The McCann Time Capsule: The Five Cities in Our 3rd Cultural Spotlight Week Celebration
Did you know that the original Spanish-language edition of Nobelist Gabriel García Márquez’s novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was dedicated to McCann Mexico City’s creative director?
Or that our agency roots in Johannesburg go back almost 120 years, dating to the 1963 acquisition of a South African agency that was founded in 1899?
Or that Australia’s (and maybe even the world’s) longest-running continuous TV campaign, at some 54 years (1957-2011) ―”Louie the Fly” for Mortein insecticide― was run by us in Sydney for a brand that is now part of Reckitt Benckiser’s portfolio?
Along with our agencies in Manchester (U.K.) and New Jersey (U.S.), our McCann agencies in Sydney, Mexico City and Johannesburg tell the very diverse communications history of how our global network grew throughout the world’s regions and cultures over the course of the 20thCentury. These five agencies will be featured all through next week in McCann Worldgroup’s Global Diversity Coalition’s 3rd Cultural Spotlight Week Celebration.
Here’s some history about these countries as a prelude to their cultural exposition next week.
Sydney, Australia: In 1959, McCann began our expansion into the Asia Pacific region by acquiring Hanson-Rubensohn, an agency that had been launched in 1928 and was working with Nestlé since 1943. As such, we became the first U.S. agency to enter Australia through an acquisition. Renamed Hanson Rubensohn-McCann Erickson, the agency was known for major campaigns, including “Louie the Fly,” created in 1957 for Mortein, and one for Nestlé Milo that featured the Australian Test Cricket Captain Richie Benaud. As it became part of the McCann network, HR-ME also in 1964 created the “Big Ball” commercial for Coca-Cola, which was regarded as a classic in the market.
As for some trivia, the creative director behind “Louie the Fly” was Bryce Courtenay, whose later 1989 novel “The Power of One” was a best-seller (8 million copies sold in 18 languages) that was also turned into a 1992 movie. And for another factoid, McCann in 1962 sent Los Angeles office manager David Hopkins to Sydney to become the first ex-pat American manager to hold that position with an Australian ad agency; Hopkins himself was the son of Harry Hopkins, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Commerce Secretary who was considered one of FDR’s closest advisors and an architect of the New Deal that brought America out of the 1930s Great Depression.
Mexico City, Mexico: From the time when McCann first entered the Latin American region in Argentina and Brazil in 1935, Mexico was part of the mix both as one of the markets served by those hubs and through the professional contribution of Frank J. Ariza, our first international copy chief who was a former cartoonist and newspaper magazine writer in Mexico. Initially McCann worked directly in Mexico since 1945 through an affiliate, Publicidad Augusto Elias S.A. But then in 1951, we acquired Publicidad Guastella, an agency that had been founded in 1936 in Havana, Cuba, and then opened in Mexico City in 1945 with an impressive client list that came to include Nestlé, Celanese, Cinzano, Bristol-Myers, Studebaker, Admiral, Procter & Gamble, and British Overseas Airways.
In July 1968, McCann Mexico was merged with another Interpublic agency called Stanton Publicidad, already famous in Mexico City as the creative meeting place for many of Latin America’s leading writers and filmmakers who worked there either as freelancers or staffers. This included Gabriel GarcíaMárquez, but also the novelists/poets Álvaro Mutis, Fernando del Paso, and “China” María Luisa Mendoza, and the film directors Jorge Fons and Arturo Ripstein.
Also working at McCann Mexico City would be Jomí García Ascot, who stayed through to 1978 and rose to become VP-Creative Director of McCann Mexico, leading such blue-chip accounts as Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Bimbo, Gillette, Nabisco, Del Monte, and Lufthansa. Between 1953 and 1957, García Ascot had collaborated on several works considered significant to the history of Spanish-language film, including one which won an award at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival and another involving Luis Buñuel. While García Márquez was working on “One Hundred Years of Solitude” during the mid-1960s, Garcia Ascot and his wife were close friends, reportedly visiting the Nobelist every evening and critiquing the story as it developed, leading to the first edition’s dedication inscription "Para Jomí García Ascot y María Luisa Elío.”
New Jersey, USA: When New York-based McCann Worldgroup was created in 1997 as a total communications organization expanding the charter of our global ad agency network, the state next door, New Jersey, became an important site in our marketing services expansion. This was especially the case regarding McCann Health and MRM//McCann. McCann had already made healthcare inroads into New Jersey a decade earlier in 1985 when we had purchased Sieber & McIntyre, a Chicago-based healthcare agency that had an office in Morristown, N.J., and then in 1987 when we bought an East Hanover, N.J., strategic consultancy called Bogart Delafield Ferrier.
But the big global expansion of what is today McCann Health, which now includes four agencies in New Jersey-- McCann Health New Jersey in Parsippany and McCann Echo, McCann Managed Markets, and McCann Pharmacy in Mountain Lakes, N.J.―began in mid-1996. It was at that time that McCann acquired Parsippany, N.J.-based Torre Renta Lazur, an agency that had been launched in 1979. It became a major building block in the global McCann Health network that also included the acquisitions that year of CWFS in Asia Pacific, CDRG in Europe, and Complete Medical Communications in the U.K. The additional N.J. McCann Health agencies were subsequently launched, including McCann Echo in 2001.
Then in 1998, as part of the expansion of what is today known as the MRM//McCann global network, the leading customer relationship agency expanded to Princeton, N.J. At that time, we acquired The Gillespie Organization, Princeton, N.J., an agency that had been around since 1973 and had developed special expertise both in integrated marketing communications and relationship marketing. At the time of the 1998 acquisition, Gillespie’s direct marketing capability alone ranked it among the largest independent direct response advertising agencies in the U.S.
Manchester, U.K.:While McCann had first opened in London in 1927 as one of our first international offices, our further expansion throughout the U.K. did not come for another 60 years. In 1986, we acquired The Royds Advertising Group, a $140 million network of 10 agencies located throughout the British Isles in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast, Edinburgh, and other cities. The Manchester agency itself has consistently been an integrated communications pioneer whose services included—and continues to include—public relations, direct marketing, design, and sales promotion, as well as advertising.
McCann Manchester has also emerged as a leading retail agency as well. Its work for Aldi discount supermarkets would become a major award-winner, including generating a spot in 2011 in which an old woman’s deadpan declaration that “I don’t like tea. I like gin.” would make it the U.K.’s favorite commercial of the year.
Johannesburg, South Africa: Company records indicate that McCann was working in South Africa with an affiliate called Central News Agency at least since 1947. But it was in 1963 when McCann, on a major global expansion initiative, opened up Africa as a new company region. Interpublic in that year acquired the Afamal Group (an acquisition announced in late 1962). It was said to be the largest advertising agency on the African continent, with a five-office operation billing about $8 million. In addition to Johannesburg, there were offices in Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town in South Africa, and in Salisbury in what was then called Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Afamal would become the oldest agency in the McCann world, older even than Alfred Erickson’s original 1902 operation in New York City that was merged with The H. K. McCann Co. in 1930. Afamal dated back to the 1899 founding of SA Advertising Contractors in Cape Town. It had also, by the late 1950s, established either offices or associations in other African countries such as Angola, the Congo, Ghana and Kenya. McCann continued to expand in Africa through the 1974 acquisition of Grant Advertising.