Campbell Ewald’s Rebranding Takes Inspiration From Its History

The agency says it 'didn't get old by accident' but by 'thinking new'

Workstation featuring Campbell Ewald rebranding messaging
The agency's roots and current design capabilities served as a powerful combination for the rebranding. Courtesy of Campbell Ewald
Headshot of Erik Oster

One of advertising’s oldest agencies has a fresh new look inspired in part by its long history.

“We have a pretty new leadership team, and what we really wanted to do was focus across the agency. We’ve done a lot of things to refine some of the strategic tools we use and specialty disciplines we have and really felt like now was the time when we’re in a good place to tell more of our story,” Campbell Ewald CCO Jo Shoesmith explained.

Earlier this year, Campbell Ewald unveiled new executive leadership teams across its Detroit, New York and Los Angeles offices under Shoesmith, who has held the chief creative role for over three years.

“There’s so much great history at Campbell Ewald, and it has such a great story with its roots from Detroit and how it started. For us it was really important this isn’t just a design; this is about telling our past story but connecting that to the future of the agency as well,” Shoesmith said.

Campbell Ewald was established in 1911, when Frank Campbell and Henry Ewald opened the agency with two clients and six employees. Chevrolet became the agency’s first major client in 1919, beginning a relationship that would last 91 years before the GM brand moved its account to Publicis in 2010. In 1928, Campbell Ewald created the first automotive co-op advertising program and introduced its “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” campaign in 1948. Over the years, the agency created a series of iconic campaigns for Chevy, including “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet” launched in 1975 and “Like a Rock” for Chevy Trucks, which began a 13-year run in 1991. Other iconic work from Campbell Ewald includes the development of the “We Earn Our Wings Every Day” slogan for Eastern Airlines in 1981 and a Simpsons milk mustache ad, which was exhibited at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History last year.

A lookbook introducing the rebrand to employees, as part of a series of internal rollouts ahead of the external launch of the rebranding effort, includes a timeline with highlights from the agency’s 100-plus years. On the other side of the timeline is a mostly blank page calling for readers to imagine “what the next century might look like.”

“I think it’s a really great moment to look for what those next moments are for us,” Shoesmith said.

A video announcing the rebrand centers around the message that the agency “didn’t get old by accident” but by “thinking new.”

“It is that bridge of old and new, and it wasn’t about creating a tagline for the agency; it was a new logo that felt really timeless to us and attaching our age to that,” Shoesmith said. “We have a lot of years under our belt. We got old by doing a lot of really cool things, and I think our future is going to be more of those milestones.”

Campbell Ewald turned to its internal archives for rebranding inspiration, which it found in vintage design elements, printer’s marks and handwritten notes. Another historical aspect came in the form of intricately drawn line illustrations in vintage automotive parts catalogs, a nod to the agency’s Detroit roots and its long history in the automotive category. The rebrand combined these elements with a bold, modern color palette to arrive at a combination of past and present as the agency looks to the future.

“In Detroit we have walls of old, leather-bound archives of all the old ads. As a design nerd, for me, it’s fantastic that there’s all these artifacts of the history of the company just laying around,” Shoesmith said.

She explained that holding onto that history and making sure it’s an important piece of the agency’s identity as it looks forward was instrumental to its rebranding efforts and “making sure that this is really meaningful.”

The agency’s roots and current design capabilities served as a powerful combination for the redesign, according to Shoesmith, who cited Campbell Ewald’s strong design teams in multiple offices, stating that design has been “a growing discipline for the agency, especially over the last five years.”

“Design has been a real strength from the early days at Campbell Ewald, because there’s such a strong publishing background at the agency,” she said. “We put all of our designers together collaborating on this. You can see within the design that we’ve referenced some of those nuances [from archival inspirations].”

“We had a lot of designers collaborating and bringing different points of view together, finding elements out of our archives, [including] handwritten type from Campbell and Ewald themselves and bringing all of that into making this feel really layered, textured and visually interesting—and something that we can have for a long time,” she added.

CEO: Kevin Wertz
CCO: Jo Shoesmith
CSO: Kari Shimmel
CFO: Jari Auger
Executive Creative Directors: Laura Rogers, David Bierman
Group Design Director: Michael Ceraulo
Group Digital Experience Director: Chris Elkjar
CD/Copywriter: Nick Driggs
ACD/Art Director: Lew Baker, Tom Helland
ACD/Copywriter: Matthew Perry
Senior Designer: Andres Lombardo, Thao Le
Senior Art Director: Darlene Hawver
Senior Content Editor/Copy: Nate Rogers
Digital Design: Ian Carolan
Account Service Director: Colin Padden
Account Executive: Meghan Berndt
Manager Content Production: Kyle Smalley
Pre-media Superviser: Debbie Moore
Senior Art Superviser: Joe Gibbons
Senior Integrated Producer: Martha Carter
Production Artist: Marji McLaughlin
Senior Content Copy Editor: Sheila Dettloff
Social Strategy Director: Nick Meyer
Creative Operation Manager: Stacy Frantz
Internal Communications / HR: Barb Rozman -Stokes, Suzanne McGee, Kelly Celic

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.