• U.S.

Advertising: Up the Elevator

3 minute read

“Show me this young genius!” demanded fearsome George Washington Hill, onetime president of the American Tobacco Co., of Adman Albert Lasker back in 1941. Out came Fairfax Mastick Cone, then 38, with what soon be came the cigarette slogan of the ’40s: “With men who know tobacco best . . . it’s Luckies two to one.” When he retired a year later, Lasker was apparently still amazed by his upstart protége’s Lucky stroke: in any event, Lasker sold his agency to Cone and two other staffers at a gift price of $167,500. Now known as Foote, Cone & fielding, the agency is the sixth-biggest in the U.S., has billings worth $228 million.

The Scourge. Last week “Fax” Cone took a step toward his own retirement. The agency’s ruling triumvirate, consisting of Cone, Board Chairman Robert F. Carney, 61, and President Rolland W. Taylor, 59, announced a new management generation that will take over next January. Richard W. Tully, 49, head of Foote, Cone’s Western operations, will become board chairman; Chicago Office Chief Charles S. Winston, 47, will be president; and New York—based William E. Chambers Jr., 47, will be operations-committee chairman. Cone himself will turn over his job as chairman of the executive committee to Carney. Though he will not reach the mandatory retirement age (65) for two years, Cone figures that it is simply “a hell of a lot brighter to get the new people in there and get the company used to them now.”

Though Foote, Cone has 2,160 employees and went public three years ago, it has always seemed something of a one-man agency—the man being Cone. As the top copy disciplinarian, Cone constantly emphasized that an ad should be a clear, simple “substitute for talking to someone.” He shunned both whimsy and the knuckle-hard TV sell. As an account man, his ability to hold on to such maverick clients as Hallmark Cards’ Joyce Hall became legendary. Publicly, Cone emerged as the most respected scold of the industry. He once scourged the “tasteless people” in advertising as the “miserable, crawly two or three per cent who represent the advertising horn of our dilemma.”

Moving Inventory. Although Cone came up through the copy departments, the “new people”—as he calls them—traveled the non-copy route. Tully joined the agency in 1946, seven years out of Northwestern University, moved up through marketing and research ranks. Winston (Princeton ’41) came in 1946 as an account man, made his mark by landing the Johnson’s Wax account in 1952. Chambers (Harvard ’42) came in 1956, ran the Lever Bros, and General Foods accounts before taking over the New York office in 1962.

For all the new titles, it will be some time before the three will be on their own in directing Cone & Co. It is not surprising that Cone has lined them up while he and the other senior citizens are still in charge, for he has always been highly sensitive to the critical role of talent in advertising. Unlike most businesses, he says, “our inventory goes down the elevator every night.”

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