big banking institution.”
Casson’s talent instincts and predictions were very solid. Murnane did go on to a bigger career. He served as the American Red Cross’s Deputy Commissioner for France during WWI, then as VP of the New York Trust Company, and then as a partner at Lazard Freres & Company, also becoming a director of a number of corporations.