Washington is to advertising as Miami is to skiing, as Cape Cod is to manufacturing, as Dimebox, Tex., is to retailing.
Although virtually everyone describes a vast improvement in the product and growth of the industry in the past ten years, and although there has been a proliferation of new agencies and entry into the market in a more serious way by two major New York agencies, Washington poses no threat to New York or Chicago in the ad business.
Not the backwater it once was but apparently not destined for the moment to be a major advertising center. Washington has produced its own peculiar industry -- more at home selling real estate, autos, retail goods and advocary than selling soap or other manufactured goods, virtually none of which are manufactured here anyway.
It's not unusual that two of the area's most historic ad campaigns have been a model's moving lips in support of a rock radio station and another performer's decade-long promotion of a local Chevrolet dealership. Both were created by agencies not based in Washington.
The advertising industry here reflects the sort of town it is, which is why local agencies generally look toward advocacy advertising for occasions and government rather than industry as providing potential for growth.
"Wasington is still a terrible advertising town. It always will be," said Stuart E. Karu, president of Henry J. Kaufman & Associates Inc. "The only people who need advertising more than advertisers need them are in manufacturing."
"Most of the companies here -- like the Marriott Corp. -- will do better with advertising," he said. "But if they don't have it, they'll still sell hamburgers and hotel rooms."
Marriott does spent about $750,000 a year advertising hotels here, but through combined efforts of an 11-person in-house staff at the hotel division and Ogilvy & Mather, a New York agency. Marriott's people do layouts for time and space based on the creative work of Ogilvy & Mather.
Marriott also spends $2-$2.5 million a year here to advertize restaurants: Earle Palmer Brown of Washington handles Farrell's ice cream parlors, W.B. Doner & Co., in Baltimore, handles Roy Rogers; Simons, Michaelson & Zieve of Troy, Mich., has the Big Boy account and Wallerstein Advertising in Potomac -- a firm typical of smaller area firms -- has the Hot Shoppes account.
There are some other large local corporate accounts but, as befits a company town, by far the biggest Washington-based advertiser is the U.S. government itself, which spent $146 million to promote various services and promises through ad agencies last year. However, only a small portion of that money was processed through local ad businesses.
The 28th largest advertiser in the counrty, according to Advertising Age magazine, the federal government has been pushing "all-volunteer" armed services (accounting got three-quarters of overall spending). The Army alone spent $42.6 million on ads last year and is projecting spending this year of $53 million, through the N.W. Ayer agency in New York. Amtrak's media ads last year cost close to $10 million (Needham, Harper & Steers, New York) while the U.S. Postal Service spent $9.2 million (Young & Rubicam, New York).
Mobil Corp., which recently moved its domestic headquarters to Fairfax County, spent $166 million on advertising last year. Most of the business goes to Madison Avenue, although Martin Agency in Richmond has the phosphorus division account.
Another major Washington-area company, candy and food giant Mars Inc., was the nation's largest advertiser last year and spent at least $70 million to sell M&Ms, Milky Ways, Uncle Ben's Rice and Kal Kan dog food, among other products, through ad agencies in New York and Chicago. Noxell, a Maryland firm that manufactures Noxzema and other household products, uses New York agencies.
In addition, many major regional businesses prefer to do much of their own advertising rather than working through agencies. This saves a great deal on commission costs.
Giant Food Inc. does all layouts, copywriting and typesetting for its print ads throughout the region at its in-house agency, GRT Advertising, which also handles space buying and distribution. Giant does its own writing for broadcast ads but hires outside talent and studios. Woodward & Lothrop, the 100-year old department store firm that is expanding into the Baltimore market, has a staff of about 60 persons to do all its print ads but hires Abramson/Himelfarb of Washington for broadcasting. A.H. Robins of Richmond has its own in-house agency (Mil-Mor) for such products as Sergeant's pet care and Chap Stick lip balm.
In fierce competition for the advertising businees that remains, the largest metropolitan Washington agencies appear to be approaching $20 million in annual advertising billings and 60 to 70 employes, compared with such large international agencies as J. Walter Thompson of New York, which has $2 billion in billings and more than 6,000 employes.
In terms of overall population and economic standing, Washington should boast one of the largest ad business centers in the country. But it does not. bFor example, Baltimore outranks Washington with at least two agency offices (W.B. Doner & Co. and VanSant Dugdale) larger than anything here.
Such cities as Pittsburg, Cleveland, Dallas, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Evansville and Greenville, S.C., each are home to at least one ad firm larger than any Washington area agency.
Because of the daily visibility or sounds of advertising in newspapers, magazines, subway cars and broadcasting, and the impact of advertising messages on individual lives, the ad business here takes on an image of being much larger than it is.But in terms of industry employment and revenues, advertisng is one of the smallest sectors of Washington area business (ranking near the bottom of service industry categories, close to shoe repair shops and dressmaking).
Official government studies estimate ad industry employment in the metropolitan area at less than 2,000 persons. In addition, the ad firms support some jobs in related fields, such as printing and design.
The 1977 census of business by the U.S. Commerce Department found about 100 D.C.-based companies engaged in advertising of all variety, of which 57 were ad agencies that employed 695 persons with an annual payroll of $12.1 million. Annual revenues of the 100 firms combined were less than $23 million (commissions, fees and other agency income, which should not be confused with a broader measure of gross billings, the total amount of advertising costs related to ads handled by an agency).
Indeed, throughout Maryland, Virginia and D.C., the advertisng business does not loom large. The Commerce Department lists just 1,000 firms in the three jurisdiction, many of them one-person shops. These companies employed fewer than 3,500 persons and took in annual revenues of about $111 million. A. Parkersburg, W. Va., firm, Fahlgren & Ferriss, is larger than any D.C., Maryland or Virginia agecny, with gross billings of $37 million a year and more than 130 employes.
Not that Washington hasn't produced its own great moments in advertising. In years past, Kal, Merrick & Selan claims to have invented Ronald McDonald. Former Washington weatherman Willard Scott was the first one.
But another of the Washington area's best known local ads came from W.B. Doner & Co.'s office in Baltimore, a branch of the Southfield, Mich., agency. It was Doner who gave the world the Ourisman girl promising "You always get your way . . . At Ourisman Chevrolet."
And the latest important local advertising bombshell -- radio station WRQX-FM's moving and talking "lips," which belong to model Chris DeLisle -- is the product of an expanding area office of New York-based Needham, Haprer & Steers.
Susan Gailey, a local talent, moved to Hollywood after her success as the Ourisman Chevrolet promoter. Ourisman, now celebrating its 60th year in business and one of the top 10 of 6,000 Chevrolet dealers in the United States with annual sales of more than $60 million, is the largest automotive advertiser in the area market and Gailey is included in print as well as broadcast ads.
"The jingle was developed by our agency. It shows little or no wear-out factor," noted Doner vice president Bruce Dunham. The Ourisman ads have been running for a decade, aimed initially at male car buyers when the auto dealer was the first here to use television. Now, with the D.C. work force 68 percent female, "her maturity has worked to attract female buyers as well," Dunham stated.
The success of WRQX ads also has been dramatic. A spring 1979 Arbitron survey ranked the FM station (owned by American Broadcasting Co.) as 15th in the Washington market. a year later, after changes in rock music programming and the DeLisle lip ads on television, "Q-107" was in first place.
Needham, Harper & Steers was working with DeLisle last week on a new series of ads for the station, to air later this month. Bonner Films, of Baltimore, is producing the commercials for the agency. The actual gimmick of using moving and speaking lips for radio promotion was syndicated by a West Coast firm and WRQX promotion director Jerry Downey recommended that DeLisle be used for the station's commercials.
Of the Washington area agencies, it is not possible to say with certainty which is the largest. Most agency executives, before proclaiming their own figures, warn you that every other agency lies about its billings and the number of employes. The Bethesda agency that claims loudest and most often to be the area's largest -- Ehrlich Manes & Associates -- is the agency whose claims are hooted at most by other agencies.
But based on the various agencies' own figures and estimates by competitors and The Washington Post, the largest firms appear to be Earle Palmer Brown, Echlich Manes, Henry J. Kaufmann & Associates (also known as HJK&A) and Goldberg Marchesano & Associates; followed by Weitzman Dym & Associates; Kal, Merrick & Salan and Abramson/Himelfarb. Such rankings are less than scientific.
Earle Palmer Brown, Henry J. Kaufaman and Kal, Merrick are among the oldest agencies in town, although Brown and HJK&A are under new management. Jeb Brown, son of Earle Palmer, took over there in 1975 and Karu and his partners bought out veteran Henry Kaufmann and installed new management in February 1979.
"Henry Kaufman about 20 years ago was the only man who was doing national quality advertising in Washington," said Alan Weitzman, of Weitzman Dym. "Kaufman set the tone for the town."
Kaufman and the new leaderships of HJK&A parted ways with some bitterness, but the firm retained the name because of the prestige it had, said Karu. Kaufman now has his own consulting firm and consults with companies including Earle Palmer Brown.
The younger heads of agencies, generally men and women in their 30s and 40s, divide the area industry into the new guard and the old guard. "It's sort of a change of generations," said Jeb Brown, whose firm did a Washington Post ad to the tune of the Beach Boys' "I Get Around."
The older heads of agencies deny that such a distinction exist. "Young doesn't make you smart. Old doesn't make you smart," said Alvin Q. Ehrlich, chairman of Ehrlich Manes. "We compete with anyone and are very tough competition for anybody." Ehrlich and president Nella Manes split off from Kal, Merrick in 1968.
Among the area's major firms, Ehrlich Manes, HJK&A and Kal, Merrick appear to place the least emphasis on creativity in advertising. "Forget about the cutesy stuff. It does nothing," said Ehrlich.
Weitzman Dym, Goldberg Marchesano, Earle Palmer Brown, Abramson/Himelfarb and dozens of smaller agencies here, on the other hand, make much of their creativity.
It should be noted, however, that all those who downplay creative efforts also claim to be topflight creative talents; all those who focus on creativity are also quick to tell you that it is just the icing on sound market research and servicing.
Virtually all the agency executives argue that the same factors distinguish them from their competitors. There are some superficial distinctions besides size and product but most are not major.
Goldberg Marchesano is famous as a somewhat zany firm. In part, the image has been fostered by invitations to the firm's annual Christmas party. "At this party, no one will hear you "SCREAM," said last year's invite, designed to look like a horror movie advertisement. The invitations generally hint at debauchery.
"The humor in our creative (ads, such as the Sam and Janet Evening for The Washington Star) gives us that image too," said Carol Marchesano. The reputation for zaniness mainly reflects the sense of humor of her partner and creative director Norman Goldberg, she said.
Weitzman Dym advertisements are frequently heavy on copy and facts about the product. "You'll read 1,000 words in an ad if it's not bull," said Weitzman. p
Earle Palmer Brown's broadcast ads have a good beat and the agency's clients reflect the founder's political ties (Earle Palmer Brown is a long-time fundraiser for Republican Sen. Charles Mathias of Maryland) and enthusiasms (Rosecroft Raceway, for example).
Abramson/Himelfarb has been identified with the city's Democratic establishment.
Kal, Merrick is sort of an old school tie agency. "Sooner or later the quality business gets to our place because of the way in which we operated," said chief Mort Salan. "This is a serious business, not a game." Salan disputes that the agency is in a decline, a general view among his competitors. d
Ehrlich Manes goes in for quantity of clients and nuts-and-bolts advertising. Unpopular among his competitors, Ehrlich is nonetheless regarded as a fiercely combative and tough salesman.
HJK&A is broadly ambitious. "I think there is a severe limit to how big an agency can become in Washington. My guess is about $30 million," said Karu. "Our game plan is to begin to acquire other agencies outside this area. I expect through that vehicle to build an agency that bills around $200 million."
Most area ad firms are much smaller, with no plans to expand. But the medium-sized agencies (small by national standards) are growing in number and influence. Typical is Havill Associates Inc., with 14 employes and annual billings of $4.5 million. Havill has gained a special reputation for retail accounts, including the General Store and Barbara Ellen Figure Salons. President Chuck Havill noted that his is the only agency here whose accounts include Trappist Monks -- an order in Berryville called Holy Cross Abbey that bakes bread sold at Giant and Safeway. "They know they have to advertise their bread and they live in a monastery with no TV or newspapers," Havill noted. "That's true trust."
Havill started his firm in 1970 and said he has kept its size intact by choice. "We do a lot of print, principally newspaper. We have our own division that does typesetting . . . A client can give us an ad on Monday and we can have it in the newspaper on Wednesday at cost. We can keep the costs down." General Store's retail clothing ads have been handled by Havill from the start and are credited with attracting a solid base of business for a newcomer in a competitive market. When performers are in town, Havill tries to get them to record commericals.
Many of the local ad firms are even smaller thant Havill's shop, operating from offices throughout the city and suburbs. Former Washington Redskins lineman Jim Ricca, for example, has a 3-year-old firm in Arlington with three employes and annual billings of $5 million.
After doing some sports programs for WINX and WAVA, Ricca was in the auto business and handled ads for a small dealership. In 1968, he became the in-house agency for Rosenthal Chevrolet and that since has grown to include the Rosenthal Pontiac, Honda and Toyota outlets. His other major client now is WRC radio.
"I do all the creative, all the buying, go to all the client meetings, handle radio, TV, print, all the production, casting and writing. I enjoy working," Ricca said last week. "I'm personally involved in every respect . . . You get too big, you lose contact. The secret to my success has been my ability to provide personal service. Most of the companies I'm affiliated with, I've become part of the company, I know and understand their problems . . . The bigger agencies are not in that position." u
Baltimore firms -- VanSant Dugdale, Doner and several others of significant size -- have grown larger drawing on the industrial base in that city. They have also succeeded in picking up substantial business -- approximately a quarter of their billings -- from Washington area. b
Recently, two New York agencies, J. Walter Thompson and Needham, Harper & Steers, have expanded their business in Washington. JWT tripled its accounts in one year, picking up such new clients as the American Federation of State, County and Muncipal Employees and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to add to the $11 million Marine Corps account and an account of approximately $10 million for the Washington-based airline, USAir (formerly Allegheny).
Needham, Harper & Steers recently won a $4 million recruitment advertising contract for the Army and Air National Guard away from Doner.
Most area advertising agency heads, however, do not expect major inroads into Washington by Madison Avenue firms.
In the long run, the folks who run the buisnesses that constitute Washington's advertising industry expect slow but steady growth and a continued improvement in the quality of advertising produced here.
On the score, at least, they expect to compete with New York and Chicago.
CAPTION: Illustration 1, Chris DeLisle, whose lips are featured in the Q107 spots. Wilhelmina West; Illustration 2, President Carole Marchesano and Chairman Norman Goldberg of Goldberg Marchesano & Associates Inc., of Washington, with their ad for Mutual Broadcasting System . . . Billings claimed: $16-$17 million; Employes: 50 . . . Clients include Washington Star, Drug Fair, WMAL, American Security Bank (reportedly transferred last week to Ehrlich-Manes & Associates).; Illustration 3, President Mort Salan of Kal, Merrick & Salan, of Bethesda, with his firm's public service ad for Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments . . . Billings claimed: $11.5 million; Employes: 40 . . . Clients include Perpetual Federal S&L, Riggs National Bank, Volkswagon Dealers Association of Washington, AAMCO Automatic Transmissions, Shakey's Inc.; Illustration 4, President Jeb Brown of Earle Palmer Brown, of Bethesda, with company's ad for Office Furniture Mart . . . Billings claimed: $20 million; Employes: 75 . . . Clients include Washington Post, Hecht's, Humane Society of the U.S., Pulte Homes, Sen. Charles Mathias.; Illustration 5, President David Abramson of Abramson/Himelfarb Inc., of Washington, with his agency's ad for Nation's Business magazine . . . Billings claimed: refused to disclose; Employes: 40 . . . Clients include Woodward & Lothrop, American Service Center, Knoll International Inc., Animal Welfare Institute, Rep. Walter Fauntroy and Mayor Marion Barry as candidates.; Illustration 6, Chairman Alvin Q. Ehrlich and President Nella C. Manes of Ehrlich-Manes & Associates of Bethesda, with two-page ad for Dutch aerospace firm, Fokker B.V. . . . Billings claimed: $20 million; Employes: 60 . . . Clients include Asphalt Institute, Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau, JKJ Chevrolet.; Illustration 7, Senior Vice President Robert V. Walsh of VanSant Dugdale of Baltimore with economic development ad for State of Maryland . . . Billings claimed: $26-$27 million, about 24 percent from D.C. area clients; Employes: 100 . . . Clients include Maryland National Bank, Martin Marietta Corp., Bureau of National Affairs, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.; Illustration 8, Chairman Herbert O. Fried of W.B. Doner & Co. of Baltimore, which is based in Michigan, with ad for Ourisman Chevrolet. . . Billings claimed: $38 million from Baltimore office, at least 25 percent from D.C. area; Employes: 135 . . . Clients include Quality Inns, National Beer, McCormick & Co., Washington Area Ford Dealership Assn.; Illustration 9, Diane Dym and Alan Wietzman, partners in the Washington agency of Wietzman Dym & Associates Inc., of Bethesda, with agency ad. . . Billings claimed: $11 million; Employes: 38 . . . Clients include Desks & Furnishings unit of Macke Co., National Savings & Trust, Tobacco Institute, Atlantis Sound, Consolidated Institute.; Illustration 10, President Stuart E. Karu of Henry J. Kaufman & Associates (HJK&A), of Washington, with agency's ad for U.S. Coast Guard . . . Billings claimed: $18 million in fees; Employes: 50 . . . Clients include Philips Electronics, Howard Research & Development (Columbia, Md.), American Florists Marketing Council, Chevy Chase S&L. Illustrations for this story on Washington advertising were compiled by Ken Feil of The Washington Post.