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J. Walter Thompson

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J. Walter Thompson
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryMarketing communications
PredecessorCarlton & Smith
FoundedNew York City, U.S. (1864 (1864))
FounderWilliam James Carlton
FateMerged with Wunderman to form Wunderman Thompson
SuccessorWunderman Thompson
New York City
Area served
Key people
ParentWPP plc

J. Walter Thompson (JWT) was an advertisement holding company incorporated in 1896 by American advertising pioneer James Walter Thompson.[1] The company was acquired in 1987 by multinational holding company WPP plc, and in November 2018, WPP merged J. Walter Thompson with fellow agency Wunderman to form Wunderman Thompson.[2][3][4] In October 2023, WPP announced yet another merger in which Wunderman Thompson, along with another group agency VMLY&R, would cease to exist and create a new combined entity named VML. This is to be effective January 1, 2024.[5]


Pre-James Walter Thompson[edit]

J. Walter Thompson traces its origins to the Carlton & Smith agency, which opened its doors in 1864, one of the first known advertising agencies in the United States.[6] Founder William James Carlton started selling advertising space in religious magazines, but almost nothing is known about the partner named Smith.

The New York Times wrote that "the agency traces its roots to a newspaper space brokerage that began operation on Dec. 5, 1864."[7]


In 1868, Carlton hired James Walter Thompson as a bookkeeper.[8] Eventually, Thompson found that soliciting and sales were much more profitable, and he became a very effective salesman for the small company.

In 1877, Thompson purchased the business of his employer for $500 and, a year later, purchased the office furniture for $800. He changed the company designation to J. Walter Thompson, as he felt that James Thompson was too common a name in New York. One of his first clients was a personal friend – Robert Wood Johnson, one of the three brothers who founded Johnson & Johnson – for whom Thomson personally wrote advertising for the toothpaste brand Zonweis.[9]

Thompson, who had served as a U.S. Marine during the Civil War, had first been employed by Carlton & Smith to sell space in religious publications.[8] Under his leadership, the agency became the seller of advertising space in many American magazines and periodicals.[6] By 1889, 80 percent of the advertising in the United States was placed through J. Walter Thompson.[10]

In 1896, the company incorporated.[11]

More growth followed, and J. Walter Thompson became the first American agency to expand internationally with the opening of J. Walter Thompson London in 1899.[12] The business subsequently expanded across the globe, being one of the first American agencies in Egypt, South Africa and Asia.[13]

In a special 1964 commemorative issue celebrating the agency's centennial, Advertising Age wrote that the "history and expansion overseas" of the J. Walter Thompson Co. "seems peculiarly to match the whole history of modern advertising."[14]


In 1969, J. Walter Thompson became a public corporation.[11]

In the mid-1970s, J. Walter Thompson was hired by the military dictatorship of Chile, led by Augusto Pinochet, to "refurbish the image of the regime" after international and Chilean human-rights organizations had documented extensive violations.[15][16]

In 1980, the company was organized into a holding company JWT Group, consisting of J. Walter Thompson Company; Hill & Knowlton; and Lord Geller Federico & Einstein.[11]

In 1987, British media giant WPP acquired JWT Group.[17]

In 2005, the company renamed itself as JWT.[11]

As of 2014, its most longstanding clients included Unilever/Lever Brothers (109+ years); Mondelēz International/Kraft Foods (89+ years); Kimberly-Clark (84+ years); Nestlé (81+ years); Kellogg's (80+ years); and Ford Motor (67+ years).[18] Other notable clients include Avon, Treasury Wine Estates, Edgewell/Schick, Tudor, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Newell, Air Canada and the United States Marine Corps.

JWT celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2014 by reverting to its "classic" J. Walter Thompson name.[7]

In 2015, JWT launched Colloquial, a content-marketing joint venture unit with Group SJR;[19] Also in 2015, the company acquired a minority stake in Turkish independent digital agency Wanda Digital.[20]

In 2016, the company acquired iStrategyLabs (ISL), a Washington, D.C.-based digital agency.[21]

Merger with Wunderman[edit]

J. Walter Thompson Co. ceased its independent existence when holding company owner WPP announced in November, 2018 that it was merging the agency into the digital agency Wunderman.[22] While called a merger of equals, observers note that it is really a takeover by Wunderman and an end to JWT, noting of the end of America's first ad agency that its "demise is a metaphor of the demise of Madison Avenue."[23] At the time, the company was headquartered in New York City and had more than 200 offices in over 90 countries and employed over 12,000 marketing professionals.[24]


J. Walter Thompson was among the first agencies to employ writers and artists to create interesting advertisements for their clients, replacing the standard ads created by in-house departments.[25] It was also the first agency to provide a wide range of advertising services to clients, including copy, layout, package design, trademark development and rudimentary, market research.[25] Many of these methods can be seen in notable work that the agency has produced, including work for Kraft Cheese that resulted in the creation of the grilled-cheese sandwich, a campaign for Swift & Co. that added measurement marks to sticks of butter, the Toys "R" Us Kid slogan and jingle, De Beers diamond ads ("A Diamond is Forever") and the "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener" campaign.[26]

The agency is also credited with hiring the first female copywriter, Helen Lansdowne Resor.[27] While with the agency, she pioneered ideas including celebrity testimonials, sex appeal, and was responsible for developing its reputation as an agency where bright young women could succeed.[25] Lansdowne went on to become the first female creative director in the industry. To honor this legacy, in 2014 J. Walter Thompson announced a $250,000 scholarship opportunity called the Helen Lansdowne Resor Scholarship. It assists and promotes talented female creative advertising students who aspire to join the ranks of creative leadership.[28]

The New York Times reported that "some two million other documents ... (are) .. within the J. Walter Thompson Archives at Duke University in Durham, N.C." [29] Among these are internal position papers for JWT being challenged by and countering the American Medical Association. Many of these documents are the basis of the agency's award-winning creative work.


In June 2018, then CEO, Gustavo Martinez officially parted ways with J. Walter Thompson (JWT) and parent company WPP two months after settling a sexual harassment case brought by a female colleague.[30][31]

In May 2018 Jo Wallace, a creative director at the London branch, who identifies as a gay woman, stated at a Creative Equals conference that she would "obliterate JWT's reputation as an agency full of white, English, privileged, straight men". Five straight, white men queried this statement with the company's human resources department and were later fired. In July 2021, an employment tribunal decided that the men were unfairly dismissed, unlawfully victimised, discriminated against for being male and harassed.[32]


J. Walter Thompson Co. advertisement, 1903

Other significant clients have included:[33][18]

Distinctive ads[edit]

  • Woodbury Soap, "A skin you love to touch" (1911)[34]
  • JWT popularizes the grilled cheese sandwich for Kraft (1930)[35]
  • JWT sells Kellogg's Rice Krispies with "Snap, Crackle, and Pop" (1930)
  • Introduced the first toilet advertising for Scott Paper (1931)[36]
  • Introduced Kraft Miracle Whip (1933)[37]
  • Produced the first-ever TV program for Libby, McNeill & Libby (1939)
  • Ford, "There's a Ford in your future" (1945)[38]
  • JWT creates "The Bologna Song" (1962)[39] and the "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner" song for Oscar Mayer (1962)[38]
  • United States Marine Corps, "The Few. The Proud. The Marines." (1972)
  • Have a Lark jingle based on William Tell (1960) [40]
  • JWT creates the Andrex Puppy. (1972)[41]
  • 7UP, "The Uncola" (1967)[42]
  • JWT uses Sarah Michelle Gellar in a controversial Burger King ad that criticized McDonald's (1981)
  • JWT creates Toys "R" Us "I don't want to grow up" campaign (1982)[38]
  • JWT launches Ford Global Anthem (1999)
  • JWT Thompson breaks the Guinness World Record for the world's largest billboard (2000)
  • The Times of India, "Lead India"; wins a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival (2008).[43]
  • Samsonite "Heaven and Hell"; JWT Shanghai wins a Grand Prix at Cannes (2011).[44]
  • Banco Popular, "The Most Popular Song"; JWT Puerto Rico wins the Grand Prix for PR at Cannes (2012)[45]
  • Kit Kat, "Kit Kat into space" campaign by JWT London (2012)[38]
  • Kit Kat, "Android KitKat" (2014)[38]
  • Air India's Maharajah mascot (1940s) [46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Prominent Exit From Ad Industry Sets Off Questions About Future". The New York Times. April 22, 2018.
  2. ^ "Group history". WPP plc. Retrieved August 30, 2010.
  3. ^ "Sir Martin Sorrell: advertising man who made the industry's biggest pitch". The Guardian. July 4, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  4. ^ "WPP is merging JWT with Wunderman". Ad Age. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  5. ^ "WPP announces merger of Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R, launching VML". Insider Intelligence. Retrieved November 5, 2023.
  6. ^ a b "J. Walter Thompson Co. | American advertising company". Britannica.com. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Elliott, Stuart (April 14, 2014). "JWT to Bring Back the Classic J. Walter Thompson Name". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b "J. Walter Thompson Company | Rubenstein Library | People in the Collections". Colab-sbx-140.oit.duke.edu. July 15, 1908. Archived from the original on May 23, 2014. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  9. ^ "History of J&J by Margaret Gurowitz". April 14, 2011.
  10. ^ Applegate, E. (2012). Stanley B. Resor and the J. Walter Thompson Company: 1908-1961. In The rise of advertising in the United States: A history of innovation to 1960 (p. 134). Lanham: Scarecrow Press
  11. ^ a b c d "J. Walter Thompson Company (part 2)". Duke University Libraries. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  12. ^ "The J Walter Thompson (Jwt), London, Advertising Agency Client Account Files And Other Office Papers | Details". Hatads.org.uk. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  13. ^ Ciochetto, L. (2011). China. In Globalisation and advertising in emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, and China (p. 95). London: Routledge
  14. ^ "J. Walter Thompson & Co. and the 1964 Advertising Age Commemorative Issue". American Marketing Association New York. December 31, 2019. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  15. ^ Burbach, Roger (2003). The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice. London: Zed Books. p. 63. ISBN 1842774344.
  16. ^ Perera, Victor (April 13, 1975). "Law and order in Chile". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  17. ^ "NOW WPP FACES THE REAL CHALLENGE". Chicago Tribune. June 29, 1987. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  18. ^ a b Elliott, Stuart (March 3, 2014). "JWT Plans to Celebrate 150 Years With a Focus on the Future". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  19. ^ "JWT and Group SJR launch content marketing unit Colloquial". June 9, 2015.
  20. ^ "J Walter Thompson acquires minority stake in Turkey shop Wanda Digital". Campaign. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  21. ^ "J. Walter Thompson Co. Snaps Up iStrategyLabs". August 2, 2016.
  22. ^ "WPP is merging JWT with Wunderman". Ad Age. November 26, 2018. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  23. ^ "Why WPP Is Merging Wunderman And JWT". Forbes. November 26, 2018. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  24. ^ "J. Walter Thompson Worldwide - About Us". JWT.com. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  25. ^ a b c "J. Walter Thompson Co. | AdAge Encyclopedia of Advertising - Advertising Age". Adage.com. September 15, 2003. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  26. ^ "Ad agency J. Walter Thompson, JWT, marks 150 years of iconic ads and catchy jingles". CBS News. December 23, 2014. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  27. ^ "AAF Hall of Fame: Members". Advertisinghall.org. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  28. ^ "Helen Lansdowne Resor Scholarship". Aaaa.org. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  29. ^ Rothenberg, Randall (October 9, 1988). "The Big New Pitch for Old Ads". The New York Times.
  30. ^ "Former JWT Global CEO Finally Turfed After Sexual Harassment Court Case". B&T. June 12, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  31. ^ Coffee, Patrick (June 7, 2018). "WPP Parts With Former JWT CEO Gustavo Martinez 2 Months After Settling Sexual Harassment Case". www.adweek.com. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  32. ^ "What Led to JWT Being Sued by Its Creative Directors?". July 12, 2021.
  33. ^ "Agency Clients - J. Walter Thompson New York". AdForum.com. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  34. ^ "Model Interpretation". Historymatters.gmu.edu. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  35. ^ "Internet mysteries: Did JWT really invent the grilled cheese sandwich?". Digiday. July 10, 2015. Retrieved November 25, 2023.
  36. ^ "The Big New Pitch for Old Ads". The NY Times. October 9, 1988. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  37. ^ "Kraft Foods". The NY Times. September 15, 2003. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  38. ^ a b c d e "JWT: lessons from the Commodore". campaign live. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  39. ^ "Oscar Mayer Wiener Song". Wisconsinhistory.org. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  40. ^ "1960s Lark Cigarettes "William Tell Overture" Commercial". YouTube.
  41. ^ "Andrex lines up celebratory campaign as mascot puppy turns 40". Marketing Magazine. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  42. ^ "Ad Age Advertising Century: Top 100 Advertising Campaigns | Special: The Advertising Century". Advertising Age. March 29, 1999. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  43. ^ N Shatrujeet, Jun 22, 2008, 12.17am IST (June 22, 2008). "Now, Lead India wins Integrated Lion at Cannes". The Times of India. Archived from the original on August 20, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  44. ^ "JWT Shanghai's Samsonite 'Heaven and Hell' becomes The Gunn Report's most awarded print advertisment [sic] of all time". Campaign Brief Asia. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  45. ^ "Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, 'The Most Popular Song' | Inspiration | Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity". Canneslions.com. Archived from the original on November 6, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  46. ^ Deol, Taran (September 12, 2020). "This Indian 'Maharajah' dressed up as Playboy waitress, sumo wrestler & many other avatars". The Print. New Delhi: Printline Media Private Limited. Retrieved September 12, 2020. the Maharajah — sketched by Umesh Rao, an artist at J. Walter Thompson in Mumbai

Further reading[edit]

  • Davis, Rhiannon, "Negotiating Local and Global Knowledge and History: J. Walter Thompson around the Globe, 1928–1960," Journal of Australian Studies (2012) 36#1 pp 81–97.
  • Farwell, Tricia M. Review of "Globalizing Ideal Beauty: How Female Copywriters of the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency Redefined Beauty for the Twentieth Century." Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 88#2 (2011): 446.
  • Hultquist, Clark Eric. "Americans in Paris: The J. Walter Thompson Company in France, 1927–1968." Enterprise and Society 4#3 (2003): 471-501.
  • Kreshel, Peggy J. "John B. Watson at J. Walter Thompson: The legitimation of 'science' in advertising." Journal of Advertising 19#2 (1990): 49-59.
  • Kreshel, Peggy J. "The "culture" of J. Walter Thompson, 1915–1925." Public Relations Review 16.3 (1990): 80-93.
  • McDonough, John, and Karen Egolf, eds. The advertising age encyclopedia of advertising (1st ed 2003) vol 3 pp 1530-37
  • Mashon, Mike. "NBC, J. Walter Thompson, and the Struggle for Control of Television Programming, 1946-58." in NBC: America's Network (2007) pp: 135-152.
  • Merron, Jeff. "Putting Foreign Consumers on the Map: J. Walter Thompson's Struggle with General Motors' International Advertising Account in the 1920s." Business History Review 73#03 (1999): 465-502.
  • Merron, Jeffrey L. American culture goes abroad: J. Walter Thompson and the General Motors export account, 1927-1933 (1991)
  • Mishra, Karen E. "J. Walter Thompson: Building trust in troubled times." Journal of Historical Research in Marketing 1#2 (2009): 246-269. online
  • Moreno, Julio E. "J. Walter Thompson, the Good Neighbor Policy, and Lessons in Mexican Business Culture, 1920–1950." Enterprise and Society 5#2 (2004): 254-280.
  • Moreno, Julio E. "Marketing in Mexico: Sears, Roebuck Company, J. Walter Thompson, and the Culture of North American Commerce in Mexico City during the 1940s." Enterprise and Society 1#4 (2000): 683-692.
  • Nixon, Sean. "Apostles of Americanization? J. Walter Thompson Company Ltd, Advertising and Anglo-American Relations 1945–67." Contemporary British History 22#4 (2008): 477-499.
  • Pouillard, Véronique. "American advertising agencies in Europe: J. Walter Thompson's Belgian business in the inter-war years." Business history 47#1 (2005): 44-58.
  • Scanlon, Jennifer. "Advertising women: The J. Walter Thompson Company women's editorial department." in The gender and consumer culture reader (2000) pp: 201-25.
  • Schwarzkopf, Stefan. "Discovering the Consumer: Market Research, Product Innovations, and the Creation of Brand Loyalty in Britain and the United States in the Interwar Years." Journal of Macromarketing 29 (2009): 8-20.
  • Silva, Jonathan. "The marketing complex: the J. Walter Thompson company, 1916-1929." Essays in Economic and Business History 14 (1996): 207-18.
  • Spring, Dawn. "The Globalization of American Advertising and Brand Management: A Brief History of the J. Walter Thompson Company, Proctor and Gamble, and US Foreign Policy." Global Studies Journal (2013) 5#4
  • West, Douglas C. "From T-Square to T-Plan: the London office of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency 1919–70." Business History 29#2 (1987): 199-217.
  • Woodard, James P. "Marketing modernity: the J. Walter Thompson Company and North American advertising in Brazil, 1929-1939." Hispanic American Historical Review 82#2 (2002): 257-290.

External links[edit]