35 Years That Changed Advertising

When Adweek began publishing its first issues in 1978, the industry it set out to cover was at a crossroads. The Mad Men era was ending, ad budgets were about to boom, and the days of digital were already nigh.

As we mark our 35th anniversary—which, counting this year, is actually 36 years—Adweek today looks back at a few of the key moments, some subtle and some shocking, that changed the nature of advertising and made marketing what it is today.


1978: The First Taste of Inbox Spam

Almost as long as there has been an Internet, a thick coating of spam has clogged the pipes. It began when an eager salesman used the U.S. government’s Arpanet to announce a hardware demo to nearly 400 users (15 percent of the network). The military brass clamped down hard, but an insidious industry was born.

Also this year: 3M launched its "Boise Blitz," in which samples of a new product were given to hundreds of residents in one Idaho city. With an unprecedented 90% intent to repurchase, the product soon debuted nationally as the Post-It Note.

Created this year: Hitachi Maxell's iconic "blown-away guy" photograph, shot by Steven Steigman for agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves.

Also this year: The first Star Wars action figures went on sale and quickly proved to be staggeringly popular, totaling more than 40 million units and $100 million in sales.


1979: Saatchi Wins Britain for Thatcher

When Britain's Conservative party took control of the parliament, bringing Margaret Thatcher to power as prime minister, they definitely owed some of their success to Saatchi & Saatchi.

The agency's "Labour Isn't Working" poster showed an unemployment line that seemed to stretch for miles (though it was actually just the same small group of young Conservatives pasted over and over). It became a centerpiece of the political debate. In 1999, Campaign magazine named it "the best poster of the century."

Created this year: Anheuser-Busch's "This Bud's for You" slogan and ad campaign by agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.

Acquired this year: SSC&B-Lintas by Interpublic Group.

Founded this year: Backer & Spielvogel


1980: Mean Joe Green Shows His Soft Side

In 1980, Super Bowl ads weren't known as blockbusters. Until this one came along.

McCann-Erickson's "Mean Joe Greene" ad for Coca-Cola quickly became the stuff of legend when it appeared during the Super Bowl featuring Greene's Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams.

In the spot, Greene is trying to walk off an injury when a young fan offers him a Coke. Greene drops his signature surliness and tosses the boy his game jersey. The scenario became a pop-culture sensation—and the basis for a 1981 TV movie.

Founded this year: Digitas

Also this year: Ogilvy & Mather launched its Public Relations subsidiary, which by 2013 would have 85 offices worldwide.


1981: MTV Goes on Air, and Suddenly Ads Are Art

They began as pricey promotional clips created by mega-popular artists like the Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd. But music videos were democratized overnight with the launch of MTV on Aug. 1, 1981.

The cable channel almost immediately broke radio's decades-long grip on music promotion, and a new generation of artists became top sellers thanks to their videos, which served as long-form ads for new albums and singles.

Perhaps MTV's biggest impact on advertising, though, was its aesthetic. Many video directors, including David Fincher and Michel Gondry, became top talents in advertising and Hollywood.

Created this year:
• The U.S. Army slogan "Be all that you can be," by agency N.W. Ayer & Son, which resigned the account in 1986 amid allegations of kickbacks
• TBWA's first iconic bottle print ad for Absolut
• FedEx's first "Fast Talker" ad from Ally & Gargano
• Marschalk Co.'s original "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?" TV spot

Acquired this year: Regis McKenna, by Chiat/Day, inheriting Apple as a client.

Founded this year: Lowe Howard-Spink, eventually renamed Lowe & Partners Worldwide


1982: Bill Bernbach’s Death and the End of an Era

He was known for pairing creativity with humility, yielding some of the best advertising of its day. Bill Bernbach's work on Volkswagen ("Think small"), Avis ("We try harder") and Polaroid ("It's so simple") brought humanity, wit and intellect to a field that struggled to achieve even one of the three.

But when the iconic co-founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach passed away, the era he had helped usher in also seemed to be on its last legs. The '80s would soon become known for its shallow opulence and avarice—and a time of ads starring beautiful people and big logos.

His ideas, though, would never die. Instead of being a relic, he was, like all great thinkers, simply ahead of his time.

Also this year: Paul Newman and neighbor A. E. Hotchner launched Newman's Own with a policy of never advertising. "We considered advertising, but it takes so much money," Hotchner told Adweek. "It would reduce what we could give to charity."

Created this year:
• Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, featuring an initially unpaid product placement for Reese's Pieces that led parent company Hershey to invest $1 million in advertising the film
• Dunkin Donuts' Fred the Baker and his catchphrase, "Time to make the donuts," by Ally & Gargano

Founded this year: Bartle Bogle Hegarty, along with Wieden + Kennedy.


1983: Apple Creates an Epic

It was, quite simply, the best TV ad ever created. And almost no one was around to see it.

That's because Chiat/Day's epic Apple ad, "1984," made its debut on a small Idaho TV station in the last timeslot of the last day of 1983, one month before its Super Bowl appearance.

The early airing made "1984" eligible for the 1983 ad awards, and that confidence proved justified. Apple's board fought to kill the ad, but Jay Chiat and Steve Jobs stood their ground, helping ensure the Ridley Scott-directed spot would become one of the most celebrated in advertising history.

Also this year: Michael Jackson and Pepsi forge a record-shattering $5 million endorsement deal.

Published this year: "Ogilvy on Advertising" by David Ogilvy

Founded this year: Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein


1984: “Where’s the Beef?”

While its fame is inexplicably lasting, the catch phrase "Where's the beef?" actually had a short shelf life in Wendy's advertising.

Written by Cliff Freeman during his last days at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, the slogan was simply the punch line to a TV ad featuring geriatric burger buyers who were unimpressed with a competitor chain's "big bun." It soon exploded in popularity, and became the definitive example of an ad slogan.

Wendy's abandoned the line in 1985, and adopted "Choose fresh" instead. But it was already part of the American vernacular, thanks in part to presidential candidate Walter Mondale using it as a dig at primary opponent Gary Hart.

Created this year:
• Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes, fictional founders of Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers. The folksy campaign was the work of Hal Riney, who cast two non-actors in roles that would become 1980s ad icons.
• Another Hal Riney brainchild, Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" election ad, written and narrated by Riney.

Also this year: AT&T was forced to break apart its Bell System monopoly, paving the way for a new era of highly competitive telecom brands.

Merged this year: Fahlgren & Ferris and Swink Advertising, forming Fahlgren & Swink


1985: New Coke Sets the Bar for Brand Disasters

"It can now be seen as the industry's biggest mistake." Those were the words of BBDO chief Allen Rosenshine, basking in a brief moment of victory for his client, Pepsi.

Coca-Cola's attempt to modernize its recipe for a sweeter taste (largely in reaction to Pepsi's growing popularity) sparked rapid and widespread backlash. Sales dropped 35 percent among Southern bottlers, and the brand quickly retreated by re-launching Coca-Cola Classic.

McDonald's and other chains soon dropped New Coke because of confusion and low demand, but the reformulation would quietly survive for many years to come.

Also this year: The price of a Super Bowl ad surpasses $1 million per minute for the first time.

Created this year:
• Visa's "It's everywhere you want to be" campaign by BBDO
• Rolling Stone's "Perception/Reality" print ads from Fallon, named Print Campaign of the 1980s by The One Club.

In theaters this year: Lost in America, starring Albert Brooks as a beleaguered ad exec based largely on his real-life brother, Cliff Einstein, president of Dailey & Associates.


1986: BBDO and DDB Create a ‘Global Creative Superpower’

Merger mania had arrived, and nothing made this more obvious than the birth of Omnicom Group, made up of U.S. powerhouse agencies DDB, Needham Harper Steers and BBDO.

Completing the quartet later known as the Big Four, Omnicom pledged to be a "global creative superpower" that could withstand the pressures of its aggressive peers: Interpublic Group and Publicis (along with WPP in the coming years).

The transition was far from painless, though, with conflicts of interest driving away BBDO clients worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Hill Holliday CEO Malcolm MacDougal joked to Adweek that it was "a most interesting ménage a trois … we'll all be fascinated to watch who does what to whom."

Also this year: Apple shifts its advertising to BBDO, sparking recently ousted Steve Jobs to buy a full-page Wall Street Journal ad congratulating Chiat/Day on "seven years of consistently outstanding work."

Founded this year:
• Hal Riney & Partners (previously the San Francisco office of Ogilvy & Mather)

Created this year:
• The "Joe Isuzu" campaign from Della Femina Travisano & Partners
•  The California Raisins, a Claymation campaign from animator Will Vinton and agency Foote, Cone & Belding

Acquired this year:
• Backer & Spielvogel, by Saatchi and Saatchi
• Ally & Gargano, by Marketing Corporation of America


1987: Martin Sorrell Goes for Blood in Hostile Takeover of JWT

It was called Wire and Plastic Products, a maker of shopping baskets. That is, until Martin Sorrell came along. The ultra-ambitious ad exec had been the architect of Saatchi & Saatchi's recent acquisition, and by investing his way to the top of WPP, he created the vehicle to accomplish even more.

In 1987, he showed the true scope of his ambition with a $566 million acquisition of J. Walter Thompson, the first hostile takeover in advertising history and bone-rattling salvo in the escalating acquisition wars.

Also this year: Black Monday pounded world markets, slicing the Dow Jones Industrial average 22.6 percent. On the bright side, Adweek noted the event also "sounded the final death knell on Madison Avenue for some of advertising's most despised characters—the yuppies."

Created this year:
• The Partnership for a Drug-Free America's best-known PSAs, "This is your brain on drugs" and "I learned it by watching you!"
• Bud Light spokesdog Spuds McKenzie, who debuted in a Super Bowl ad from DDB Needham
• The CDC's first major AIDS awareness PSA campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather

Merged this year: Saatchi & Saatchi shops Ted Bates Worldwide Inc. and Backer & Spielvogel Inc., becoming Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide Inc. Shortened in 1994 to Bates Worldwide.

Acquired this year: Burton-Campbell, by Earle Palmer Browne


1988: Nike Unleashes ‘Just Do It’

The night before one of the biggest campaign presentations of Dan Wieden's life, he just wasn't feeling it. The Wieden + Kennedy founder was preparing to unveil Nike's first major ad campaign, but the handful of TV spots "didn't look anything alike, and they didn't really sum up to anything," he later told Adweek.

Inspired, oddly enough, by death-row inmate Gary Gilmore's final words, "Let's do it," Wieden wrote the line, "Just do it." It became a mantra that elevated Nike into a global lifestyle and fashion brand accessible to beginners and Olympians alike. Marking the 25th anniversary, Adweek called the line "one of the biggest ad ideas ever."

Also this year:
• Diet Coke helped make cinema advertising a trend in the U.S., resulting in a lot of negativity. "If we wanted to see Coke commercials," one movie-goer told Adweek, "we could have saved the money and stayed home and watched TV."
• Coca-Cola threatened to sue any of its bottlers who advertise that their versions of Coke contained real sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup.
• Two political attack ads—one featuring furloughed felon Willie Horton and one showing prisoners walking through a revolving door—were largely credited with turning public opinion against Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.


1989: Y&R Indicted for Tourism Bribery

It was a well-known fact among agencies that winning international tourism accounts meant sharing the wealth with local officials. But that didn't stop the U.S. government from indicting Young & Rubicam on bribery charges stemming from its 1981 win of Jamaican tourism.

Even Y&R's competitors told Adweek the prosecution was naive, but the agency pleaded guilty in 1990 to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and was fined $500,000.

Also this year: Digital printing enabled high-quality photography in outdoor ads. Adweek noted that one of Coors Light's first vinyl boards, showing a woman lounging in a bikini, was promptly stolen after being posted near a college campus in San Diego.

Created this year: The Energizer Bunny, by DDB Chicago

Acquired this year: Ogilvy & Mather, by WPP

Founded this year: Aegis, a media spinoff of France's WCRS Group


1990: Cable Comes of Age

"It's time we stopped talking about broadcast versus cable," Ted Turner told a gathering of TV
advertisers in 1990, "and started talking about television."

The cable king's confidence stemmed from the fact that more than 60 percent of TV households had subscribed to cable, with CNN's audience growing from 2 million to 56 million in one decade. Thanks to improved metrics and flexible marketing partnerships, brands began demanding more cable in their media mix.

"What I want to do," a Nestlé Foods exec told Adweek, "is make [our agencies] look at cable seriously, and not put on the normal blinders."

Created this year: The Taster's Choice couple, an American recreation of McCann Erickson's popular U.K. campaign, the Gold Blend Couple

In theaters this year: Crazy People, a Dudley Moore comedy mocking the ridiculousness of 1980s advertising

Acquired this year: Franklin & Associates, by Earle Palmer Brown


1991: War and Advertising in the 24-Hour News Cycle

It was the war that cemented the concept of 24-hour news, but for advertisers, nothing was concrete. The rapid U.S. liberation of Kuwait and assault on Iraq in the Gulf War left advertisers scrambling to avoid looking insensitive.

Many brands pulled all their advertising from broadcast and cable, while others changed media plans by the hour as the war progressed. Diet Coke's lighthearted Super Bowl ads were replaced by somberly narrated type announcing a $1 million donation to the USO.

Also this year: Due to unpaid bills and poor planning, an awkward and chaotic CLIO Awards night became known as "The Most Bizarre Event in Advertising History."

Acquired this year: RSCG, by Eurocom, forming Euro RSCG

Founded this year: Sapient


1992: Lee Iacocca Retires as CEO and Ad Icon

As he filmed the last of his 61 ads as the tough-talking face of Chrysler, CEO Lee Iacocca left behind a legacy that empowered executives and frustrated agencies.

His success as a spokesman in the vein of Frank Perdue led many other corporate leaders to insist they could do it, too. "I'm not sure if others should follow his lead," N.W. Ayer svp Earl Shorris told Adweek. "For every Iacocca, I can think of 10 to 20 who have failed."

Also this year: New Coke is rebranded as Coke II, a name that would last for another 10 years, but only in limited distribution.

Founded this year: Olson

Created this year: "Beef, it's what's for dinner," a slogan and campaign from Leo Burnett for the National Livestock and Meat Board


1993: “Got Milk?”

It began with a simple focus-group insight: "The only time I even think about milk is when I run out of it." Jeff Goody immediately scribbled the phrase "Got milk?"—which would soon become the tagline to rule all taglines.

Through cinematic TV spots and countless "milk mustache" ads, the line invented by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board would become the best-remembered slogan of any beverage ever, including beer and soda.

Created this year: Michael Jordan and Larry Bird's epic game of H.O.R.S.E. in "The Showdown," a Super Bowl spot for McDonald's from Leo Burnett. In 2013, USA Today rated it the No. 1 Super Bowl ad of all time.

Founded this year: WongDoody

Acquired this year:
• Scali, McCabe & Sloves by Interpublic Group, getting subsidiary The Martin Agency as part of the deal
• TBWA by Omnicom


1994: Birth of the Banner Ad

Today, digital display ads are a $15 billion industry, according to recent data from Internet Retailer. It all had to start somewhere, and boy did it start oddly.

The first banner ad of note appeared on Wired magazine's early web presence, HotWired. It simply asked, "Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE? You will." Though unbranded, it was an AT&T ad that shuttled readers off to a landing page about art museums and other educational destinations. The reported click-through rate? A staggering 44 percent.

Also this year: After 79 years and countless memorable ads, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles lost Budweiser to DDB Needham, which had been creating Bud Light ads.

Acquired this year: Ammirati & Puris, by Interpublic Group


1995: Buffett Buys Out Geico

As far back as 1951, Warren Buffett saw the potential of Geico. At age 20, he invested half his net worth in the insurer. He continued investing until 1995, when he bought the last remaining 49 percent of shares.

"He told us to keep doing what we were doing, just do it faster," Geico marketing vp Ted Ward told Adweek. Buffett's enthusiasm turned Geico into one of the world's largest advertisers, with an annual media budget now in the range of $1 billion.

Also this year: R/GA shifted its focus to being an interactive agency.

Acquired this year:
• Chiat/Day, by Omnicom, merging it with TBWA
• Arnold Communications, by Snyder Communications.

Founded this year: Razorfish

Created this year: Chick-fil-A's cow-centric "Eat Mor Chikin" ad campaign, by The Richards Group


1996: Seagrams Breaks the Liquor Ad Ban

Liquor brands had voluntarily kept themselves out of TV advertising since 1948, but that all ended when Seagram made the gradual but deliberate decision to start promoting Crown Royal in select TV markets.

The ads began in March, and by November, the U.S. liquor trade association had decided to follow Seagram's lead and end its voluntary ban, despite opposition from social conservatives and President Clinton. By 2013, distillers were spending nearly $250 million a year on TV advertising.

Also this year:
• An article titled "The Virus of Marketing" in Fast Company popularized the term "viral marketing."
• Daniel Snyder, 32, became the youngest-ever CEO of a NYSE-listed corporation when the Snyder Communications IPO raised $130 million.

Merged this year: Ammirati Puris Lintas and Lowe Group

Founded this year: Mother


1997: Drug Ads Get the Green Light for TV

For pharmaceutical marketers in the 1990s, a "brief summary" was anything but brief. The FDA required almost every drug ad, even on TV, to include this laundry list of potential side effects, warnings and limitations.

In 1997, the FDA loosened its broadcast rules by instead allowing a "major statement," covering only the drug's most crucial information. Pharma ad spending promptly exploded from $340 million in 1997 to $1.2 billion in 1998. Today it is around $3.5 billion.

Also this year:
• Alex Bogusky was named partner at Crispin Porter
• Clear Channel bought billboard firm Eller Media, resulting in the creation of Clear Channel Outdoor

Created this year:
• Apple's "Think Different" campaign from TBWA/Chiat/Day
• MasterCard's "Priceless" campaign from McCann Erickson

In theaters this year: The James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies," bolstered by an unprecedented $100 million in product placement deals with eight brand sponsors.


1998: Google Gets Going

When Google incorporated in 1998, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page had two key assets: a $100,000 check from Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim and a meticulously well-thought-out plan for revolutionizing Web search.

Their academic paper, "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine," created a clear road map for Google's success, with one big exception: it balked at ads. The founders expressed concern that "advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers."

Also this year:
Wieden + Kennedy created a Calvin Klein campaign that featured email addresses as a call to action. Emailing one of the ad characters would initiate a series of fictional correspondence, which lasted three years and paved the way for future social-media campaigns.

Created this year: The first Priceline.com ad featuring William Shatner.

Published this year: Luke Sullivan's copywriting guide, "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This."

Acquired this year:
• Abbott Mead Vickers, by Omnicom
• Hal Riney & Partners and the Evans Group, both by Publicis

Founded this year: 360i


1999: The Death of David Ogilvy, ‘Father of Advertising’

Putting research behind your advertising, creating a brand, respecting your audience—these are just a few of today's standard advertising axioms largely credited to David Ogilvy. The British-born founder of Ogilvy & Mather revolutionized advertising and created a global empire along the way.

After WPP's hostile takeover in 1989, Ogilvy drifted out of the limelight and died 10 years later at age 88. Former Ogilvy & Mather chairman Kenneth Roman wrote in Adweek that Ogilvy's strength stemmed from his boundless curiosity: "Even as he elevated to world renown, he never pontificated—he interrogated, even with dinner partners. His great secret was an inquiring mind."

Also this year: The city of Halfway, Ore., was paid $100,000 to change its name to Half.com for a year. 

In theaters this year: The Blair Witch Project, whose shoestring budget was amplified into $248 million in box office revenue thanks largely to innovative Internet marketing that made the events of the film seem real.

Merged this year: Ketchum and Earle Palmer Browne

Acquired this year: Havas, by Vivendi. The ad portion of the resulting Vivendi Publishing Group was spun off into its own company, Havas Advertising, in 2000 and later shortened to Havas.

Founded this year: Digital agency Huge


2000: The Dot-Com Super Bowl

Computer.com. Kforce.com. OurBeginning.com. These and many other Super Bowl advertisers were virtually unknown before 2000. And millions of dollars later, they remain so today.

A baffling 47 percent of Super Bowl advertisers that year were websites, flush with speculative investment cash and doomed to collapse when the bubble burst just two months later. By 2001's big game, the tally of dot-com advertisers went from 17 back down to three—the same as in 1999.

Also this year: Google launched Adwords, which today generates the bulk of the search giant's $40 billion+ in annual ad revenue.

Acquired this year:
• Young & Rubicam, by WPP
• Saatchi & Saatchi, by Publicis
• Deutsch, by Interpublic Group

Published this year: "The Cluetrain Manifesto," a treatise that largely predicted the coming age of social media, by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger.

Created this year: Geico's Gecko, by The Martin Agency


2001: BMW’s ‘The Hire’ Redefines Branded Content

Hollywood A-listers have never been known for their love of advertising, which made it all the more impressive when Fallon and BMW created "The Hire," a series of big-budget branded short films that accelerated digital video into the mainstream.

Helmed by top-tier directors like Ang Lee, John Woo and Tony Scott, the videos increased BMW sales by double digits for two consecutive years, helping the automaker surpass Mercedes.

Created this year: "The New York Miracle" tourism campaign, launched just two months after the 9/11 terror attacks to demonstrate New York City's resilience.

Founded this year:
• The Barbarian Group


2002: Wendy’s Loses its Founding Father

He was a high-school dropout by age 16, a millionaire by 35, and at the time of his death at age 69, an American advertising icon who had starred in more than 800 commercials. While most executive spokesmen were known for their intensity, Thomas was known for his warm, humble and occasionally bumbling charm.

After Thomas's death, his 6,000-restaurant chain (and agency Kaplan Thaler) struggled to find the right replacement. His daughter, Wendy, has appeared in several ads, but so has a younger redhead character played by an actor.

Also this year:
• Interpublic Group stock plummeted and its acquisition plans stalled due to accounting irregularities at its flagship shop, McCann Erickson. The holding company settled with the SEC in 2008, paying a $12 million fine.
• Coca-Cola officially discontinued New Coke, being sold as Coke II.

Acquired this year: Leo Burnett and D'Arcy, both by Publicis

Founded this year: mcgarrybowen


2003: iPod Finds Success in Silhouette

Apple has always been proud of its product design, so showing off the new and innovative iPod in ads seemed like a no-brainer. But initial spots for the device after its 2001 debut proved bland and forgettable.

In 2003, TBWA\Chiat\Day persuaded Steve Jobs to try something completely different: stylized dancing silhouettes dangling white earbuds. The campaign—and the iPod—quickly became cultural icons.

Created this year:
• Honda and Wieden + Kennedy's $6.2 million masterpiece of meticulous advertising, "Cog"
• The enduring Las Vegas tourism slogan, "What happens here, stays here," by R&R Partners
• McDonald's first global ad campaign, with the slogan "I'm lovin' it," launched by DDB Worldwide's German subsidiary, Heye & Partner.

Founded this year: MySpace


2004: Crispin Hatches Subservient Chicken

With its hauntingly large eyes and garters, it wasn't the world's most appetizing poultry. But among marketers, Subservient Chicken created a voracious appetite for digital innovation. And it sold plenty of Burger King sandwiches, too.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky and The Barbarian Group created the creature by having an actor in a chicken suit perform hundreds of tasks. When visitors to the website typed commands, the supposed live feed of the chicken seemed to do almost anything. The result, while admittedly silly, revolutionized the way advertisers thought about engaging fans online.

Published this year: "Lovemarks" by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi

Founded this year:
• 72andSunny
• Anomaly
• Facebook

Merged this year: Avenue A and Razorfish


2005: GoDaddy Undresses the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl has never been a forum known for its high art, but it took a little-known URL booking service to prove just how low the bar could go. Since running its first spot featuring scantily clad model/wrestler Candice Michelle, Go Daddy has become synonymous with salacious Super Bowl ads.

Since then, several other brands have tried to hop on the controversy train, with many explicitly hoping to get banned for extra buzz. Go Daddy, for its part, says it plans to drop the sexy stunts and try a new tack in 2014.

Created this year: Calton Draught's "Big Ad," an early viral sensation created by George Patterson and Partners.

Acquired this year: Grey Global, by WPP

Founded this year: YouTube


2006: R/GA Redefines the Role of Agencies with Nike+

Never afraid to reinvent itself, R/GA also helped reinvent the expectation of agencies with Nike+, combining hardware, software and social media to help runners track and share their experiences. It continues to evolve long after Adweek named it the Digital Campaign of the Decade at the end of 2009.

"With the launch of Nike+, marketers realized they could create useful, personal tools that extended beyond traditional marketing," R/GA creative chief Nick Law tells Adweek today.

"What these marketers didn't realize was just how difficult it is to develop, manage and grow a behavior-changing product, which is why eight years later Nike is still in a category of one."

Also this year: Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.

Created this year:
• The Crash the Super Bowl promotion from Frito-Lay and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
• Office Max's Elf Yourself site
• Blendtec's "Will It Blend?" video series

Merged this year: Foote, Cone & Belding and Draft (both Interpublic shops), forming DraftFCB

Founded this year: Droga5


2007: Mad Men Makes Advertising Cool Again

Sexism. Adultery. Fall-down drunkenness. You wouldn't think such themes would help re-ignite America's admiration for the ad industry. But the stylish savoir faire of AMC's Mad Men helped highlight the industry's legacy of intellect and cool creativity.

Dr. Isabella Cunningham, chair of the University of Texas at Austin's advertising program, says interest in the field has clearly increased among students, though it hard to say how much is due to Mad Men. "The positive image of advertising and public relations has improved considerably in recent years," she says. "Maybe it is a function of the fact we're being considered more cool than we used to be because of the image in the media."

Also this year: Holding company MDC increases its stake in Crispin Porter + Bogusky from 49 percent to 77 percent. MDC later acquired the remaining shares, as well.

Acquired this year:
• Avenue A | Razorfish, by Microsoft
• Digitas, by Publicis

Founded this year: Engauge, through the merger of Ten United, Spunlogic and Direct Impact


2008: Facebook Seals MySpace’s Fate

At one point, it seemed like a fair fight. MySpace and Facebook had been locked in a Coke-and-
Pepsi showdown since 2006, when Mark Zuckerburg opened his college-centric social network to the public.

In 2008, Facebook surpassed MySpace in the coveted Alexa site rankings, the first clear sign that Facebook would become what it is today: the dominant social network not just for America, but for the world.

Also this year: Barack Obama's presidential victory was seen as a sign of the importance of social media in political fund-raising and organizing.

Created this year:
• Progressive spokeswoman Flo, by Arnold Worldwide
• The first "E*trade Baby" spot from Grey

Acquired this year: Huge, by Interpublic.


2009: AT&T and Verizon Wage $4 Billion Ad War

It was a showdown that made the Cola wars look like a schoolyard scrap. In the battle for cell-service supremacy, AT&T and Verizon spent a combined $4 billion in 2009, blanketing the airwaves with confrontational spots mocking each other's network strength and device limitations.

The clear winner, of course, were the agencies—McCann-Erickson for Verizon and BBDO for AT&T. The pace has kept up, too, with both brands remaining as two of the top five ad spenders per year.

Also this year: Cliff Freeman and Partners, launched after the success of Freeman's "Where's the beef?" slogan for Wendy's, quietly closed its doors after being dogged by client and talent losses in the 2000s.

Created this year:
• Tourism Queensland's The Best Job in the World, created by CumminsNitro
• Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice app on Facebook from Crispin Porter + Bogusky

Acquired this year:
• Avenue A | Razorfish, by Publicis
• Nitro Group, by Sapient

Founded this year: Digital agency Breakfast


2010: Old Spice, the Brand Your Brand Could Smell Like

Few campaigns have come to epitomize the new nature of advertising quite like Wieden + Kennedy's hilariously swaggering "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like." Though primarily meant for TV, the initial spot starring towel-clad actor Isaiah Mustafa exploded online, tallying tens of millions of views.

W+K quickly made the most of it, creating 200 rapid-fire response videos in which Mustafa responded in character to influencers and consumers who engaged with the brand. Even today, brands with three times the budget struggle to match Old Spice's social success.

Also this year:
• Industry icon Alex Bogusky left Crispin Porter + Bogusky
• Facebook ad revenue surpassed $1.2 billion.
• Chevrolet moved its advertising to Publicis Worldwide after 91 years with Campbell Ewald.

Founded this year:
• Barton F. Graf 9000
• Victors & Spoils


2011: Pepsi Drops to No. 3

Think of it as losing the battle but winning the war. After opting to sit out the Super Bowl in 2010 and focus on digital, Pepsi slipped embarrassingly to the No. 3 soda spot a year later, with Coca-Cola and Diet Coke owning the top two positions.

It might have looked like it was losing the Cola wars, but Pepsi had actually outmaneuvered Coke by focusing on snack brands like Frito-Lay and Quaker. In 2012, PepsiCo's revenues were more than $66 billion, compared to Coca-Cola's $48 billion.

Created this year:
• Volkswagen's "The Force" by Deutsch, Los Angeles.
• Chipotle's "Back to the Start," by CAA


2012: Red Bull Takes Extreme Advertising Into the Stratosphere

When you've seemingly exhausted every extreme activity on earth, there's only one logical place left to go: space.

Red Bull came pretty close when it sponsored skydiver Felix Baumgartner's 24-mile leap from the edge of the atmosphere. Eight million people tuned in to YouTube to watch the heavily branded event in real time, with many more watching on TV.

Baumgartner may have been the one breaking a world record, but it was Red Bull who tacitly turned it into a challenge: Would any other brand be willing to go this far, literally or figuratively?

Created this year:
• Dollar Shave Club's highly popular online launch clip, "Our Blades Are F***ing Great" by web video shop Paulilu
• "Dumb Ways to Die," a light-hearted Australian train safety video that tallied more than 64 million views on YouTube

Acquired this year:
• AKQA, by WPP
• Aegis, by Dentsu


2013: Omnicom and Publicis Announce Mega Merger

When you start running short on major independent agencies, what's left for the Big Four holding companies to acquire? Each other, apparently. 

In a deal that will radically reshape the agency ownership landscape, Omnicom and Publicis announced they would merge to form a $23 billion conglomerate that dwarfs the current $16 billion top dog, WPP. 

Some competitors say such a move is outdated and driven by leadership looking to secure a legacy amid dwindling options for growth. But it's doubtful this will be the last massive merger.  Because over the past 35 years, one fact has been proven time and again: If there's one thing agency executives love more than upping their client rosters, it's one-upping each other.

Created this year:
• Ram's "Farmer" spot, created by The Richards Group and featuring a Paul Harvey speech from 1978
• Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches" by Ogilvy Brazil

Merged this year: Publicis shops Digitas and LBi

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